How One ‘Best to Work For’ Company Makes – and Keeps – Its Employees Happy

Beth Miller |

PBD Worldwide is a great company to work for.

This family-owned business is filled with happy employees who stick around, and has received many awards to back up this claim—including being recognized as One of Atlanta’s Best and Brightest to Work For in 2012 by the National Association for Business Resources, being named one of the 50 Most Engaged Workplaces in 2011, and other similar honors.

How do they achieve this level of excellence in talent management? And what best practices do they follow that might be able to help your organization?

The following case study on talent management comes from an interview with Lisa Williams, vice-president of human resources of PBD. A big thanks to Lisa for taking time to answer critical questions about her talent management philosophy and supporting processes.

First, I would like to introduce you to PBD. They are a 250-employee, privately held company that distributes books and other printed materials for retail, eCommerce, direct marketing corporations, associations and nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and educational publishers.

As you read Lisa’s answers, think about how your talent management practices compare at your company.  What do you differently and what would you want to change?

Do you think talent management is important? Why?

Lisa: If we are not focused on talent management, we will spend all of our time managing. True talent needs to be nurtured and placed in roles where they can be successful.

Any examples to illustrate this?

Lisa: One example I can give you is our VP of Procurement. He is our most tenured employee. At one time he was in charge of our logistics centers, which meant he had a lot of people interaction. No matter how much he wanted to please, motivating and managing large numbers of people is just not his forte. We took him out of that role and put him in the procurement/freight role, and he is so happy. He still comes by once a month or so and thanks me, and it has been almost 11 years since we did that. Isn’t finding the “right fit” ultimately what we are looking for in life?

How many people does your company hire per year? How many backfilled positions and how many new hires?

Lisa: We typically hire five to seven new positions, 10 to 12 backfills and 25 to 30 seasonals.

How does your company plan for future talent needs?

Lisa: We have an average tenure of eight years. Much of our talent is “homegrown.” We work to use this knowledge base to move us into the future.

What techniques do you use to develop your talent?

Lisa: Because of the tenure, job rotation is key.  We also use the rotation to find the “best fit” for each member of the staff. We have PBD University that is the main vehicle for our line employees to begin the learning process. We require each member do some sort of training quarterly. Peer groups are also strongly encouraged. I spend probably 75% of my time either directly coaching or coaching managers to coach.

How many people are involved in your talent management process?

Lisa: Every team member is involved. We have teams that do interviews that are made up of subject-matter experts, peers, and managers. We have line employees teach class. 360s are standard procedure, which provide feedback on areas of potential growth.

Would you say that talent management is integrated within your company?

Lisa: Absolutely.


If you want to learn more about integrating talent management you can read my article about why your company should have integrated talent management.


How are the employees involved with their development plans?

Lisa: At their review they fill out an input sheet, which is primarily focused on the upcoming year. The development plan is agreed upon with the employee and manager.

What other key components do you use to retain talent in addition to development?

Lisa: We try and marry our wellness program with participating in our client events. Many of the clients have walks and we train to participate in the walks. We have an onsite personal coach who does one-on-ones for high-risk individuals, as well as leading exercise and nutrition classes. We do offer an EAP, education reimbursements. We like to say that we offer Fortune 100 benefits.

What type of involvement does the CEO have in talent management?

Lisa: Scott is very involved. He personally mentors several members of our sales team. He is also a strong coach with his direct reports. He personally teaches our values class in PBD University.

What lessons have you and the company learned about talent management?

Lisa: Culture fit is far more important than skills. We can teach people what we do; we cannot change their value system.

What has the feedback been about your company talent management?

Lisa: New people to the organization are overwhelmed by the level of expertise and the feeling of inclusion.

What do you see for the future of talent management in general and within your company?

Lisa: It is very important to recreate the work environment that rewards individuals as well and teams for success. All of the reports seem to indicate that people are starting to move jobs again so it is more important than ever to make sure we are taking care of the people who are taking care of the business.

What do you think the biggest misconception about talent management is?

Lisa: That everyone fits neatly into a nice little box.

How do you and your company stay up to date on talent management practices?

Lisa: Networking, peer groups, and listening.

 How have your opinions and outlook changed regarding talent management throughout your career?

Lisa: For me personally, I think my maturing in HR has also matured my outlook. Managing the different generations have forced those of us who are paying attention to change our opinions and look for the value in each person.

What about you: How will you incorporate some of these practices into your company’s talent management?  What is the first step you will take?

Want to learn more about talent management? Then check out my other talent management articles, and let me know if you have questions.

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Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

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