LEADERSHIP PERSPECTIVE: Roland Pfleger, VP/GM Central Europe – Corporate, Becton Dickinson
Becton Dickinson is a global medical technology company that is advancing the world of health by improving medical discovery, diagnostics and the delivery of care. Becton Dickinson leads in patient and health care worker safety and the technologies that enable medical research and clinical laboratories. The company provides innovative solutions that help advance medical research and genomics, enhance the diagnosis of infectious disease and cancer, improve medication management, promote infection prevention, equip surgical and interventional procedures, optimize respiratory care and support the management of diabetes. The company partners with organizations around the world to address some of the most challenging global health issues.
Coulter Partners’ Client Partner, Anne-Monika Dürk and the global team have been working closely with Becton Dickinson over many years, helping to secure the executive talent they need. Since their first collaboration six years ago with BD Medical, Coulter Partners has accompanied Becton Dickinson through the acquisitions of CareFusion and Bard and the transformation to a value-based healthcare company that has doubled in size to one of the top three medtech businesses in the world. During this change and growth, Coulter Partners has watched candidates develop their careers and provide perfect testimonials to the core values championed by Becton Dickinson. Today the company has extended their partnership from Medical to Life Sciences and Interventional and have cooperated with almost all business units.
Recently Coulter:Pulse caught up once more with Becton Dickinson’s VP/GM Central Europe – Corporate, Roland Pfleger …
- Since we last interviewed you in 2016, Herr Pfleger, what have been the most significant business developments you have seen at Becton Dickinson?
Most significant for us recently has been the acquisition of C R Bard in 2017, taking Becton Dickinson’s revenue from 12 to 16 billion dollars annually and expanding our global status, with the introduction of a new Interventional segment into the company. While tackling the many integration challenges this acquisition has brought, we have continued to execute the strategy for Becton Dickinson Healthcare that we discussed previously with you and doubled down on our strategic account management capabilities to create and sustain strategic partnerships with key customers. All this has been keeping us very busy!
- You stressed the importance 3 years ago of gaining a high level of access at the C-suite and taking a very strategic approach to the government run German hospitals – are these still most critical to your success in your principal markets?
A strategic approach to engage effectively with the senior leadership of our partner organisations is still one of the most important executive attributes we look for and will continue to be critical. German hospitals are still struggling to be profitable, to find solutions that most improve their quality of care, while creating efficiency advances that maintain treatment standards. We believe that to drive our relationships with key customers and build our brand image, we need people who think strategically, are solution-orientated and have the ability to talk multi-million-dollar projects with the C-suite.
In the meantime, the “War for Talent” continues. Led by a growing millennial workforce, everyone expects more flexible working solutions and both flexitime and virtual working are high on everyone’s agenda. When I first started work, some compromise in an individual’s quality of life was expected of employees. Now that lifelong employment is no longer a concept that either companies or employees are pursuing, the whole landscape has changed. Employers need to offer talent a constant pipeline of new opportunities to increase their capabilities day by day and help them advance their careers, while simultaneously offering them flexible work structures to support this.
We have recently introduced the concept of part-time sales roles at Becton Dickinson and are now implementing retirement programs. We have organised internal working groups to look at the benefits, including a group of employees who have been with us for more than 20 years. These groups are all looking for more flexibility but for different reasons. Younger employees would like to improve work/life balance while the older, longer-serving generation are perhaps getting to an age where they may have to or would like to slow down. They want to know how Becton Dickinson can support them in cutting back their hours effectively and the company wants to preserve their knowledge and expertise.
By hiring young and talented people at the start of their career to partner and work alongside highly experienced people, we are achieving a very good mix of capabilities. The part-time sales programs that we are piloting and the move away from a one-size-fits-all working model are receiving excellent feedback both from employees and customers.
- From a talent perspective, you told us when we last spoke that the key to success was the ability to bring different players to the same table and to create a culture of transparency, openness and trust across partner organisations in order to do this. Are these still the top attributes you seek when building your team?
This is still as important since the Bard acquisition and we are now looking at how to build strong horizontal teams. Becton Dickinson has been very much focused on the integration of two major acquisitions since 2015 and on realising all the synergies promised in the Bard and CareFusion acquisition agreements. This has created a degree of functional and vertical orientation and so moving this to a more growth and horizontal orientation is very important to us right now. Our continuing success will be based on agile and transparent working practices rather than hierarchical models and our challenge is to build horizontal teams without completely transforming organisational structures every 6 months.
We need people with a very open mindset for this and a very diverse and inclusive environment; we look for people who love transparency, who love authenticity and can tackle challenges in an agile way without considering how this will impact their hierarchical position in the company. We have built an ecosystem which is founded on networking skills and developing trust. Quickly making connections has become much more critical in all walks of working life and to my mind, a culture of transparency, candidness, diversity and inclusion and freedom of opinion works much better than a strictly hierarchical principle nowadays.
- More recently Monika and her team have helped you to secure leadership talent for the Business Leaders of BD Medical, Interventional and Lifesciences/Diagnostics. What have been the lessons learned when competing for strong candidates for these roles?
There is a scarcity of talent and a large cohort of millennials, but we are benefiting greatly from the increased size of our global business. Six years ago, we were an 8 billion-dollar company and now we turn over 16 billion dollars, have nearly 75,000 employees worldwide and are in the top three medtech businesses in the world. The huge increase in market presence after two acquisitions has helped us attract the top talent that we might not have found so easy to entice six years ago. We have built a strong reputation in the market, as these acquisitions have moved us into more value-based healthcare and strategic partnerships. People want to be part of that.
When it comes to finding and especially attracting the right talent, it is highly beneficial that we have built a partnership over the years with Coulter Partners. They have gained a profound understanding of our needs regarding profiles that bring the right skills and personality to fit our value-based healthcare and strategic partnership market approach. Monika and the team work hand in hand with Becton Dickinson as ambassadors for us in the market. They work closely with HR and the hiring managers and guide the candidates successfully through the hiring process, reflecting the Becton Dickinson values from initial conversations to offer and onboarding.
- What do you think will be the key upcoming medtech trends for 2020 that will most affect you at BD?
Completing the worldwide integration of Bard into the business will continue to keep us very busy. Meanwhile from a Central European market perspective, the increasing shortage of nursing capacity is becoming a critical issue and will demand close work with our partners to provide the most efficient solutions to their staffing problems. A worldwide nursing shortfall is likely to escalate, as these careers are becoming less and less popular and we will continue to see healthcare systems starved not only of human resource but also of financial investment with budgets as tight as ever.
In order to cope our partners must either become more efficient in their cost bases or employ solutions and products which will help prevent adverse effects. Becton Dickinson has always been at the forefront of safety and driven many healthcare worker and clinical safety improvements. Now we are looking more closely at patient safety and the delivery of innovative healthcare solutions to improve both clinical and economic outcomes.
Many thanks, Herr Pfleger for these valuable insights and we look forward to helping you realise your goals in 2020 and beyond.