Personal Finance

Momentum and positivity during company closure

titanium

An earth mover collects titanium for further production at Base Titanium company in Kwale. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • A company will rarely close when it has a great team who continually exceed expectations and are globally heralded as a success story in their field.
  • Yet for Base Titanium Limited (Base) this is the case.
  • Base is a mineral sands mine that has been operating on the South Coast of Kenya since 2013.

When a company closes its doors, it is often sudden and associated with poor management. A company will rarely close when it has a great team who continually exceed expectations and are globally heralded as a success story in their field. Yet for Base Titanium Limited (Base) this is the case.

Base is a mineral sands mine that has been operating on the South Coast of Kenya since 2013.

As the largest mine in Kenya, it has been and continues to be, a huge success, contributing about 65 percent of Kenya’s mineral output value. It is one of the employers in the South Coast, directly employing more than 870 people of which over 98 percent are Kenyan and 66 percent are from the Kwale region.

Base had originally projected mine life of 13 years.

However, having a team that continually innovates and improves processes, coupled with the reducing quality of the mine ore has meant that its life will be shorter, based on current data it will close in the next one to two years.

Of course, Base is actively working to extend the life of its operations through its near mine and regional exploration programmes, but there is no guarantee that this will happen before the current resources are exhausted.

Throughout its tenure, Base has worked hard to create a positive employment experience for all its team members. The focus has been on safety, wellness, learning and job satisfaction.

Our success has been formally recognised through the Federation of Kenya Employers, Employer of Choice Awards and our internal benchmarks including low turnover, a high number of training hours, excellent safety records, increased diversity, and promotion of Kenyans into leadership roles.

Our challenge is to now build mechanisms that will help maintain momentum, motivation, and positivity throughout the next one-two years so that optimum operations are maintained and post mine activities are safely completed to plan.

Overall, we need to ensure that our global employment brand is maintained and that the legacy of Base in Kenya is positive.

The question to ask is can this be done? Can we continue to take the employees on their journey so that when they leave Base, they feel like their end-to-end employment experience was positive and that they have a “Life After Base”?

Can we design strategies, which continue to support business imperatives but also allow for employees to start mentally and logically preparing for their exit whilst still giving 100 percent to their job, even if it was one-two years away?

We believe so and launched our programme dubbed Life After Base – Planning for the Future in May 2021. It is an evolving programme that will be refined with staff input over time. The key components will consist of:

1. Communication – transparent and often

There was concern about sharing information with staff, saying out loud and in print that the mine would close — how would they react, would they continue to put in the effort, would they leave? Knowing our team, considering our values, and remembering how we have operated throughout our mine life, we felt we needed to give as much information as soon as possible.

They had a right to internalise the closure so that they could start their preparations and make some decisions. This was not just a business journey but also a personal one.

To date, no one has left employment because of the communication, and more importantly, everyone is still working as hard as usual.

2. Focus on Financial Planning and Debt Management

To help employees get their finances in shape, we have engaged a Kenya company specialising in financial management to run some courses to help employees think about what they need to do over the next couple of years to ensure they are in a good place financially to support whatever they chose to do when they leave Base.

Since the announcement of this training, there has been a bit of a buzz on site. People are already thinking and planning, which is great as it means we are achieving the aim of getting people to start taking some ownership for their future.

3. Training Certificates and Recognition of Learning (RPL)

This is a step that employees have identified as critical to their preparations for re-entering the job market. Base has its centre of excellence and has run thousands of training courses since 2013 covering both technical and soft skills training. Where it makes sense, we will provide certificates for all internal courses.

We are also working with several external stakeholders to determine which skills can be assessed and granted external formal certification. This includes participating in a trial with the government for RPL.

4. Transition Training

As people will have different paths after Base such as retirement, new job and own business, among others, we will engage an external consultant to run some focus groups to gather employee input. From here we will design and or outsource course development to match these needs.

Focus groups will commence towards the end of this year and transition training will be delivered at least 12 months from the final closure date.

5. Outplacement/Job Centre

We believe our well trained and efficient workforce would be an asset to any employer. As a means of encouraging employees to stay, we hope to work with other employers to help employees source potential opportunities that would line up with their demobilisation dates.

Our ambitious aim is to set up an employment centre on-site, including running a career fair for employers. The plan is for this to commence about six months from the final closure date.

6. Celebrate

We will continue to celebrate our operational achievements including key business milestones. Base is known for throwing a good party for staff and their family and our plans include a very big party at the end to recognise and celebrate all our great achievements over the years.

Some of these strategies are already in play. We’ve started the communication process, engaged the financial management trainer and are in talks with the consultant to run our focus groups and organise the transition training and outplacement centre.

Our dearest hope is to extend our mine life in Kenya and much effort is being put into achieving that. However, there is no certainty — a worst-case scenario we close in one-two years and our staff feel prepared and ready to face life after Base.

In the best-case scenario, our operations are extended, and employees still feel that they are being given skills to face the future. Either way, we retain our resources, continue delivering to stakeholder expectations and our workforce remains committed.