Customised leadership program delivers results for Nyrstar

As one of the world’s largest multi-metal processing facilities, Nyrstar Australia’s Port Pirie operations have been a major employer in the Upper Spencer Gulf region in South Australia for over 130 years.

The continuously operating site is intrinsically linked with the Port Pirie community and generations of the same family have produced metals critical to the world in their own backyard since its establishment in 1889.

These days, it employs a diverse workforce of more than 800 site-based staff and 300 contractors, with a range of skills, backgrounds and education-levels.

To chart a course for the next generation of its team and strengthen Nyrstar's Port Pirie legacy for years to come, in 2023, the organisation approached Professional and Continuing Education at the University of Adelaide to develop a customised education solution for its workforce.

Working in partnership with Nyrstar, the University developed the 'Nyrstar Leadership Program' — a three-month program focused on building core leadership skills for 124 of its local leaders.

As well as addressing important skills gaps for Nyrstar, it was important that the program also benefitted the local community, said Nyrstar Resourcing Specialist, Hamish Wright.

"A gap analysis identified that we needed to improve the core leadership skills of the 124 leaders in our organisation — attributes like performance management, effective leadership, having difficult conversations — so they could effectively perform these leadership functions," he said.

"We also wanted to help our diverse workforce develop their leadership skills in a way that would benefit them professionally and personally…many of our staff coach local sporting teams and are involved in other groups, so we saw this program as an avenue for empowering our community too."

Recognising that the learning needs of no two organisations are identical, Nyrstar’s customised program focused on team development, leadership communication, strategy and decision making, performance, project management and negotiation and presentation skills.

"Professional and Continuing Education’s Business Development team was instrumental in helping us identify the key aspects we wanted to focus on, and tailoring an education package that met our needs," Hamish said.

"We loved that they understood our unique environment and challenges, and could offer a bespoke solution that related to us and our staff."

The course content wasn’t the only element that was tailored to Nyrstar — the delivery of the Program by expert facilitators was too.

"The facilitators adapted the course content, and presentation style, to our people.

"I really felt like the people in the room understood us, which was crucial…it’s given us that credibility that’s been needed — and warranted — by the material produced.

"For example, we’ve got staff who left school at year 10, so they learnt how to adapt their teaching methodology to really engage the classroom."

From the classroom to the site, Hamish said learnings from the course are already being applied in the workplace — delivering tangible benefits for Nyrstar and its people.

Customised leadership program delivers results for Nyrstar

L-R: Amy Penny and Matthew Crosnier, Nyrstar Leadership Program participants, pictured with Rhys Millington, Campus Coordinator of Unihub Port Pirie, where the Leadership Program was held.

"We’ve already seen learnings from the program applied in the higher levels of management, when delivering presentations and reports," he said.

"At the lower leadership levels, feedback from team leaders has been about how the negotiation skills and difficult conversations courses have enabled them to have more productive conversations and build rapport with their team.

"Since the program, we’ve noticed a significant decrease in terms of non-attendance and the amount of overtime paid, and a very steep decline in staff turnover too."

Hamish said the Program’s clear success is thanks to the strong working partnership formed with the University and customised approach.

With Nyrstar’s Port Pirie site having reaped the benefits of the Leadership Program, Hamish is considering launching a similar initiative with Professional and Continuing Education at The University of Adelaide at Nyrstar Australia’s interlinked zinc refinery in Hobart.

We’d love to partner with your organisation to design impactful education solutions tailored to your context and people. To find out more, download a brochure or contact our team today.

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