A fortnight ago, it was reported that a false message went viral claiming that Prospect Lithium Zimbabwe – now owned by Chinese giant Huayou Cobalt – was employing 100 Chinese workers with 600 more set to come, leaving no room for locals.
An executive with the mining giant, in an interview with Spiked Online Media, said the statement was not only false and misleading but appeared contrived to build anger among Zimbabweans and resentment towards Chinese people, including employees of the company.
Unsurprisingly, the false statement triggered reactions from labour unions and political parties.
It is important to set the record straight, and this article offers insights into the hiring of employees at the company, which the new owners, Huayou, are going to follow.
As a sweetener, the company has initiated a game-changing policy of affirmative action that will see villagers from surrounding hamlets, the Goromonzi District and Mashonaland East province being considered first for opportunities at the operation, set to become Zimbabwe’s biggest mine.
The mine will be commissioned in the first quarter of 2023 and will begin production in mid-year.
The recruitment policy is likely to change the face of Goromonzi District as people benefit from employment opportunities while communities participate directly in the vast economic opportunities occasioned by the mine which was granted Special Economic Zone status in 2019.
Inside the recruitment and selection policy
The company says its policy is to engage the most suitable candidates based on merit for all positions, with the most basic requirement is having a certificate with 5 O level subjects.
The company’s recruitment policy applies to the engagement of new employees, trainees, learners and/or managerial employees for the company operations.
In broad terms, a number of principles anchor this policy and bear enumeration and discussion here.
Principally, the recruitment and selection are driven by the company’s business strategy and to fulfil the organisation’s manpower requirements as per the approved organisational structure and manpower budgets and in adherence to other applicable policies.
The company offers equal employment opportunities when recruiting, training, and promoting employees to all levels and for all jobs and does not discriminate against any employee or prospective employee on the grounds of race, tribe, place of origin, political opinion, colour, creed, gender, HIV/AIDS status and/or, subject to any disability as referred to, in relevant legislation (Such as the Labour Act, Chapter 28:01 and the Disabled Persons Act, Chapter 17:01; SI on HIV/AIDS).
On one hand, the Company will use a “Team-based Recruitment and Selection” approach and instruments to identify and place the right person for the job based on qualifications, skills, and experience. In achieving that, the company will respect, protect, and fulfil the internationally recognised human rights; but also gives employment opportunities to the immediate community surrounding the mine in areas of operation as defined in the Corporate Social Responsibility policy.
“The Company will endeavour to appoint Zimbabwean nationals in at least 75% of the positions in the workforce,” the company’s policy says.
There is a clear cut recruitment procedure or process for hiring staff, and what is important is that this is standard and transparent.
Among other provisions, only positions for technical skills, professionals and management shall be advertised externally, once internal advert and/or headhunting and/or curriculum vitae hold file fail to produce the required quality of applications. Headhunting shall only happen provided there is authorisation by the general manager.
The company stipulates that vacancies for which prospective candidates have already been procedurally selected through “succession planning” or relief training committees should not be advertised.
This is consistent with the Human Resources Planning and Utilization Policy.
However, where more than one candidate has been trained for relief of the same position, and/or the selected candidate for development does not meet the required standard, the Company will exercise its discretion to advertise and conduct fresh interviews.
In choosing the right people for the right jobs, the company uses a number of selection including interviews, references and police clearance, and medical examinations, among others.
Best candidates get the job!
The above processes lead to selectors picking on the best people, based on their performance during interviews as well as meeting and satisfying other requirements.
A number of attributes are key to the selection, and these include practical job knowledge and experience, implying that the candidate must among other things demonstrate practical and technical knowledge of the discipline; ability to and experience in initiating new ideas and implementing them persuasively; approaching problems with an inquiring mind as well as vision and imagination, and looking for improved methods in all aspects of the job. The candidate must also demonstrate the ability to think through complex and different problems and arrive at sound decisions.
Secondly, like most organisations, the company looks for team players who are able to promote effective working relationships with internal and external customers and other stakeholders, like suppliers; cooperation with peers, supervisors and subordinates and willingness to be a team player and/or leader in solving team problems.
Thirdly, the company has its own “culture” that demands workers to fit in – that include ethics, values and dependability.
Other desirable tributes in prospective workers for PLZ include business communication proficiency and leadership/management/supervisory abilities.
Playing by the book
The above-mentioned principles, processes and procedures no doubt are plucked from management science and human resource books.
They are neither rocket science nor voodoo.
The company is well established and among the biggest globally.
It is both unfair and disingenuous to imagine that its recruitment can be haphazard or can bend to populist whims.
However, it must be commended for having an affirmative policy in place to absorb local labour from the surrounding communities, district and province – on the proviso that candidates meet requirements.
This is likely to be a blueprint for many companies, including Chinese, investing in Zimbabwe, and this could transform the lives of rural people where resources are found and guarantee economic participation.
The company deserves support rather than misplaced populism and misrepresentations that could actually hurt such a big investment with huge prospects for local people.