Conversations about Gold

This is Gold is about bringing the industry to life. In this section we feature Conversations about Gold – which highlights key discussions about the industry, People of Gold – which introduces some of the most vibrant and interesting people in the industry, and Places of Gold – which shows the mines that keep the industry going.

A hands-on approach to dealing with indebtedness at Harmony Gold

Harmony is using storytelling to change spending behaviour and, in so doing, trying to address the significant problem of employee indebtedness. In Africa, storytelling has for centuries been used to inspire action and pass cultural values from generation to another, and it is this same spirit that it hopes to empower employees with the knowledge they need to better manage their financial wellbeing.

While indebtedness is not a mining-specific problem, mine employees and mine communities have been an easy feeding ground for unscrupulous lenders and intermediaries. An investigation by the National Credit Regulator revealed staggering exploitation of vulnerable mining communities and there are suggestions that these practices may have played a role in creating the conditions leading to the recent labour discontent in the mining sector. It is well known that an employee’s financial wellness has a direct impact on personal effectiveness in the workplace and in mining that means productivity and safety. That is why the country’s gold producers, like Harmony, as part of their wage agreement, have committed themselves to investigating the rising levels of debt among mineworkers.

For Harmony, this means changing spending behaviour before it gets to the point where employees face the prospect of going home with little or no pay at the end of the month. The gold producer is rolling out what is called the “Five Fingered Rule” programme to its 34,000 employees in a bid to equip their employees with the practical skills they need to get out and stay out of debt.

“The programme is designed to equip them with knowledge so they may better understand their financial situation and better evaluate the options that will allow them to do so,” says CEO Graham Briggs.

The programme is a classed-based, one-day workshop facilitated by multilingual facilitators and deals with personal money management literacy, discipline and awareness. It covers the concept of personal accountability and living with the consequences of one’s actions and choices; the effect of financial stress on the employee, his/her family and the company, as well as the benefits of being financially independent and debt-free.

harmony-5-finger-rule

Using the image of a hand with the five fingers representing the main “rules” of financial freedom, the programme gives employees an easy to recall reference that is always “at hand”. While the palm signifies the important concepts of accountability and consequences, the fingers each represent a rule:

Rule no 1:  Be truthful to yourself and your family
Rule no 2:  Know what you earn and where the money comes from
Rule no 3:  Know what you spend
Rule no 4: Get out of trouble and stay out of trouble
Rule no 5: Make a long-term plan and work your plan

Harmony, which aims to initially reach 35% of its workforce, started rolling out the programme in October 2013 and by November 2014 had reached almost 8,000 employees. The devastating effect that debt has had on family life has been the most common theme identified through attendee feedback. Other feedback comments indicate recognition that individuals have the power over their own spending and a strong desire to control what they spend. Harmony anticipates that attendance will reach the targeted 9,000 employees by the end of 2014.