human resources management
Marbella Residential Homes
Marbella Residential, located in southern Spain, was originally founded in 1972 to provide skilled and caring support to the elderly. Over the years it became very successful, gaining a number of prestigious awards, especially due its focus on beautiful premises, onsite medical services and comprehensive facilities. It expanded gradually to five residencies with space for 250 patients until 2015. At that point, the company was acquired by a venture capitalist who made a substantial investment in securing 4 further residencies with a total capacity of nearly 1,000 patients.
The focus changed significantly from highly personalized care to ensuring that the residencies were continuously filled to capacity, with profitability being the prime objective. This change has meant that many of the experienced staff have decided to retire or seek work in other places, leaving many staff gaps to be filled, mostly by young, inexperienced and sometimes untrained staff.
The market for skilled care of the elderly is growing apace as baby boomers from northern Europe decide to spend their final years in the sun of the Mediterranean and there is no shortage of people seeking a place at one of the Marbella residencies.
However, the rapid expansion of the company has created a number of problems and now, as a newly hired HR Director for the company, you are interviewing some of the 50 ‘core’ staff to assess the extent of the challenges you are facing:
1. Gerda, a 35-year old licensed nurse from Germany says: “I’ve been here for 5 years and I’ve seen management do what it can to fill positions, but I don’t always agree with who they recruit. Some of the basic skills can taught, of course, but you can’t teach someone to care. So I find myself really stressed out, looking after so many patients who often just want more attention”
2. Phillipe, a Belgian carer with a BA degree in Psychology tells you: “I came here a year ago thinking that it would be fun to work in southern Spain – you know, sun, sea and sangria …But it isn’t like that at all. There are constant crises to deal with and I’m the one everyone turns to first it seems, so I’m constantly running from situation to situation dealing with outbursts, arguments and even fights! And this goes on every day, including weekends, so I hardly have any time to myself at all. I’m already applying for other jobs…”
3. Peter, a German doctor: “Well I’ve been living in this area for over 10 years, and I spend most of my time divided either at my surgery in Estepona or one of the Marbella residencies. I visit each residence once a week to check on patients and prescribe medicines and so on. If there’s a medical emergency, then I get called out to that as well. That worked fine until 2015 but now, it’s just impossible to get around all the residencies and see all the patients that need me. It’s totally ridiculous to think that only one doctor can deal with everything! We did have a second doctor, but he left almost as soon as he realized what the workload consisted of and frankly, I’m thinking of doing the same .. “
4. Laura, a 17-year-old recent hire says: “I just started three months ago straight out of school. I’d really like the job if only I had more time to spend with each person. But there are so many patients, I can only clean them up, make the bed, and tidy the room and then I have to run off to the next patient. We’re supposed to be ‘carers’ but we’re just maids on the lowest minimum pay. The conditions are pretty bad and until now, we’ve had nobody to go to – I’m so glad you’re here now. Perhaps you can increase our pay and give us more time to look after the patients properly rather than just chase around until we’re exhausted?”
5. Charles, Director of Marbella Residential: “Welcome to your new role and I’m very happy you’re here! I’ve spent most of my time interviewing people for vacant jobs and I told the owner it’s about time we had a professional HR person to help me out… Yes, we have 50 full-time nurses and carers spread around the various residencies and sometimes we have to shift them from one to the other to fill gaps. We outsource things like the cleaning and the catering because the owner wants to keep the organization as lean as possible. He only comes every now and again to check on things .. he expects us to keep the company going on the minimum possible cost base and he really isn’t interested in how we do it, because there’s a waiting list of over 50 people at the moment and it gets longer and longer every month … we just don’t have the places available. Enough staff, you ask? Well, frankly, there’s always people who want to come and work in this part of Europe and unemployment is high in the area, so we always have lots of applicants for any jobs that come up. Unfortunately, very few of them are qualified or interested in the job itself, so they don’t stay long. Our turnover is 30% a year, which keeps us busy recruiting… and the ratio of carers is 1: 25 patients or so, which is standard for the industry in Spain ….”
In addition, the 2020-2021 COVID pandemic has complicated Marbella’s HR situation, implementing new ways of managing its employees to effectively serve the patients.