For a major global mining company like MMG, alignment is critical in order to extract a high level of commitment and production from a multi-national, multi-cultural workforce.

“We demand a certain level of belief in what we’re doing, not just handling the tasks themselves. Especially for our leaders, if you don’t align to our values, you won’t fit in,” MMG’s General Manager of Human Resources, Michelle Greenhalgh, told us. “To work here, you have to be engaged.”

For Michelle and MMG, the equation looks like this:

Engagement + alignment = effectiveness

These mathematics support the theory that engagement solves the business problem of organisational performance, but Michelle adds one caveat: engagement must be related to what the business actually needs. She points out that while someone can be highly engaged and having a great time doing their work, if the work isn’t aligned with the company’s goals, then it isn’t adding value to the fundamentals of the business.

To work here, you have to be engaged.

Headquartered in Melbourne, MMG operates mining projects and exploration sites around the world, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Laos, Peru, Africa and the Americas. With so many disparate locations and six different languages represented, it can be a tremendous challenge to engage thousands of people in a common mission. Despite its far-flung geographic locations however, the company’s low voluntary turnover rate of about 5% suggests that MMG enjoys a highly engaged workforce that has a deep-seated belief in the organisation and its values.

So, how does MMG go about engaging its widespread employee base? The company has implemented a couple of simple, yet effective, programs to ensure that its leaders and workforce remain connected in spite of the physical distances between them. As a first step, MMG reshaped its values to develop five universal beliefs that ultimately lead everyone to one vision – to build the world’s most respected diversified base metals company. To ensure the values have cross-cultural meaning and can be embedded into all aspects of the company workflow, MMG created a set of complementary symbols that transcend cultural differences and clearly articulate the actions the company values most.

MMG reshaped its values to develop five universal beliefs that ultimately lead everyone to one vision.

In addition, MMG’s Success Through Every Person (STEP) program has helped focus its leaders on developing employees to grow personally while contributing to the company’s vision and values. Using a common language among all employees and highlighting four consistent enablers for achieving the company’s strategic plan – structure, systems, people capability, and culture – the STEP program has provided clarity around performance expectations that enhances the development of an energised, engaged workforce.

One final component of MMG’s success with engaging its employees involves accountability and responsibility. When we asked Michelle whether MMG has noticed a difference recently in the types of elements – flexibility and perks, to name a couple – that engage people, she noted that the company hasn’t seen a big, fundamental shift in what employees are demanding. Of course, this is likely because MMG already has those types of benefits embedded in its culture.

We’re a big believer in respecting the output of what you put in, not the time.

“We’re a big believer in respecting the output of what you put in, not the time. It’s about quality, not quantity,” Michelle commented. “We have a lot of knowledge workers. We recognise that some of their best ideas can come in the shower or on a bike, not necessarily while they are at work staring at a computer.”

This approach is one that differentiates MMG from other employers. By recognising that each employee deserves to be given the opportunity to get on with the business at hand, MMG enables greater levels of engagement. And, as would be expected from a company driven by alignment at all levels, the approach ties directly back to the company’s values, particularly the one that states simply: “We do what we say. We take responsibility and follow through on our commitments.”