There’s a big operation going on in the “Best Little City in America” that dates back more than a century. What started as Batesville, Indiana’s namesake casket company, in 1906, has grown into Hillenbrand, Inc., a $1.6 billion global diversified industrial company with five subsidiaries providing business-to-business products and services to a variety of industries. Whether it’s in the equipment that is used to crush coal for use in utility plants or a casket that is used in a funeral ceremony, the Hillenbrand hallmarks of lean business practices and employee appreciation manifest themselves in the company’s output.
“The construct for Hillenbrand everywhere is to have people choose us,” says Doug Wilson, senior vice president and chief administrative officer. “We see it like a free market. We have the opportunity to create a compelling environment, and we do that with great intentionality.”
That environment has been crafted both physically and culturally at Hillenbrand, where employee development, smart manufacturing, and innovation are all directly made possible by a simple yet catchall guiding principle: lean. “Focusing on lean business and talent development honors people, their work, and creativity,” says Chris Lowery, director of public policy and engagement. “It’s a rare instance that an employee doesn’t show some change they’ve effected that was better for the quality of our products.”
What makes Hillenbrand a great place to work?
Director of Strategy
“Because Hillenbrand hires not for a single position or role, but rather for a career, I have been given many opportunities that I would be unlikely to get at other companies.”
Vice President of Lean Business
“Simply put, Hillenbrand has a long-standing legacy of caring for people: our customers, our associates, and the communities we live and work in.”
Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer
“I would sum it up in two words: extraordinary passion! I could feel the passion during my first visit interview, and it continues to energize me to this day.”
Those contributions can be as specific as a casket-company employee pointing to a new method of applying an interior, or more broadly, with the long-term development of Anthony Casablanca, president of Rotex Global, a Cincinnati-based Hillenbrand industrial-screening company. Casablanca started his journey within Hillenbrand’s leadership framework in Manchester, Tennessee, where he worked as a plant controller. Through this and subsequent assignments, he was able to gain an understanding of the complexities of manufacturing while his supervisors were able to gauge his aspirations. Based on those goals, they were able to tailor his responsibilities and development to expose him to a landscape of talent management, manufacturing, and logistics that would eventually prepare him for his current leadership role.
“We want to give people experiential opportunities that are exciting and allow them to grow professionally,” Wilson explains. “It fosters that engaging environment where employees can leverage their skills and demonstrate results.”
Though the company’s one-word mantra is “lean,” that’s not the reason you won’t find an employee cafeteria on the Hillenbrand campus at One Batesville Boulevard. While there is a dining room for the 1,000-plus customers and other guests who visit Hillenbrand each year, the manufacturer views itself as a member of the Batesville community, and, consequently, encourages its employees to patronize the community’s 20-plus local restaurants at meal times. With one foot in Franklin County and the other in Ripley County, Batesville’s footprint amounts to less than six square miles, but, thanks in part to the dedication of Hillenbrand, it packs a compact commercial punch.
The company has taken the same approach with other amenities. For example, it’s common for modern workplaces to boast state-of-the-art Stairmasters and talking treadmills, offering the perks of a gym as evidence of a compelling work environment. However, Hillenbrand knows doing so would dampen the commercial spirit of Batesville. “Entrepreneurs and other organizations provide those services in town,” says Lowery, noting that in a city with a population of about 6,000, Hillenbrand’s employee population contributes a lot of buying power. “We have a lot of businesses locally that rely on our employees. We have a terrific YMCA, which we want to survive and thrive, because we know that’s important to a strong community.”
What the company does offer on-site is a comprehensive health-and-wellness center where employees and their families can see a doctor, have a prescription filled, and be back to business in under an hour. “We can provide an experience our employees can’t get easily elsewhere,” Wilson explains. “If an employee has a five-year-old with an earache at 3 a.m., they’ll probably sacrifice a whole day of work and 20 percent of a [weekly] paycheck to get him or her a treatment.” In contrast, more than 99 percent of appointments at the wellness center are finished on time, and Hillenbrand offers a built-in co-pay to further relieve such burdens. At the end of the day, the service helps keep manufacturing running smoothly.
The Hillenbrand employee experience is more than a list of perks and benefits. It’s a small-town ethic that permeates the business at every level, from talent development to executive leadership. It might be easy for some corporations to allow their size to compromise those values, but in Batesville, Lowery, Wilson, and their colleagues can’t separate company from community, nor do they want to. “We have three ends we’re always working toward at Hillenbrand,” Wilson says. “Delight customers, thrill shareholders, and provide people with opportunities for growth and development. For some businesses, those objectives conflict. The best part about working for Hillenbrand is that we don’t have to choose.”