Effective (SLP) Communication and Awareness Programmes

Increased pressure experienced from mine employees and communities in recent times, have made effective SLP communication a key business imperative in ensuring more stable socio-economic operating environments which are currently characterized by high levels of uncertainty and frustration. Therefore, effective SLP communication is now more important than ever before.

Risks if mines do not communicate their SLPs
Disillusioned & dissatisfied stakeholders-leading to volatile operating environment (strikes, mine closures, obstructions to access operations).
Incorrect stakeholder expectations of a mine’s mining right commitments & targets per year or per reporting period.
Under-capacitated stakeholders restricting their ability to constructively contribute in engagement forums etc.
Unclear roles and responsibilities for various stakeholders including Government, Municipalities, Mines and Community Representatives.
Recent studies conducted in the mining industry have concluded that improved communication between mines and stakeholders should not just be a tick box in a regulatory checklist, as required in “Regulation 46 (f) of the Revised SLP Guidelines”.

The Marikana Commission of Enquiry Report on the problems of the Social and Labour Plan (SLP) System in South Africa, has identified the need for improved communication as a “critical mitigation measure for such risks”, associated with worker and/or community unrest directly or indirectly related to the SLP System.
Over the past few years the annual “PWC SA Mine Report”, has also indicated the importance of effective SLP communication. In the report it is highlighted, as a key mitigation strategy to reduce labour unrest and strike action in the mining sector. At the recent annual Mining Indaba 2016, “Kgosi Lerou Molotlegi, King of the Royal Bafokeng Nation, called on mining companies to make their SLPs public, so that workers and community members could see what benefits mining companies were offering”.

Based on all the above reasons, legislation requirements and calls from stakeholders and industry, why have mining companies not sufficiently increased their focus on effective SLP communication with employees and community members? especially when all arrows point to effective SLP Communication to stakeholders identified as a key mitigation measure to decrease risk of worker and community unrest, increase productivity/ROI and also contribute to a mine’s Social License to operate.

Miscommunication and misinterpretation of a mine’s SLP have always created a feeling of fear when communicating to various stakeholders. Therefore, mines in the past have been cautious when communicating their SLP information and sometimes have decided to not communicate at all.

The current socio-economic climate has made it more important than ever to effectively communicate your SLP to your stakeholders. This is however easier said than done, in the current economic climate, characterised by political instability, decreasing commodity prices, increasing electricity cost, imminent downscaling and retrenchments across SA and the weakening exchange rate.

This is unfortunately the current reality the South African Mining Industry is faced with, and the following question is posed: How can SA mining companies, effectively communicate their SLP, with limited budget and scarce in-house resources, to a variety of diverse stakeholders, in a quick and easy manner and still ensure that the content communicated is aligned to legislation, industry best practice and satisfies the stakeholders involved?
I believe a key starting point in achieving effective SLP communication and awareness at mining operations, could be for mines to develop and implement, an annual Integrated SLP Communication Programme.
An Effective Integrated SLP Communication Programme needs to be affordable, quick and easy to roll-out, aligned to legislative requirements and industry best practice, consistent in messaging, simple to understand and allow for two-way communication and feedback.

To be successful the SLP Communication Programme also requires internal commitment, resources and budget as well as ongoing planning, management and reporting to achieve the desired progress and sustainable results.
Example of an Annual Integrated SLP Communication Programme
Key elements and obstacles to consider when developing an effective Integrated SLP Communication Programme and communication material for your operation:

SLP is a fruit of legislation and therefore difficult to understand- it is essential to simplify the content to ensure SLP message/content communicated is received and understood by all stakeholders in the correct manner.
Consistent and correct content and messaging- the diversity of stakeholder groupings in regards to the level of education and literacy, age, gender and level of SLP knowledge leads to increased complexity and makes it difficult to effectively communicate and create desired SLP Awareness amongst all stakeholder groups. When developing and designing communication material, it is important to consider your target audiences’ profile and requirements, and ensure sensitivity towards the various diversity issues.

Corporate Identity Requirements- When designing communication material for your Integrated SLP Communications Programme, make sure all designs are aligned to your company’s CI, this will provide consistency and set a quality standard across the various communication tools/material used.
Time consuming- developing an effective integrated communication programme and multiple elements within such a programme takes time. This includes content development, design, various rounds of edits, lengthy quality and approval processes. If not planned correctly the process will delay the message to the stakeholders and hamper effective communication. Ensure effective initial planning is done. During the planning process make sure sufficient time provision is made for each step of the development process, this will ensure the timely roll out of your communication programme to the various stakeholders involved.

Current economic climate, limited available budgets and high cost of developing material- Limited budget and increased costs contribute to the barriers mines face when developing their SLP Communication Programme. Key costs involved are communication content specialist fees, project management fee, design cost, translation fees, printing cost, as well as the cost of distributing the material on-site. To ensure sufficient budget provision is made and to avoid budget shortfalls and constraints when rolling out your operations communication programme, a clear plan and costing of the plan is required during the initial planning phase. Therefore, all internal and external cost elements need to be understood and considered when initially planning the scope of work for your communication programme.

Language barriers- Translation of material to meet workforce and community language requirements is essential to ensure the correct message is easily understood by the receiving party. It is important to understand your stakeholders profile and language requirements early in the planning phase to ensure translation budgets are available and language requirements are met.
Contact Information- As communication is a two-way process, it is important to always add contact details to your material ensuring the receiver of the message can provide feedback and ask questions in regards to the message they have received. To ensure consistent feedback and the correct messaging is communicated to your stakeholders, a key contact person should be assigned this responsibility at an operation.

MTS can assist you to create a customized Integrated SLP Communications Programme for your mine. MTS’s dedicated team of transformation and SLP experts have developed and designed a range of unique, affordable SLP communication and awareness products and services simplifying the way mines currently communicate their SLPs.
By combining our extensive knowledge, practical experience and leading-edge communication tools, companies can be guaranteed a customized programme that satisfies stakeholders as well as adhering to regulations.
Furthermore, MTS’s programmes visibly demonstrate commitment to education and awareness around SLPs and transformation. MTS has a range of generic communication tools which can be utilised in conjunction with an existing communication strategy or we can assist to create a communication strategy with you.
For assistance in developing a cost effective, quick and easy to implement Integrated Communication and Awareness Programme at your operation, or to view our range of SLP communication and awareness products and workshops visit our website: www.mtsholdings.co.za, or e-mail us at info@mtsholdings.co.za.

April 29, 2016 | Raymano Venter (Business Development Manager – MTS)

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