Batesville Casket Company Case Study

When Topgrading Methods Slip, Hiring Success Declines

No. of Employees: 3200
Industry: Burial Options


  • Parent company split led to Topgrading neglect and decrease in hiring effectiveness
  • Topgrading reinstatement after split led to improvement from 60% to 80% A Player managers hired and promoted
  • Company prosperity in a declining market

The Company

With annual revenues of approximately $650 million, Batesville is the industry leader in the manufacture and distribution of death care products.  Batesville’s products range from metal and hardwood burial caskets to cremation products, technology solutions, and innovative casket containers. The company operates six manufacturing sites in the US and Mexico and 97 customer service and/or distribution sites located across the US, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

Batesville operates as a subsidiary of Hillenbrand, Inc. and is publicly trade on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: HI).

“As you can imagine in the manufacturing industry, we operate very lean. It is very important that the people we hire all contribute as A Players. Making sure that we find the right talent is critical for us, because we don’t have a lot of bandwidth in terms of resources to constantly hire, deal with, and manage turnover.

– Philip Waddell
Vice President, Human Resources

The Solutions

The Topgrading revival began with Topgrading Workshops, both public workshops and customized workshops onsite at Batesville’s offices. The workshops provided HR managers with clarity and consistency in the process, and a renewed focus and commitment to hiring A Players. After the workshops, Batesville already saw an uptick in the quality of hires.

“Associates walk away with in-depth knowledge of the 12-step methodology and an opportunity to test their newly acquired skills during live interview simulations.”

- Jason A. Riley,
HR Director of Talent Acquisition and Development

Next, Batesville replaced vague job descriptions with competency-based Job Scorecards. The Talent Acquisition Team helps each hiring manager navigate through the completion of a scorecard which enables them to articulate those elements which are critical for success in each role. This allowed them to delve into those important competencies throughout the interview process. New employees’ performance was reviewed after one year in the role to measure the success of the hire.

One of the most notable additions to Batesville’s hiring process after the split was utilizing Topgrading to identify and on-board high-quality interns. The internship program had yielded few hires in the past. After implementing Topgrading principles, all but one of the interns were asked to return for a second year with an eye towards full-time employment after graduation.

The Challenge

Hillenbrand Industries, Batesville’s original parent company, began Topgrading in the 1990s, but upon the Hill-Rom Hillenbrand Industries split, hiring process compliance slipped, and hiring success declined. Some areas of the organization were short cutting the process. Over time, the use of the term “Topgrading” had morphed into meaning a process to exit someone from the organization.

These findings, coupled with the enhanced need for top talent in key growth areas of the business, led to a renewed company-wide investment in Topgrading, beginning with Topgrading Workshops.

multiple people with hands stacked on each other

The Results

When Topgrading was neglected after the split, hiring effectiveness was measured to be 60%. After reviving and improving Topgrading hiring methods, hiring success improved to 80% and, at the time of this case study, Batesville was on track to achieve their goal of 90% A Players.

“Being able to demonstrate quantitative and qualitative data around the investment in Topgrading really helps generate enthusiasm and buy-in for the process. I’m happy to say we were in the seventies just two years ago and we’re currently at 83%, in terms of hiring “A” talent. And that’s “A” talent in an evaluation after we’ve observed their performance in the role for one year.”

– Philip Waddell
Vice President, Human Resources

Stated simply, the best talent wins and Topgrading helps identify and hire the best talent. This is true for internal promotions and external hires.

- Ken Camp
CEO, Hillenbrand
(parent of Batesville Casket Company)

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