Top Employers Ireland Q&A: Garry McCabe from Mater Private Network

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Ireland's leading private hospital brand Mater Private Network was certified as a Top Employer 2024 in Ireland earlier this year. We were delighted to catch up with Chief People Officer Garry McCabe to discover what makes them a Top Employer. In this Q&A Garry reveals all about their great success in reducing attrition rates, the implementation of unique flexible working initiatives, and their new bespoke tailored leadership programmes.

Introduce yourself and tell us about your organisation

I am Garry McCabe, Chief People Officer at the Mater Private Network. I’m a strategically focused Human Resource Professional with over twenty years’ experience. I’m a known high-achiever, adept at driving company growth and productivity. I have established "world class" innovative HR initiatives that have been widely adapted. In recent years I have spent time out of the Human Resource world to work in the Commercial arena, to round out my business nous. This gives me a relatively rare blend of Human Resources and Commercial aligned to multi-industry experience, allowing me focus on delivering real return on investment and driving continuous improvement in organisations. My passion as a HR professional is impacting the bottom line using a range of Leadership skills, thus continually proving the outstanding value that Human Resources can deliver for the organisations.

The Mater Private Network is Ireland's leading Private Hospital Brand with over 2,400 staff and has grown exponentially in the past 20 years form an initial flagship hospital in Dublin to now comprise of two acute hospitals (Dublin and Cork), two Day Hospitals in North and South Dublin, two advanced specialist Radiotherapy Centres in Limerick and Liverpool (UK), and a number of out-patient clinics in various regional locations. Mater Private Network has built a strong reputation for medical innovation and the provision of high acuity care, and is a national leader for heart and cancer specialties in particular. Both Mater Private Dublin and Cork hospitals have consistently been awarded JCI Gold status since they joined this world-recognised accreditation system.

What is the main value you receive from the Top Employers Programme?

There are two main value propositions derived from the Top Employers Programme for Mater Private Network being 1) its ability to provide a comprehensive framework for evaluating and enhancing our HR practices and 2) the opportunity for Mater Private Network to differentiate our Employer Brand to a global community of healthcare talent. Through the rigorous assessment process, we gain invaluable insights into areas of strength and areas for development across various aspects of our employee experience and the Employer Brand is bolstered which impacts our attractiveness in what must be one of the most, if not the most, competitive employee talent market in any industry across the world. 

What will be the biggest people challenge you expect your business to be facing in 2024? And what will you do to meet this challenge?

There are 2 intrinsically linked people challenges for all of the healthcare systems globally and Mater Private Network are no different. The twin topics of Attraction and Attrition or as we like to refer to them as Recruitment and Retention.

Recruitment : With the worlds healthcare professionals expected to be in a 30 million headcount deficit by 2030 the acquisition of talent is not easy, in fact it is unbelievably difficult with many critical healthcare skills already at extreme levels of scarcity. We in Mater Private Network are competing with all the 1st world countries and all the 1st world healthcare providers and all of the Irish Healthcare providers for the exact same small group of international transient healthcare talent, mainly coming from Philippines and India. To be attractive, you must have a compelling reason for this talent to a) consider your country / city as a place to live and b) consider your hospital as a great workplace and develop, while considering all of the cost factors that exist in these considerations.

In response we have developed a very robust Talent Acquisition Strategy with International Recruitment at its heart. Our express intention is to express our “Differentiation” to the talent we are seeking to attract. We do that in numerous ways including, Podcasting, Educational Seminars (on-line), Pre-Decision Orientation, Videography, Employee Advocacy and of course Financially.  Aftercare support for new International colleagues is critical to ensure that they feel comfortable and connected at the earliest point, enriching their initial decision to come and join our company.

Retention : In an industry with Attrition Statistics typically running in the +20% range, retention is vital. The cost of attrition for critical skill roles for example is circa 70% of basic salary, due to time to hire, adaptation, relocation and temporary replacement costs etc, which is substantial when you have such high levels of attrition. So retention initiatives that make positive improvement on the attrition statistics can be highly valuable.

In response to extremely high levels of Attrition we in MPN have developed a strategic approach to Critical Skill roles through our 36 month Retention Program which in essence is an innovative differentiation, to ensure a) we are attractive to new talent, b) we remain attractive and different than our competitors for our current colleagues and c) we have created a “stickiness” for current colleague to consider, if there are tempted to leave. Our initial pilot schemes have been highly successful, and for each critical skill department that meets the attrition criteria, we consider the implementation of the 36-month Retention Program.

Tell us about a recent HR initiative you have instigated within your organisation that you are most proud of?

The aforementioned 36 month Retention Program has been hugely successful in creating stability in departments that were in crisis, in terms of attrition and attraction. The implementation of the program has completely changed the dynamic from 24% ongoing open roles (unable to fill) and 25% attrition. We were recruiting to stand still, barely filling the attrition with a continuing 24% vacancy rate. We have now completely stabilised these departments with no open roles and <10% attrition. While the cost savings involved are considerable, the biggest impact is in patient care, where we are seeing our NPS scores breach 70 as our patients are getting exceptional experiences due to the higher levels of continuity of care.

At MPN we have developed with an external provider called EQuita, 3 bespoke tailored leadership programmes called Fit4Future (Strategic Leadership), ASPIRE (Situational Leadership) and PACE (Fundamentals of Leadership), all of which we are in the process of delivering to every Line Manager in our business. To date we have had over 120 management and executive colleagues through the programmes with a further 80 to attend over the next 18 months.  The beauty of these tailored programmes, delivered by one external provider, is the absolute consistency in delivery and messaging, the providers understanding of our context and the wider healthcare landscape and importantly the consistent messaging that distils through an organisation which is willing to grow and change.  We are already seeing significant positive behavioural change from our Line Management as a direct impact of the learnings.

Within the Nursing cohort we have a unique type of flexible working arrangement when it comes to allocating working time. Because we measure time annually which is inclusive of annual leave and bank holidays, nurses are paid a standard fixed monthly salary and premium pay / overtime is paid fortnightly, a fortnight in arrears. The beauty of this arrangement is that the Nurses have huge levels of flexibility and can identify when they will work, when they may be available for work and equally when they will not work. They are building time when they choose or taking significant breaks in working time at certain parts of the year while not impacting their basic salary. This allows colleagues extensive travel or family time or both depending on their respective needs.

We have recently implemented WorkVivo, a world class engagement tool, best described as an internal hybrid of LinkedIn and Facebook, allowing a central repository for all communications collateral, business data, colleague recognition, live podcasting, live video feed and community spaces where colleagues can have their own engagement without company interference. We cant forget that face to face communications is the lifeblood of an organisation and this is a core area for development for MPN, however WorkVivo is a platform to record and share information which enable our 2,400 colleagues to interact seamlessly, which until now was impossible. We have great plans for expanding the reach and content of WorkVivo in 2024 to enable even greater engagement within our business.

Can you tell us how AI is affecting your business? How is it helping you - or challenging you in terms of your people practices?

Human resources have benefited from AI in various ways, such as streamlining recruitment processes through automated resume screening and optimizing workforce management through predictive analytics for better decision-making. We are about to bring improvements to employee engagement through WorkVivo with AI-driven feedback systems, which will allow us to react to prevailing circumstances across the business in different sites and different departments in a much more fluid manner. While i'd like to think that AI will give me more time to spend on strategic HR projects, the reality is we have a huge amount of transactional work and service to get right, it is only freeing time up to get more tactical work done.

What’s next? Tell us about any new initiatives/projects for 2024 that you’re excited about?

I'm really looking forward to the following projects in 2024 and adding bottom line value

  1. Further development in HR's ability to utilise predictive analysis for better decisions on people and cost related topics.
  2. Further reduction in Attrition statistics which adds considerable value to both patient experience and bottom line.
  3. Improving engagement factors across all sites which will stimulate connectivity and discretionary effort.
  4. Improving data integrity and its integration with payroll which will address costs factors and improve bottom line
  5. Introduction of a world class formal Employee Recognition Programme to recognise and celebrate the amazing work our colleagues do every day.
  6. Commencement of a meaningful and consistent Wellbeing Agenda that address each of the 4 wellbeing pillars for all of our colleagues, as such enabling greater sense of connection in our business
  7. Reduce HR response times and improve HR service to the organisation,  which will build further levels of credibility with our colleagues, improving connectivity in our business.

Become a Top Employer Ireland 2025! Discover more about the Top Employers Certification Programme and how it can help your organisation grow as an employer of choice in Ireland:

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Top Employers Ireland Q&A: Garry McCabe from Mater Private Network

    Nosso programa o(a) ajudará a se adaptar ao ambiente de RH constantemente em mudança.