AngloGold Ashanti currently has 269 employees assigned to posts away from their home countries around the world. This group includes both secondees (permanent employees sent on assignment into other countries); and contractors (individuals recruited to work in another country for a specific period).
Says Mark Stoffberg, international senior human resources manager, "Employees are seconded to countries where their skills are most needed. Cross-border deployment assists in the cross-pollination of skills. South Africa, for example, is home to some of the deepest mines in the world, but the Australian and USA operations have extensive open pit mining experience; these skills can most obviously be deployed at some of the newer operations in Africa.
"Not only does the assigning of employees facilitate the training of the local people, it also stretches the capacity of the assignee. For example, planning in the more remote locations is of the utmost importance as supplies can take up to three months to get to site. Some locations are so remote that they can only be reached within reasonable time frames by air. Many mine sites have had to establish their own infrastructure including power plants, roads, water supply, sewerage and communications. Shops are often non-existent and schooling for dependents can present real challenges. Overcoming challenges such as these can equip the assignee with the skills to take on more responsibility. Assignments can provide invaluable career and management experience as well as exposure to new and different mining and business methods."
In the more developed countries like Australia, Brazil, South Africa and the USA, pay is in local currency and closer to local salary levels. AngloGold Ashanti makes use of the latest methodologies to calculate competitive assignee packages. Regular surveys are conducted to ensure that expatriates are paid competitively and receive market-related benefits. The company's philosophy is to ensure that the assignee is no worse off than in his/her home country.
Health risks may also abound in remote locations, with malaria and numerous stomach viruses being the chief culprits. To ensure the suitability of the AngloGold Ashanti assignees they are required to pass a medical examination and are psychologically assessed for adaptability and psychological toughness. (See case study:
Setting up tropical travel protocols as global travelling increases
in the Occupational Safety and Health
Another of AngloGold Ashanti's philosophies is that the family should be kept together wherever possible. Schooling in remote locations is either provided or paid for by the company. In countries ranked high in 'hardship', employees are provided with benefits such as free furnished accommodation, nine weeks leave and three flights home, per accompanying family member, per year. Medical cover is provided through BUPA and emergency evacuation cover is provided.
While locations like Johannesburg, Perth and Denver may have less 'hardship' attached, adjustment for a relocated family may be just as difficult. In these locations the company tries to make the transition to the new location as easy as possible by providing the assignees with specialist relocation agents who show the family around and provide assistance with finding suitable shopping centres and schools, opening bank accounts, purchasing vehicles, finding permanent accommodation (temporary accommodation is provided) and getting advice on the local tax legislation.
There are disadvantages to the programme. There are occasionally retention issues if employees do not want to return to their home base, particularly those who have been paid in US dollars and have gained valuable experience, which is then lost to the company. Overall, however, the programme is seen as a very positive experience.