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Big bucks not only draw card for FIFO workers

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

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High salaries are not the only factor in the decision to become a Fly-in-Fly-Out (FIFO) worker, the initial findings of a new study by Edith Cowan University (ECU) researchers have shown.

A team from ECU’s School of Management, led by Professor Alan Brown, have been investigating staff turnover within the iron ore mining industry in Australia. They surveyed FIFO employees on a range of areas, including job satisfaction, pay scales, rosters and training and development.

Initial findings show that whilst the high salaries are attractive, employees were actually more concerned with job satisfaction, training and development and the overall camaraderie of the workforce.

No major research has previously been done on this aspect of FIFO mining operations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that turnover is between 15 and 25 per cent in these companies. As demand for labour increases the turnover is also likely to increase.

Professor Brown said that the results were not what the team had initially expected and went against public perception that FIFO workers were only in it for the money.

“Our initial findings have shown that many people enter into this type of employment with a long-term career goal,” said Professor Brown.

“Money is not the driving factor we thought it would be. In fact FIFO work is seen as an opportunity to further develop careers within the mining industry.”

Based on a 5 point scale (with 5 the highest), results from the study showed that FIFO workers:

• Don’t think of leaving due to money – 3.21

• Strongly agreed they’re in the industry for their long term career – 4.10

• Strongly agree the availability of training influences them staying in mining – 4.03

• Feel very strongly that getting along with colleagues is important – 4.52

Professor Brown and his team presented their initial findings at a recent mining industry event for HR industry specialists. The results surprised many of those in attendance and also challenged their perceptions of the industry, he said.

Professor Brown said the research would be valuable for mining companies seeking to retain good staff.

“This research shows that workers are not just interested in the high salaries. Employers must now balance expectations and find ways of attracting and retaining FIFO employees by focusing on training and development strategies and the provision of a positive working environment,” Professor Brown said.

Professor Brown and the research team will now survey additional resource companies with a FIFO workforce to establish a greater understanding of staff turnover within the industry.

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