Sarah is joined by Marco Hugo Guiterrez, VP of Customer Service Operations, EMEA at Tetra Pak, who shares a detailed look at how the company is putting more emphasis on employee engagement and working to promote and maximize field force wellbeing.
Sarah Nicastro: Welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Nicastro. Today we're going to be taking a look at how Tetra Pak has created proven ways to support their field force well-being. I'm thrilled to be joined today by Marco Hugo Gutierrez, who is the Vice President of Customer Service Operations for EMEA at Tetra Pak. Marco, welcome to the Future of Field Service podcast.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Thank you very much, Sarah.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Thank you for inviting me.
Sarah Nicastro: Absolutely, thrilled to have you. So this is a topic that you did a session on at Field Service Europe in Amsterdam in the fall and I know it was incredibly well-received and I think with good reason. When we caught up to talk about this, I think it's such an important area for people to be focusing more on and you have such great specifics about how you and your team and Tetra Pak is doing that. So we'll get into all of that but before we do, just tell everyone a little bit more about yourself, your role and also the Tetra Pak business in case they're not familiar.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: So, thank you very much. Let me start by introducing Tetra Pak as a company. Our company is currently a leader in the food and beverage industry, mainly in the area, so processing and packaging. We are present around the globe as a full system supplier, meaning that we deliver not only the equipment but also the materials like packaging material, caps, et cetera. And we supply also services to, let's say, maintain and keep updated lines during the lifetime of these lines. Consumer knows us mainly through our packages. But we also have a very, very important install base in the processing area, the processing of the liquid that we normally process or other food categories. With more than 100,000 processing equipment and more than 9,000 packaging machines around the globe. For today's discussion, I think one figure that is really relevant is the amount of field service engineers. We have a very strong local presence in the world with more than 2,500 engineers around the world.
About myself; I would describe myself as professionally passionate about industrial services with almost 25 years dedicated to this area mainly working for Tetra Pak, but I started in the oil and gas industry. I started as field service engineering in fact. So I had also the experience being there in the field. Then I moved to sales, having different positions. Then I became a service director in France until 2018. And then since then, I have been working managing big organizations of field service operations with today I have a team of 1,100 employees delivering maintenance installations, TPM products, and also training for our customers. I'm also very focused on transformation of the service delivery model. I think that things are changing quite often, and for our customers and also when it comes to the people that we have and we'll talk about that today. And always looking for getting the right balance between two systems data and people.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah, I love that. And some of our podcast listeners may remember Sasha Ilyukhin who is also at Tetra Pack and has been on the podcast a couple of times. And I think it's interesting, you and he both started as engineers yourselves. And I've said to him before and I'll say to you, I think it makes me think two things. One, it's so nice that you have that firsthand perspective because particularly with a topic like today's topic, there's a deep understanding you have about the struggles or the challenges and things to avoid that that would be hard to appreciate as much just secondhand. The other thing that I think is really interesting though, and I'm thinking of you and he both as examples of this is sometimes with all of the changes that are happening in leadership style and company culture and things like that, we have been talking more and more about how in field service specifically, you have a lot of leaders who progress through the ranks and sometimes this is done as a reward for individual contribution, even when the person isn't necessarily super interested in or well-adapt to be a leader.
So what I love about this example and Sasha as well and others, is when you see a leader who has progressed but really is strong at the role and, to your point, is looking for ways to not get stagnant, but to continue to look at the environment. What's changing, what do we need to do differently, how can we be better? It's really powerful, so I love that. All right, so we're talking today about field force well-being, all right. And what I want to talk about first is what makes this topic? We hear a lot in the news about employee burnout, turnover, employee mental health, all of these things. What makes these things so particularly important for a field workforce?
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Yeah. Well, I think that several factors came into a place at the same time. I think that from one side, COVID was an accelerator of all these, of this situation. I think in general, the life of the engineer has a factor that is different to other jobs. For example, in the back office, not that is a traveling factor. The fact that they are normally out of home or they have compromised their personal life with a professional life in a much more, let's say, complex way. And what we see normally in the field is we don't normally see a lot of people with burnout. It's something that, at least in Tetra Pak, we don't see a lot of burnout in the field. But what we understand is that being engineer, you have to face normally quite tense situations because you need to, for example, restore a line and the customer is waiting for restoring the production. And there is a lot of tension.
I mean, there are several situations that you need to handle and you have to do this at the same time traveling. So on top of all the things that are coming from our normal life, families issues or health issues, etc, on top of that, you have this complication. This is from one side. So Junk in Generations, they have now other alternatives that are coming from the fact that we have below technologies that really improve the collaboration. Let's say for example, today is quite easy to see that companies are offering positions as programmers, as automation engineers, as remote support engineers, that allows the people to work much closer to their homes, etc. And this is something that we have to, let's say, understand and adapt to the way we set up our services in order to give as much as possible flexibility. So the engineers, they get the best of being engineer. That is, I think is to have a tremendous impact on the operations of the customer to have a very high value for the customer, to be exposed, at least in our company, constantly to international environment.
Talking with, working with people from all the companies, from the countries, being updated constantly to new technologies. I mean, it's a very dynamic job and at the same time, it's really rewarding. When you have a breakdown, you go there, you fix the machine, and then the line is producing and the customer is able to achieve the production target. This is really powerful. There are not many jobs that gives this satisfaction. So I think there's a balance between the benefits of the job and the complexity of the lifestyle that having other alternatives in the work market that allows you to work more closer to your family, etc, sometimes is for us, it's a challenge to find the right model to offer something that is attractive for the talented people.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. No, that makes sense. And I know you and I spoke about that oftentimes the stress that the field force can feel isn't really related to workload. It's some of these other external factors, and often it can be a sense of isolation. And so then there's this need in the labor market, we see people wanting more and more flexibility. And so there's the as is challenges, there's also what's coming, what's continuing to change. And so I know we spoke about the fact that not only is this balance important to strike today, but it also really important for companies to be thinking about what's coming and that having a focus on well-being and employee engagement like we're going to talk about today is going to be even more important as we go into the future. Yes. So what do you think is coming along that's going to make this focus which is already very important, even more critical as we move forward?
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Yeah. As I said before, I think that we will... Today we can say we are happy not to have a very high turnover of engineers. We are in the level of 5% which is pretty good on. But I think that more and more, it is going to be more difficult in some markets to attract talent. We already see it in some markets, especially in some areas, U.S, Mexico for example, where it can be Europe, where more and more opportunities are the diversification of the different options for engineers or technicians is becoming bigger. In other markets what we see is that this is socio-economical situations in some areas, like for example, Africa or Middle East or other regions of the world where we see that really the talent retention is going to be in the future, something to take care quite a lot. So I think that, as I said before, we didn't see also in Europe, for example, this big great resignation wave, it didn't happen so heavily.
But yes, I think that in the future, we should be able to offer model of work modalities we allows the engineers to have more flexibility, for example, when it comes to planning their personal life. Also, I think that it's going to be important to have the chances to give them rotations. Rotations in the back office as for example, if they have a situation at home, at home with the family to be able to stay for six months as remote support engineer or other positions that doesn't require to travel so much so they can settle down the situation at home and then return. So I think more and more we will need to be more and more flexible. And I think that the remote support will play an important role in that aspect.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And I think what you're doing right now to be proactive, to know that will become more and more important and to get ahead of it is the way to do it versus waiting for a great resignation and then try... So it's this idea of, and we talk about this on this podcast a lot too, spending time waiting for things to go back to how they were is useless. It's not happening. And so the quicker we can just embrace, "Listen, things have changed, they are changing," we aren't going to be successful infinitely just operating the way we always have. So how do we adapt? It's really important. Now we're going to talk about these steps that you're taking along employee engagement, employee well-being but before we get into those, the one aspect you mentioned to me to put yourself in a good space from the beginning is hiring well. So can you talk about what you mean by that? What does hiring well look like for these roles at Tetra Pak?
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: I think it's absolutely vital because if you don't hire the right profile from the beginning, you will never fix it later on even if you give trainings or whatever. I think it's important to also hire the people according to the right profiles. Looking at the type of service they're going to deliver. It is not the same, for example, a technician who repairs vending machines in the same city than a field service engineer that is working the industry of pharmaceutical or food industry in different locations around the world, overseen large installation projects or even managing big service contracts, the type of stress and levels and responsibilities different. So it's important to consider both, the technical skill and experience and also the software skills that are normally the ones that creates more stress on the person and more problems.
So we have to be really good at evaluation. At evaluating these skills during the recruitment process. And it's also very important from the beginning during the interviews to set really well expectations about the job, what is the job about, what, let's say, circumstances you will find developing your job in a daily basis, et cetera. That way everybody's prepared, you know exactly what profile are you hiring, and you are somehow sure that he's going to develop well his job.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. That makes sense. So it is getting good at the evaluation process, knowing what you're looking for. And I like the point about also setting expectations because I think especially in a tight labor market and we know we need to fill roles but what you don't want to do is sell a vision of the job that is not accurate and then you're causing problems for yourself once folks get into it. And yeah.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Sarah, we cannot forget that an engineer is one of the roles that is more expensive to develop and so, having engineers that you spend a nice amount of money and time to develop properly and suddenly he discovers that, well, that was not what he was expecting, is a problem.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. And in more ways than one, for sure. Okay, so Tetra Pak has a program called Tetra Pak Mental Wellbeing. Okay. Can you tell us about that program?
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Well, this program... I mean, increasingly our company has been having more and more focus on the well-being of the employees. But after the pandemic, we refocus a little bit even more in the mental area, the mental health. So we want our people to be not only physically but also mentally healthy. For different reasons but one of the main is that if you are full of energy because you feel well, because you are, then you will go to work, happy to work, happy to collaborate with the rest of your peers but you will transmit that energy also to the customers. And you will come back afterwards to your home full of energy because you have been enjoying doing your job and you have the right conditions. So what we want is our employees to be conscious about the importance of the mental wind, help them to detect symptoms on themselves and also to detect it on the rest of the colleagues if somebody is in a very high peak of a stress, for example.
And we want really to be able to give them an environment to talk safely about this topic. So the program has three main objectives. One of them is the stigmatize, the mental why we have this campaign, "It's okay not to be okay," that we think that is really important. And one of the key things of the areas project is that we are providing also psychological support 24/7 in the local language to our employees, but not only to our employees, but also to the families. So this is very well received in the company. And also one of the objectives that we are achieving is to create resilience in the employees and also in the managers by delivering trainings by sessions. I was reading yesterday that we closed more than 10,000 employees already did the trainings, more than 1,500 managers also received the trainings. So it has been a very intensive campaign but it is really working and paying off and there is a lot of satisfaction coming from it.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Well, and you mentioned that Tetra Pak has been fortunate not to see a lot of burnout. But again, one of the best ways to safeguard against that is to be proactive and de-stigmatizing the issues, normalizing the conversations, making people feel that not only do they have someone professional to talk to but that if they're feeling not okay, they can go to their manager, they can go to someone and speak up goes a long way toward not letting people get to that point. So I think that's a great focus area.
Now, to go beyond what is happening within the Mental Well-Being program, you started an employee engagement initiative and the first step was surveying your workforce to get direct input which I think is so important because often you see companies come up with these programs or initiatives based on what they think, not what people actually feel or want or need. And so, can you just talk a little bit about what was, I guess first, what was the catalyst to go further than this corporate well-being program? And what things did you ask in that survey that set the stage for the steps you've been taking?
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Sure. So everything started in 2020. So we realized that we got completely used to have the scoring of the employee engagement surveys for the field force were always behind. And we all have the issues as well, it's normal, they have more complicated lifestyle and blah, blah, blah. But one day we said, "Okay, this cannot be like that. We are sure that we can really catch up at the same level as the back office employees." So we started in specific field force wellbeing improvement project in Europe called Blue Cap. At the time, the ability value was expanded to other regions like Middle East and Africa. So the first objective for us was to capture the feedback of the field service engineers because yeah, most of us have a background of field service engineers but we wanted to know today, tell us in each one of the country what is specifically what makes you enjoy and have, let's say, a happy delivery of your job, let's say that.
And which ones prevents you to feel proud of your job? What things makes you feel stressed, frustrated when you are in a normal service delivery? It was very interesting because we thought at the beginning that we would have something different in each market, but no, there were a lot of things that were common to the markets. Some of the things related to the specific lifestyle of the engineers, some things related to the way the Tetra Pak was managing certain areas of the operations, but there were also a lot of things that were very local, very much local to the market. So this allow us to know at the time, very well in detail, what was the reasons behind this dissatisfaction and also help us to create a very strong, let's say, action plan at local level, global level, but always created from the proposals and the input of engineers.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Now can you share with us Marco, some of the most important things that you uncovered in that survey? What stood out to you as, whether it's the most impactful to you personally, the biggest commonalities, what did you find that you knew you needed to take action on?
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: I think you already mentioned at the beginning, one of the probably most important things is this factor of isolation. Okay. This is probably one of the most critical areas. So from this point, you start to understand a lot of things. Never forget that the engineers, they are normally remotely managed, okay? They are normally not stepping into the office. So for them to get, let's say, positively contaminated by the company culture is more difficult for them to be updated on the latest decisions or reasons to do some specific movements in the company. If they do not have a good manager that really keeps them very well updated, can result into an isolation, even further isolation. So by the end, you can have... If you have the bad luck to have one manager that doesn't have the time also to really coach and manage the engineer, you may have an engineer that is closer even to the customers than to the company culture.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: So, isolation for us is something very important. So to recover this sense of belonging on the engineers, to keep them updated, to demonstrate them the value and the contribution they do to the company is absolutely vital. And that was probably one of the most relevant things. This factor of isolation that seems that is not very relevant but it's extremely relevant.
Sarah Nicastro: Oh, I think it's incredibly relevant. I mean, when you said you had folks that say they feel closer to the customers they serve than they do Tetra Pak. And then we didn't really talk a lot about this in the beginning, but one of the things that stood out to me and our prep conversation is you talked about that oftentimes, we talked about the fact that it isn't really the work that stresses technicians out the most, it's these other things. And you actually said to me and you know this because you did the job, that there's this dopamine that comes from... For a technician, you're there to solve problems and fix things and every time you do that, you feel this reward and this success but it's with the customer. So the company Tetra Pak in this instance has to be very careful not to let that relationship grow and the relationship between the company and the employee not grow.
Because it is great that they feel that sense of ownership, that they feel that sense of accomplishment when they solve these problems, that they're so close with the customer but that can't be at the loss of not having that with Tetra Pak because then there's just a lot of things that come into play. And I think, just to share a bit, I've been remote for five and a half years, well over five years since I took this role. And regardless of what level I've gotten to in the company or who all I work with, there are times that you do feel detached from what's going on because you're on your own. And so looking for those ways to foster that is I think really important. And the more people can feel that connectedness, that belonging, not only does that only help them care more but it's imperative to retention and satisfaction and yeah.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: I think it is very important. For us in the services business, we want the guys very close to the customer with high empathy with the customer needs. As somebody told me when I joined the company, they told me, whenever you enter into the plant, customer problem is your problem. And you don't leave until the problem is fixed now. So this is the way it has to be but at the same time, they have to be understand, they have to understand why the company is making several decisions. Because if you don't have the full picture and you don't have the sense of belonging, you may not understand that in the long term or in the midterm, some of the decisions of the company will clearly give a benefit to the customer in terms of better service or a new tool, new implementations of new service modalities or whatever.
So yes, they have to be very close to customers and that's why the customer trusts them so much but at the same time, we have to secure that they are very much understanding and feeling the culture of the company. Otherwise, it's complicated.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: To handle transformations and changes.
Sarah Nicastro: And I would think in the worst case, it can almost become an us versus them situation, meaning the technician and the customer almost versus Tetra Pak if they don't understand versus everyone's in it together, right?
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Right.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Okay. So let's talk about... Now I have, you know because you saw my outline, I have a whole bunch of bullet points. I don't want to read all of them. What I'm going to do is just let you talk about what happened after the survey, what actions you've put in place and then I'll just keep... If there's anything we missed, we'll come back to it, okay? So let's just talk about, you have this firsthand input, you see these commonalities, you see these areas of both what makes these people so fulfilled and then also what the stressors or the struggles are. So what did you do with that information?
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Okay. So what we did, first of all is we group somehow the different proposals, the different problems and proposals coming from the field force. That was the first thing that we did now. So for example, when it comes to management, there was one part related to leadership. And when it comes to leadership, what we find out is that the better are the managers, let's say develop, the better define is what is their job about, the job, they're managers, when it comes to the solution, when it comes to customer management, when it comes to other areas. I mean the better this is defined, the better is... The easier this is to let's say block sometimes of the service delivery manager, in our case the team leaders for the engineers, to focus on the people development, okay? Because there's always a temptation to run behind the issues and what is the spare part you need and not giving enough time for the engineers to coach the engineers.
So we want engineers that are properly updated by the company, we want engineers that are properly managed in the sense that they are supported. So if there is a crisis in the customer, we avoid that the engineer gets stuck trying to fix the problem at all price with this hero syndrome that we were talking about. So they suffer, everybody suffers. So we want to refocus as much as possible the managers to have the right proportion of time dedicated to the teams. Another thing that we were working for example, is in recognition. So it's about securing that they are really recognized by the company for all the tremendous contribution they do to the business. I mean, at the end, the engineers, they are in the... Sometimes, I use a terminology that is... I mean, we are always with the dead body on the floor, no?
Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: In front with hands full of blood, which means that we are there always in the middle of the problem. They are always in the center of the storm. So once the problem is solved, they feel like, "Wow, we fix everything. Everybody's celebrating. But guys, we are still here."
Sarah Nicastro: Who cares? Yeah.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Yeah. Exactly. We were here until two o'clock in the morning securing the line. We normally do a recognition of these kind of things but at the same time, we think that it's not enough and they tell us it's not enough. We like to see more, better recognition, more structure, et cetera. Another area that for us, probably one of the most relevant that I heard is about we want to have a career path that is clear. We want to have a career path that is really showing us the way on how to develop our professional life in Tetra Pak. So we completely rebuilt it and rebuilt our career path and our job structure in a way that now is very visible for them how to grow within the company, in which areas they can grow even outside the field service world. Okay? And they have a clear career advancement criteria.
So everybody feels that there is a fair career that is a transparent way to move within the company, that they know that their managers will be the ones supporting also to build up the competencies to move to the next position. So this is also very much welcomed by them. Other things are more related to the new technologies that we are implementing. So for example, for training, we are implementing much more, let's say, distance learning modalities or blending online trainings with other type of systems we have now available. So that is helping us to give them more updated, easier way than before. And also I think another thing that is extremely important is about the support we give them. One of the things that frustrates more the field service engineers is probably the fact that something is not ready for the moment of the service event.
If you arrive to maintenance event, you have spare parts missing or something is failing with supply of some material or something is not properly communicated. They were the ones telling us which are the key things they feel that are failing most commonly and also the ones that are impacting more than others. So that way, we were able to, let's say, review the processes internally between the different operations team and then that way, we were polishing and polishing. Still nothing is fully perfect but at least they see that we are really listening and we are, let's say, closing gap by gap now.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Okay. So a couple of things I want to go back to. I think the recognition is so incredibly important because to me... Well, so is the relationship with the manager but those two things to me are what I think of when I think about improving that sense of belonging. Because I think if you have a good relationship with your manager and you feel acknowledged and valued and rewarded and recognized, then some of these other things you'll overlook more or be more patient with as you fix some of the support systems, et cetera. But the thing that I loved when we talked about recognition is you said, "We're ensuring field force efforts are acknowledged at the company level and tied to company objectives." And this is where I think a lot of organizations go wrong, because to your point, someone probably had always acknowledged those tremendous efforts.
It was probably their manager saying, "Oh, we really appreciate. Thanks for staying late, thanks for doing what it takes," whatever. But I think this is where the historical perception of field service almost puts companies at a disadvantage because it has been siloed. So they may be recognized in that silo but it's not always tied to, is someone outside of their direct line acknowledging what they're doing and are they showing how it's helping the company achieve its primary objectives? Because we know it is, it's just that a lot of times the work to tie those things together or the thought to do it or the communication to get that message out is where we're lacking and I think that this is a really important area of opportunity for a lot of organizations to get better at because it does matter so much and it isn't about huge bonuses or something like this. It's about knowing that people see those hours you're putting in and that they matter.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Exactly.
Sarah Nicastro: And I think those really the emotional side of that isolation, it's such an important way to help alleviate that. So I just wanted to come back to that one because I think it's not just about their direct manager saying, "Hey, great job." It's about that company-wide visibility, it's about shifting that perception across the organization of how important field service is and how much what they're doing ties to the overall goals. So.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Yeah.
Sarah Nicastro: I love that. I think the career planning such an important piece as well, especially with new talent coming in. And I love the idea of essentially you're saying now everyone's playing from the same playbook. There's no one getting advanced at a different rate pace or on different criteria that someone can say, "Well, that's not fair." It's very clear folks know what they need to do. They can own their own journey, they can feel a sense of empowerment to move at the pace they can. We talked about working, the work you're doing to ensure all of these supporting functions like spare parts are optimized so that they're not being this source of pain. A couple other things is one thing I want to come back to Marco is you intentionally set aside the pay discussion when you embarked on this initiative, knowing that anytime you're asking employees for input, it's likely to come up.
I understand why you wanted to set that aside because that matters to everyone, but you wanted to get into what else matters, what really deeply matters. But my question is how did you get them to set that aside and then when was it appropriate? Because I know you have set some transparent pay standards, et cetera. How did you get them to set it aside and when was it time for you to come back to it?
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Okay. Good. No, I think this was at the beginning, an important discussion. No?
Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Do we include or don't we include the money discussion? But as we know, money is normally a hygienic factor, meaning that employers are not necessarily demotivated by hygienic factors but on the other hand, the requirements are not met and they may feel clearly dissatisfied. Salary policies today for us is not a problem. So we are constantly looking at the market data, reviewing market data to ensure that we remain competitive as employers. As mentioned before, there are many other factors that probably one by one you may think, "Well, this is not so relevant for the employees," but at the end, if you put everything together, all these things from the support side in the career path, et cetera, putting them all together makes completely the difference between being engaged or not. And as you said, we wanted to have full focus without being distracted by the money discussion and we discussed it with them. We told them, "Guys, we are not talking about this because we have other forums to discuss these areas." And it was reasonably well perceived.
Sarah Nicastro: Okay.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: By them to say, "Look, okay, let's focus now on these other areas, leadership, support, recognition, et cetera. Let's continue fixing this." They have other forums if they need, and they know that they are other forums in some places we talk about generally negotiations with their work councils or whatever. There are other forums for that. And I think at the end, they know properly that having a good, let's say, being properly covered when it comes to the salary for them, what really makes a difference in the daily base are the other things, these small pieces that really makes a difference in their frustration level or in their enjoyment level.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. No, that makes sense but I do think, so for people listening, I want to say a couple things. I think a reflection that you've already gotten to a decent place of good, fair and transparent pay. Because if that weren't the case, they would not have been as receptive to setting it aside. So we had an event in Birmingham in the UK back in May and I remember a gentleman, we were at a round table discussion and he was so frustrated, rightfully so, but he just kept saying, "We have technicians coming and training and then leaving for 50 cents more an hour." And I said, "With all due respect, if it's 50 cents an hour, they're not leaving for the money."
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Exactly. Absolutely.
Sarah Nicastro: And so the thing is, if it's easy to blame the big picture on that one thing, but number one, you have to pay people fairly and if you're not based on market trends, based on competitive landscape, et cetera, that's an issue that needs to be righted. I remember we also had a working group maybe two years ago where we were talking about... I had an HR expert come and speak to our service collaborative, and we were talking about everything related to recruiting, hiring, retention, et cetera. And one of the things that came up is that a company was struggling because the rate of people coming in was way higher than the rate that they had been paying people. And she said, "I know you don't want to hear this, but you need to balance it out." I mean, it's just, that's where we are today. And so yes it's hard, and yes, you have to figure out how to do that in a stepwise way, et cetera. But I mean, paying people fairly is foundational to this conversation.
And so I think I just want to give you credit to be able to set that aside means you were already doing a good job at that.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Okay. Great to have you recycle that.
Sarah Nicastro: And so for someone listening who isn't, you're going to really struggle to get into some of these other things if people are really feeling unfairly compensated. That's going to be an emotion that's hard to set aside to get into what else matters. Yeah. All right. So how would you describe the benefits that you've seen so far from this initiative?
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Well, I said before, initially in the past we were, let's say somehow assuming that it was normal to have this lower employee engagement in the field force. So first of all, today we understand with a lot of accuracy which are the problems, what is the problem description? The problem statement for each one of the market and in general, for them. We know exactly which areas we should work as soon as possible to improve their... So the low hanging fruits that will improve their lifestyle and their professional life. Second, all the plans that we have put already in place in a quantitative way, what we see is that the employee engagement surveys scores are going up. And especially in some markets where it was traditionally very difficult to, let's say, get this level of recognition from the employees about it, I'm really feeling engaged in my job. Suddenly we are moving at the same or even in some cases, higher than the back office positions.
Sarah Nicastro: Mm-hmm.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Okay. So that's for us one of the key things. And we also see that we have a reasonable, I would say in some cases even higher workload for the utilization of the engineers. But at the same time, we see that as before, we have a pretty contained turnover of engineers which means that they're happy and they see that they are participating in the solution. So because they are part of most of the plans that we are creating to help them, they are piloting all the solutions before. So we use their testimonials to tell to the other colleagues, "Guys, I'm already doing it. This is working, let's implement it." So I think that one thing is that we know what was the problem, now we have with clarity what is the problem. Second, we know how to improve it using their own proposals, the proposals of the engineers. And third, I think is very important that they are the ones selling it in some of the cases which is also very important.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. Now, what would you say are the biggest learnings or pieces of advice you would share with others based on the process that you've been through here?
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Yeah. I think first of all, as I said, listen to them, make them part of the solution and the design and the piloting of all the actions and keep them very much updated. Keep them updated about how it's approaching the actions, the plan, at the global level and at the local level. This is one of the key areas. I think it is very important to be transparent from the beginning about what is not possible because sometimes there are a lot of good ideas but some of them are not potentially possible, feasible, for financial reasons, for organizational reasons, or etc. And the last thing that I think is very important, if I have to give it, is yes, try to keep as much as possible these high unique factors well covered, well managed. So for example, the money discussion and put it aside, focus one by one in each one of the areas. So split into different discussions, support, leadership, etc, the discussion with engineers. Because that way, you manage to get real useful insights that later on will help you to create good improvement plans.
Otherwise, it's going to be everything mix and fuzzy, and it's not going to be really efficient.
Sarah Nicastro: Yeah. No, that's great. And the one thing I wanted to say too is on the, keep them informed piece, the other thing that you said that you've done is to show where you're making investments. To show them, "Here's what you told us. Here's the action we created. Here's what we're investing in to make this piece easier or this part better."
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: This is right.
Sarah Nicastro: And I think, again, that helps with that sense of feeling valued. You're showing them, we're willing to invest in not only, again, not only your success because their success is the company's success, but your satisfaction, your engagement, your feeling of fulfillment because that's important to us, right?
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Absolutely.
Sarah Nicastro: And that's, I think, one of the overall key things here in this conversation is just that we can't be so focused on the company's success that we forget that these people are what leads us there. And you have to genuinely put effort and care into them as people to get that outcome. And I think it's really important and you're doing a wonderful job. So I appreciate you coming and sharing all of this with us and with our listeners and I'm excited to see how the journey continues.
Marco Hugo Gutierrez: Thanks a lot, Sarah. Thanks a lot.
Sarah Nicastro: Yes, thank you Marco. You can find more by visiting us at Futureoffieldservice.com. While you're there, be sure to sign up for the Future of Field Service Insiders so that you receive the latest content to your inbox every other week. 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.