London’s Hatton Garden has been the go-to place to buy diamonds for centuries. A mainstay of the famous district is De Beers, but the company is much more than just a diamond retailer in the UK and beyond.
“De Beers is the world’s leading diamond company with proven expertise in the exploration, mining, and marketing of rough diamonds”, Malebogo Melba Mpugwa, the company’s global head of talent management tells UNLEASH ahead of her session at UNLEASH World in October.
She adds that De Beers mines diamonds across two continents, with mines in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Canada. It has around 20,000 employees and contractors globally, and they play a crucial role in making De Beers stand out as a place to work for Mpugwa.
“De Beers is an organization that is very people-focused. The passion that our people have for the product we sell is unique,” explains Mpugwa.
The importance of development at De Beers
Mpugwa continues: “We are also a purpose-led organization. Our purpose is to make life brilliant, and…for our colleagues, a brilliant life means realizing one’s full potential”.
She adds: “We consider ourselves to be a world leader in the diamond business. When you lead the industry, you need to invest in your people…because they are your unique value proposition.
“You can replicate processes, you can replicate technology, but you can’t replicate your people. So we invest in making sure our people are cutting edge, and…they’re always growing and developing.” Ultimately, “that gives us an edge”.
Helping employees reach their full potential is particularly close to Mpugwa’s heart given her role is to oversee workers’ development; she shares: “I ensure that we have a consistent approach on how we assess, calibrate, develop, engage and retain talent”.
Organizational effectiveness is also a core part of Mpugwa’s role; this involves focusing on “employee engagement [and] supporting our leaders to drive a culture that is consistent with our values and our purpose as an organization”.
Creating development opportunities across the business
Mpuwga shares that career mobility at De Beers isn’t all about promotions within employees’ own departments, but the diamond giant also provides opportunities for workers to move around and learn in different parts of the business globally.
This is something Mpuwga herself has taken advantage of during her career at De Beers.
“I started on the mining side; at one point I was looking after HR on the mining side within Botswana. Then I moved into the rough diamond sales business, which is focused on working closely with customers,” she explains. From 2012 until 2018, Mpuwga was head of HR for that part of De Beers’ business.
In 2018, she then moved to join Anglo American Plc, the multinational mining company that owns an 85% stake in De Beers. Mpugwa served as group talent manager, and this gave her a new understanding of a different part of the business and global level.
Then in 2019, she took her current job of overseeing De Beers at a group level and providing “strategic guidance and oversight” across the whole company.
“Being part of an organization that has a global footprint provides the opportunity to develop diverse learning experiences and to grow,” notes Mpuwga.
However, she is clear that career mobility at De Beers also happens without people having to physically move to new geographics.
According to Mpuwga, often “when we talk about mobility, we think about physical movement.
But we’re also creating virtual mobility opportunities [for employees] to work on group or business-wide projects and assignments”. This means they are part of “cross-functional teams that deliver one a piece of work”, thereby allowing De Beers’ workers to grow their networks, as well as better understand other parts of the business.
Embracing online and offline learning
The conversation then turned away from development and towards the other half of career mobility, learning.
“When we think about how to deliver learning, we have the traditional approach and we also use…the latest technology”; De Beers was unable to disclose the tech vendors it works with.
The reason for the “blend” as Mpugwa calls it is that a lot of the people working in De Beers’ mines “are still not connected”.
But whether employees are doing offline or online learning, De Beers is shifting generally towards more collaborative and social approaches to upskilling and reskilling.
In addition, the diamond giant has started to shift towards more user-generated content, and finding ways to crowdsource learning resources. “We’re not there yet, but we’re setting up the foundational aspects that cut across the entire business” and leveraging technology to help.
“Historically, we’ve never had a high turnover. However, we realize that organizations are targeting the great people that we know we have”, shares Mpugwa.
As a result, De Beers is focusing on being even better at retention and engagement. The first thing the diamond giant is doing is making sure managers and leaders are properly connecting with their teams, “and have on-going career conversations”.
De Beers has also been dialing up its surveys to better understand what employees like about De Beers, as well as identify their pain points in order to “continue to improve engagement levels in the organization”.
At UNLEASH World 2022 in Paris, Mpugwa will share further insights into De Beers’ talent mobility strategies to help attendees figure out how to implement similar policies in their organizations.
Diversity and sustainable mining at De Beers
While De Beers prioritizes creating long-term, sustainable careers for its people, the diamond giant is also focused on a different form of sustainability: the impact mining has on the environment.
Mpugwa explains that consumers are increasingly “keen to understand more about the product they are buying – is it responsibly sourced? Is De Beers taking care of the planet?”.
“If we cannot show that we are an ethical business focused on sustainability that has a huge impact on…diamond sales”, she adds.
De Beer’s commitments to being sustainable and eco-friendly go back to its purpose – making life brilliant. “For the natural world, a brilliant life means a balanced and flourishing planet”, according to Mpugwa.
The diamond giant is committed to being carbon neutral, reducing water footprint by 50%, and having a net positive impact on biodiversity by 2030; these goals are called ‘Building Forever’. De Beers has partnered with National Geographic to promote responsible mining to preserve the environment.
De Beers also wants to ensure the communities where its mines are based thrive in the long-term.
This comes back to that purpose; “for our partner communities, a brilliant life means a thriving and resilient future, lasting long after our last diamond has been recovered”, notes Mpugwa.
According to the ‘Building Forever’ 2030 goals, De Beers aims to do this by helping to upskill those communities, as well as protecting their health.
For instance, “in Southern Africa, we partner with governments to reduce HIV and TB infection rates, child and maternal mortality, the incident of gender-based violence and road accidents”.
Whereas “in Canada, we focus on specific vulnerable groups [within] First Nations communities – this includes implementing programs to address youth life skills, mental health and substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, and obesity,” adds Mpugwa.
Another element of De Beers’ 2030 ‘Building Forever’ commitments is creating equal opportunities for those communities and employees. This is something that De Beers has particularly dialed up in response to the ‘Great Resignation’.
“The majority of our customers are female, and they want to see people like them in senior leadership roles,” explains Mpugwa. In addition, “cognitive diversity” brings huge value to businesses. So De Beers is focused on creating additional opportunities to engage and retain female talent, particularly in senior and technical roles; the diamond giant is working with the United Nations on this initiative.
On the topic of diversity, what Mpugwa is most looking forward about attending and speaking at UNLEASH World in Paris is “the opportunity to build networks; the more diverse…the better”.
She continues: “I believe fundamentally that…most organizations are grappling with the same [challenges]” when it comes to HR in particular. Therefore, UNLEASH World “is an opportunity for us to come together learn from each other…and to solve some of these challenges together”.
One thing is for sure, you don’t want to miss out on UNLEASH World in Paris this October.
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