Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service Podcast. I’m your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today, we’re going to be talking about the idea of slowing down to speed up. I’m excited to welcome to the podcast today Eduardo Bonefont, the vice president of Life Sciences Technical Services at BD. Eduardo, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.
Eduardo Bonefont: Thank you, Sarah. It’s good to be here and thank you for the invitation to talk to the audience here.
Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely. So I heard Eduardo present in September at the Service Council Symposium and one of the concepts that he spoke about was really, really interesting to me. And I asked him to join us today and talk a bit more about that concept. So I’m excited for our chat, but before we get into it, Eduardo, can you tell our listeners a bit about yourself? Anything you want to share related to your background, your role, anything you want to say as an introduction.
Eduardo Bonefont: Oh, sure. I’ll share some highlights. I mean, I think my humility also says that I don’t like to overshare, but I just share some key points about me and my background. I mean, I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, born and grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Probably you notice a bit in the accent. I came to New Jersey to attend electric engineering school. And there, I had just various internships, just basically to help with the college bills, but also to get some great experiences. I did get a nice internship at, back then it was GE, and they made satellite, spaceships that went into, in this case it was Mars. And my performance also there helped me get into a great leadership training program. And then when it came time to graduation, I was able to get into that great leadership for GE. And then back then I chose assignments that provided me broader responsibilities and just more significant things that I could do.
Eduardo Bonefont: But I also noticed that mainly if I went to the underperforming businesses, it gave me an opportunity to have those product challenges, but also expand the roles where I could really make some significant changes. And those underperforming divisions, I noticed that there is human pain sometimes when I met some of the employees, there is distrust and there’s mental breakdowns in those underperforming divisions. But I learn a lot by myself that my joy also came by trying to make their lives better, help them achieve great success and also have some personal pride. And I spent 16 years at GE in different businesses and service operations.
Eduardo Bonefont: I was recruited then after that to help a team in Rochester, New York. It was a former company of Johnson & Johnson where I almost spent 10 years. And I’m now the global vice president for the life sciences segment of BD. And I joined there about six years ago. And at that point in time, I joined to improve an underperforming US service region that had bad customer experience, associates were working 30% overtime, there was a lot of disengagement and this role became my attraction as a next step challenge for me. When I left BD, the most interesting thing is that a lot of my colleagues and business colleagues, they found odd that I left our prior company for… It wasn’t for money, but it was about the opportunity to take another team to great performance. And six years later, I’m the head of the division now.
Sarah Nicastro: That’s great. I love that you’re so passionate about the human side of the business. And I think that when you talk about this interest in helping underperforming areas, regions, pockets, functions turnaround, I’m sure there’s a good correlation between that performance and how the human side of the business probably isn’t getting paid enough attention. So that’s very cool. And so you talked at the event about the idea of what you referred to as a pause year. So I want to talk about what that pause year was and what its purpose was, how it came to bear. So how did you end up with the idea of taking that pause year and what purpose did it serve for your overall efforts at BD?
Eduardo Bonefont: And this might take a little bit more time to set the stage because then in about 2017, after improving the performance of the US region, which we started becoming well known in the industry for our great service improvements and this was only US focus, I was asked by the BD leadership team to lead a project to now help transform the service experience for the entire life sciences segment. It was a collaborative project to bring many of these service leaders together to trust each other, collaborate and jointly create this better future. And at that point in time, our baseline surveys from our customers, there was this not so positive customer feedback. Bringing all these heads together was not easy, but we quickly learned that we have more in common than what could set us apart. And that was the passion for our customers.
Eduardo Bonefont: We created a transformational plan and that plan was supposed to evolve over the next three to five years. Our key focus was to first fix our issues then strengthen the operations and then create to a future where we could start excelling in the customer experience. There were investments that we requested for this journey but also created a new reporting organizational structure for this new unit that got created, Life Science Technical Services. And this led to my current promotion, but it also created broader roles and more meaningful roles for those individuals in that project, which some of them are now reporting to me, leading very broad regions and very broad functions.
Eduardo Bonefont: These new investments that we requested, they were focused on three things that I’ve talked about at the conference. They were focused on people, processes and tools. And we pushed a significant amount of technology. We created customer omnichannels. We had new tools for intelligent diagnosis to better solve our issues quicker. We got better at advancing resolutions. But another key objective that we had was to improve the employee experience. And that one had not improved as fast as our customer experience. Our customer experience was getting some great net promoter scores, but then internally, our associates were not improving how they felt about us, about the unit itself, which led to our leadership team and I to start, well, let’s start getting some more feedback. And that led us to take a journey.
Eduardo Bonefont: The two heads of the two business units that work for me and myself, we decided to travel into business of Global Associates, which started in the US, just closer, then we went to Latin America then finally ended our trip in Europe. And in Europe, that’s where it was our big aha moment. And we landed a big score that I can recall at that time. We were in a classroom setting talking to associates, town hall style. If you picture the town hall or the classroom, it was kind of a slope classroom. We’re at the bottom, they were at the top and we’re talking to them about the performance and about the future. And they were excited about the vision. We can see the excitement about the vision. And as soon as we got into the Q&A, that’s when the conversation got really honest. And we started hearing about the hurdles of the systems that they had, systems that basically they were not communicating properly.
Eduardo Bonefont: The most simple way to explain this is like asking you to type all your work in Word before you send an email. It’s a very simple way to explain it, but it was a lot of rework that was taking place to our associates, which we learned before we began this journey, there were some service enterprise systems that had not yet been fixed that we used every day that needed some work. And it was a truly honest conversation. And once my leash when I got back to the hotel, our heads were spinning, “What do we do now?” But feedback is a great gift that we had just received. And now it’s up to us to now take the next step. And I’m not taking credit for the decision, my leadership and I that evening, we aligned that… At the hotel, we’re at the lobby bar just having a conversation and say, “We need to focus all our energy into fixing that employee experience.” It was the thing that had to become our number one priority.
Eduardo Bonefont: And during that trip, as we began to… I started asking the questions, “Well, what is the cost? What’s it going to take? How long can we do this?” But to cut the story short, it turned out that the cost to fix all the issues that they had, and there was a big list, to make it go away was equal to the investments that we were going to make on new technology. And that became the decision that myself and entire leadership team made quickly and we aligned quickly that our goal needed to be to refocus our efforts to fix these 16 issues and hurdles in order to create a better experience for our associates. And that became truly our pause year when we used everything that we had available to us in order for us to fix the old stuff before we can begin with new.
Sarah Nicastro: Okay. So I do have a couple questions. One is, so basically when you came into BD and you did this role in the US, the success you had there, the leadership team essentially said, “Okay, Eduardo, we want to replicate this and create more consistency across the life sciences function. So we’re going to create this new role, you dig in with these leaders, you guys decide to go around and get some firsthand feedback from the frontline workforce and that’s where you start to get this feedback.” So my first question, and I’m playing devil’s advocate here, but I just want to hear what your response is. So you said that you had already started to improve customer scores and outcomes, but the employee experience is what was not improving. So if the customer scores were improving, why did you care as much about the employee experience scores?
Eduardo Bonefont: Well, our employees are the bloodline of our success. And I began talking about my early career, how that connectivity to those that support us, our engineers, our field engineers, our associates, it is the lifeline of the organization. Services is a human context board. Without that human success, we do not have a business. But the leadership around me, I guess we think alike, we act alike and they all saw it the same way. It had to become our number one priority to realign that. At the end, we’re talking about improving something so they can become more successful at what they do. It’s not disconnected from achieving our financial and our customer performance goals without having that intimate connection. You don’t want your field engineers to go to customers and say, “Oh my God, everything’s broken.” And at the end, it also helps us with their morale and also the customer experience. And happy employees leads to happy customers, that’s a corny saying, but it’s true. And we all felt jointly together that that was the right focus.
Eduardo Bonefont: And we got it all. After we decided to focus, we got the employee experience, we got the customer experience and at the same time that financial performance was also transformative and taking place at the same time.
Sarah Nicastro: So the reason I asked that question is to just point out the fact that I think there are some organizations that don’t prioritize employee experience as highly as they do customer experience. And so if they had been in the position where the positive impact was already being reflected on the customer side, they may have been more likely than BD was to overlook the challenges that still existed on the employee experience side. So I think it’s very smart. And I think it’s smart because you are absolutely right that number one, those improvements that you saw in the customer experience without this focus will probably be significantly more with doing this. And number two, those improvements, had you not done this, could have been temporary, because at the end of the day, if you have employees that are disconnected, frustrated, disengaged, as service continues to be a strategic part of the business, if they’re not on board, it’s only a matter of time before that surfaces.
Sarah Nicastro: So like I said, it was a trick question because I agree wholeheartedly with the approach you took, which is why I wanted to have you on and have this conversation. But I do think that there are some people that maybe would’ve looked more at the short term success and not made a more weighted decision on what to do next.
Eduardo Bonefont: But look at the damage that you can leave behind if you take that approach. And for me I always say this, that services is more like a family. And at the end, if you plow through something, I mean, you can leave a lot of damage behind that may be hard to recover. Maybe if I can add one analogy and I use this in boating and I am a sailor, but if you have a boat and then all of a sudden you run a ground, there’s a sand dune or something, you run a ground and you cannot move forward, we’re surprised that the majority of boaters, what they do is they want to plow right ahead. They put the engine in full force, “I’m going to get out of this. It’s not supposed to be here.” But that can create damage to your boat, that can create damage to yourselves too. And it’s a very expensive proposal to go do that when the right answer along all along could have been, why don’t I just reverse? I already had a path behind me that’s working. If I take reverse, it’s the easiest way to get out of a sand dune when you’re stuck in order so you can move forward effectively.
Eduardo Bonefont: That is the same analogy that I use if you plow head, if you push forward, you could create a significant amount of damage, distrust that is just really hard to overcome that in future years. And at the end, you got to look at yourself, you got to look at the people around you because you’re not going to get that continuous improvement if you don’t take them into consideration. And that’s why I also used that terminology, service is like a family. I mean, we still have difficult conversations but at the end we’re aligned into what direction we’re going to move forward as organization.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, that’s a really good analogy and I think it’s really important to emphasize the point here that you obviously have a deep appreciation for the fact that these frontline workers are ultimately the key to BD’s success when it comes to services. They’re the ones that are face to face having the interactions. And so sometimes those employees aren’t maybe as appreciated either at all or just in how a company communicates to them as they need to be. I mean, it is really a critical asset that companies have and it needs to be looked at the way you look at it in terms of we’re a family, we can’t move forward together if a chunk of our family is unhappy, frustrated, disengaged. So how do we get to the bottom of that? So I think this idea of employee engagement and its importance is one thing I want to stress.
Sarah Nicastro: The other is how you and your team took the time to travel around face to face, listen to this feedback firsthand. You didn’t sit in that room and have these immediate scripted responses. It was really hard listening and walking away and saying, “Okay, we have to figure out a solution to this issue.” So it was an authentic desire to hear what they had to say-
Eduardo Bonefont: Listening is very hard. A lot of people don’t practice listening, but listening is harder than talking. It takes a lot more energy than talking.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, especially when you’re doing it with the intent of looking for a better path. Sometimes people can listen without the intent to take action on what they hear. So it’s sort of checking a box or the lip service of, “Oh, yeah. Yeah, we went around and we visited people and we heard what they had to say.” But there’s a difference between listening for the sake of listening and listening with the intent to take action on feedback. So you did both, which is really important as well.
Eduardo Bonefont: But if I could go back early to a point that you made was about the importance of the field engineers. The pandemic proved that. Not that they’re important, they’re heroes. If you know about BD, we’re medical technology company making life-saving equipment and also equipment that’s used in research. Our business did not stop because of COVID. Our business continued. Our field engineers still had to go to and take the ultimate risk in order for them to continue to provide that equipment running needed for healthcare, needed for COVID detection, needed for COVID research, needed by those customers of ours. When the pandemic hit, my number one priority became keeping them safe at the end. That became my number one daily. I woke up every morning, how are we going to continue to do this, to do their jobs and keeping them safe? But the pandemic proved their heroism because at the end, no one questioned themselves or no one second guessed their jobs when it was still time for them to take care of the customers.
Eduardo Bonefont: I as a leader, our priority became to make sure they had the right equipment, they were safe, they had the right mask at all times so they can stay safe because our number one goal became is we were not going to lose anyone to a job-related risk. And there were some close calls as far as when the pandemic first started in China, we sent our equipment to China. They have to be safe. They had nothing. We sent to China. And then once that came to the West, we found ourselves in one case, I’m not exaggerating, we had maybe 36 masks left for 1000 employees. And then I recall that in that desperate moment, I… And we were getting supplies in but they were late. I made a call to my China colleagues and, “I need help.” I said, “Do you have something for us so you can send us?” And they gave us the greatest gift ever. Over a weekend they responded and they sent us what they could in order for us to have masks for every field engineer until the new supply came in.
Eduardo Bonefont: That shows the family, the connection that we all have and how we touch each other. And I’m still touched by that event that in that moment of crisis that we had, someone that we helped earlier paid us back, not only in one kind but in tenfold in order to keep associates in Latin America, in Turkey, in Europe, and everyone on the road still running and be safe.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And you don’t get that level of solidarity and community without really investing in relationships with your people. So that’s really good. So here’s another point I want to make sure we make in today’s conversation. So it just so happened that as you went on these trips and you heard this feedback firsthand, you said that the employees were excited about the company’s vision, but it was these day to day tools that they were real really frustrated by. And so it just so happens then that the feedback was really around the technology. And so here’s another big area where I think companies race to their detriment, which is this idea that, “All right there’s new technology coming out. We need the latest and greatest, we need AI, we need machine learning, we need this, we need this.” And so they keep layering these things on top of systems that are not really strongly effective to begin with, which to your point, just increases this frustration.
Sarah Nicastro: And so I love the fact that you heard what they said. And so in this pause year, what that meant was instead of investing what you had to invest in new technology, you took a year off of doing that and invested those same funds and resources into fixing the issues that the employees had surfaced. So I love this because I think it’s super smart, but again, I think it would freak a lot of people out, to be honest. I think they would be fighting against that urge to race, race, race to get to the next thing, speed. Everyone has this pressure, “We need to be more competitive. We need to do this. We need to get to this.” So this idea of, “Let’s step back and let’s work in reverse for a bit before we leap ahead.” So can you talk about, what do you think it is? What do you think some of the reasons are why that strategy, which seems very smart, would be really hard for a lot of folks to land on?
Eduardo Bonefont: Yeah. Let me first say that in past year we did not waiver from our financial commitments, performance commitments, nor our customer commitments. Technology is a tool for us to be able to get better efficiencies, growth, and to better serve our customers. It’ll give us performance over the long term. And it’s good that we take a multi-year approach. When you look back that one year, you look back now it’s a blip, it’s inconsequential that one year that we took, because at the end, we had a vision of continuous improvement. And maybe that one year actually gave us more feedback because that employee frustration was also a big source of poor productivity, rework, more admin work, less time away from serving customers.
Eduardo Bonefont: So fixing their issues also became a boost of productivity for us. Why do people miss that feedback? I think it’s probably lack of inclusiveness. If you’re not an inclusive leader, you’re going to miss a lot of trends, a lot of potential hurdles that your organization may be facing. You also got to have a vision, a long term vision because if you’re focused too much on the short term, that could also hurt your business and we knew that the one year pause might just be a minor blip in our overall long term solution. We had the patience to see that long term effect take through. So inclusiveness and vision was the things that helped us to make the right decision for us while still meeting our business commitments that we had for the company.
Sarah Nicastro: So when we spoke earlier on, we talked about the fact that it’s been important for you to create a speak up culture. So did you run into any issues as you all were doing these visits and collecting this feedback? How did you encourage people to weigh in, to be honest and be candid and to share openly?
Eduardo Bonefont: Sure. I’ll start with myself. I mean, I’ve always encouraged any individual to always ask me any question and I’m always going to tell you the truth. The truth maybe I can’t tell you right now or the truths you may not like, but then I’m just going to be candid with you. But I also encourage that transparency and honesty from every leader in my organization. We’re always collecting feedback. One thing that I criticize myself every year is I need to make sure that I improve our communication style. We also need to make sure that we’re listening more. We’ve done just multiple things to be able to listen to our customers. One of them is this employee net promoter score that has been so effective for us. That’s just one tool to pause our organization on a global basis how they feel. I mean, would you recommend BD Technical Services to your friends and colleagues? That is a very hard question to score well in, and our relationship score.
Eduardo Bonefont: So we ask of our associates and there’s also other questions that they answer too as far as how we do around people, processes and tools. We have advisory councils that we created. We have more forums. I myself did probably 200 skip level meetings last year or more. I think I’m underestimating that, but I’m always maintaining that connection and we’re asking every leader to do the same thing. Every individual in our organization deserves to work for great leadership, deserves to work for good managers. And our mission and our vision is to make sure that that standard of leadership performance, that every lead, every associate around the world is experiencing the same thing. So that’s why we’re always opening the forum for discussion. We’re opening the forums for challenge. We welcome people to challenge us. And our leadership team and I will exercise some things where I… My leadership team will challenge me in public just to make sure that they understand it’s okay, that when I admit that I’m wrong, if I admit something, it’s okay to do that because we need to able to feel comfortable to challenge you leader, speak up, say what’s on your mind.
Eduardo Bonefont: We love to hear that because feedback, like I said earlier, is a great gift for us to be able to improve our direction. And more and more, we’re creating these sessions where we’re allowing… For example, when we create our strategy and our vision, it’s not just seven leaders locking themselves in a room, we’re inviting the next level and the second level of leadership into those meetings for them to weigh in. We encourage them to debate, decide, argue with us in order to create a common plan. There was one time this past year we’re creating our growth initiatives about our future, it was a very important session and for the first month and a half after we invited the second level of leadership, we spent most of that month and a half in what I call that storming phase. But once we got through that storming phase, norming and aligning came very quickly. It was surprising how aligned we were and how they were able to take what they learned at those meetings [inaudible 00:32:32] strategy. It got communicated down very fast, very effectively and that helped us in order to drive even faster performance, higher growth and just phenomenal results in our last financial year.
Sarah Nicastro: So I mentioned earlier there’s a difference between listening for the sake of listening and then listening with the intent to take action. So to me, there’s probably a number of different ways that this pause year was powerful. I think that this idea of slowing down to speed up, if we take a step back, we might take five steps forward. But I think one of the most powerful parts of it is how it illustrated to your frontline workforce that you cared, that you heard what they said, and that you were committed to putting action behind that even if that meant changing plans a bit. And to your point, I do absolutely understand the need to clarify. We’re not talking about a pause year, everyone took a vacation. We’re not talking about we didn’t meet the customer’s needs. We’re talking specifically about the idea that rather than racing to invest in new things from a technology perspective, we listened to the feedback and realize we needed to first improve what was in place.
Sarah Nicastro: So how do you feel that BD’s willingness to show action taken on this feedback? How do you feel that has benefited the organization in terms of taking that pause to be able to then speed up?
Eduardo Bonefont: At the end I’m the key business leader for BD for technical service. So at the end, it’s like that transparency about slowing down, I also reflect it up as well. At the end there was… As a leader, you have to be sensitive to how much absorption and adoption can happen at any given time when you’re introducing all this new technology. And I mean, it was an easy conversation with my leader and my colleagues around the other functions that support us, because at the end, it’s about creating a better need to focus on your current objectives and focus on something that needs to improve. One other… Wait, if I flashback now, right now, even in this challenging times when people are leaving companies, people are jumping ship or the great resignation, we probably have had one of the lowest turnovers that we’ve ever had in six years. And that is due to the trust, due to how passionate and committed our associates are to our vision and to our journey.
Eduardo Bonefont: So it’s an easy conversation at BD. It’s an easy conversation among everyone when we have to focus on doing the right thing. It’s about doing the right thing not only for yourself, for the company, for you, but it wasn’t a difficult decision. And again, at the end, we create a better focus, better energy, better enthusiasm and also achieve better financial results. But not everything went well. I mean, obviously some of those issues that I talked about, some of them took longer. We committed we’re going to fix all your issues. Some issues were easy, some issues took a year and some others took a year and a half to two years, but at least we constantly kept communicating it’s coming here, about the deadlines. We opened the lines of communication and created a globe of community, of people to make sure that they knew and helped those fix those issues.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. No, I mean, that communication part is really important. And I think just the willingness to take the action goes a long way in building that trust and being able to give those updates and have that transparency. Everything doesn’t need to go perfectly as long as you’re communicating and-
Eduardo Bonefont: It’s always good to ask for feedback all the time. I’ll just give you example last week, I was doing a field engineer ride along where I met with four field engineers and we drove to each of their customers as they were doing your jobs. I love doing that and I know they like having the global vice president with them but what they didn’t realize, I enjoy more. I enjoy more seeing them at work. I enjoy seeing them in front of the customer. I enjoy seeing what the customers say about them, because that just gives me a great lift, a lot of energy, enthusiasm because I also use that as a way about testing this vision that we have, is it working, you are aligned to it? What could change?
Eduardo Bonefont: And that’s why I encourage everyone, humility to listen, feedback at all levels thus transform an organization, but it also energizes those four field engineers which I had a great time with. And I was very proud just to see how much the customers adore them about the hard work that they do. It can be an uplifting experience for any leader. And I’m still enthusiastic about that visit that happened last week. I came back away with five pages or notes of things that I needed to do in order to maintain our vision intact and to continue to improve it.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That’s really cool. All right, Eduardo, our last question for today is what advice would you give someone listening that likes this idea of slowing down or pressing pause but feels very overwhelmed by the need for speed?
Eduardo Bonefont: I think I’d go back to the advice I gave earlier about the boating example. You got to look at yourself in a mirror every day. Are you proud of the things that you have done? Are you proud of the changes that you’re making? What is the impact on your associates? What is the impact on the organization? What is the impact on the people around you? We all… If you’re in services, not everyone wakes up every day to be yelled at by a customer. It takes a great passion, a great encouragement. It’s a different person to be in services. We take beatings from the customer. We have pressures internally, but at the end it’s a love for what we do. It’s a love for improving the lives of others. And my encouragement to individuals, you can still show humility, you can still show appreciation, you can still show caring and you can still have great performance if you are able to connect all those together to create a team.
Eduardo Bonefont: You can have it all. And speaking right now, I’m not telling you that everything went perfect. I’m not telling you that every performance metric… We met them in some ways. And overall, when you look back, it was successful and there were some challenges along the way, but we look back, we made the right call. Now three years later, I think we make the perfect call given that… And we never expected a pandemic to hit. We never expected the period that we’re in. And looking back, we have such an enthusiastic associate workforce that are helping us transform our organization to new levels. And honestly, out of all the journeys that I’ve had and I’ve met a lot of great people throughout my career, not only for myself and for our leadership team and our associates, this is our Picasso moment because we’ve created something great, and we’re not done yet, that it’s going to continue to have better performance and better impact to the BD as a whole and to the life sciences segment.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right that looking back a year is a blip. So it was really a relatively short term investment in building that trust with your teams that I think will have a long term positive impact. So I hope that people think about this a little bit more, both from the perspective of employee engagement and how to prioritize that, the idea of not getting so overwhelmed by the short term objectives that you fail to look a little bit ahead. And then also this idea that particularly when it comes to technology, you can’t just layer on, layer on, layer on things that are not working. You really have to dig in and make sure that you’re being smart about what’s in place and what needs to happen. So I really appreciate you coming on and sharing your insights with us. And I think it is wonderful, wonderful advice for folks to hear. So thank you Eduardo.
Eduardo Bonefont: Yeah, I’m very happy to have connected with you and I still appreciate this opportunity. I do think that you and I are aligned on our passion for a topic that’s very important. And I hope that’s becomes a bit interesting for individuals to see that you can still have a great performance and also bring important resources and associates to better performing levels and create a better working environment. So thank you for that opportunity, I enjoyed it and I look forward to connecting with you again.
Sarah Nicastro: Thanks Eduardo. You can find more by visiting us at futureoffieldservice.com. You can also find us on LinkedIn as well as Twitter @TheFutureOfFS. The Future of Field Service podcast is published in partnership with IFS. You can learn more at ifs.com. As always, thank you for listening.