Critical Connections: Team Effort a Must for Student Success

batesvilleAndy Allen, Batesville High School principal, slides into a desk in an empty English classroom and tells the story of a top student who learned after two days of a mentorship program at the local hospital that a medical career was not for her.

“She has spent the rest of the year on the health care administration side. What a great experience for her,” Allen reveals. “And all that occurred outside our walls. She has one block of time for us, 90 minutes every other day. We say, ‘Go to the hospital and work with our great partners there.’ ”

Kim Ryan, a senior vice president with Hillenbrand, Inc. and president of the company’s Batesville Casket Company platform, punctuates the beginning and end of her keynote presentation to a group of educators and business leaders with the following: “Small communities will determine our futures based on the workforce we create for ourselves today.”

Read the rest of the story in the latest BizVoice .

Postsecondary Pathways Help Students Achieve Success; Registration Opportunities Coming to Batesville, Muncie

wMaking connections. It’s important to do so in so many ways. I’ll spare you the analogies in getting right to the point that tying education to careers — in other words showing students how their time in the classroom can lead to workplace success — is one of the most critical connections.

The Indiana Chamber is pleased to part with a variety of organizations, led by the Indiana Youth Institute, in presenting regional Postsecondary Pathways programs in 2015. Two successful events took place in late 2014 at Subaru of Indiana Automotive and the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center.

Registration is now open for two February programs:

  • February 11 at Batesville High School, including  a tour of Hillenbrand, Inc.
  • February 18 at Ivy Tech Community College in Muncie with a tour of Magna Powertrain, Inc.

Educators, employers, youth-serving professionals and government leaders come together at each daylong event. The goal: Enhance the ability to educate and train students to successfully pursue the postsecondary careers that exist within the region and state.

Additional program partners include: the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis, Indiana’s Education Roundtable, the Indiana Works Councils, Ivy Tech and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Time for a Little Wine Education

“So, it’s like a Tupperware party?”

That was my father’s summation of how I’d described the wine tasting event I’d set up last month as a Father’s Day surprise.

Not exactly, Dad.

I was trying to explain the new Tasting Life program from Monarch Beverage. Maybe I’ll do a better job of it here: Tasting Life is a wine tasting and education experience with a wine expert from Monarch Beverage, Indiana’s largest distributor of beer and wine.

Anyone interested in having a Tasting Life party purchases a six-pack of wine at liquor stores throughout Central Indiana and then schedules a free one-hour wine tasting education experience with a wine expert from Monarch Beverage.

(Disclaimer: The folks at Monarch were generous in supplying the Indiana varietal wine pack for my party. You have to purchase your own wine; the Tasting Life web site has a store locator application to make it easy to find. And our wine expert, Ashley Johnson, let me know that Kroger stores just partnered to begin selling the packs.)

This is where the party varies from a plastic dishware, food product or purse party: there are no sales at any point. It’s strictly a wine tasting and education event.

There are four different wine packs to choose from: an Indiana varietal pack with three red and three white Hoosier wines; a domestic varietal with three reds and three whites; a red varietal; and an international varietal pack. I wanted to also highlight some of the Indiana wineries, and as my family is soon to relocate back home again in Indiana, I chose the Indiana varietal pack.

Our expert showed up a few minutes early to pop open each bottle while explaining how the program works and a little bit about herself, before we launched into the five S’s of wine tasting: sight, swirl, smell, sip and spit (okay, we didn’t do that last one – any wine that was sipped was consumed).

I learned a lot about wine and Hoosier wineries in that hour. Did you know that by the end of the year there will be about 80 wineries here in Indiana? I had no idea there were that many.

I also learned that the Traminette grape is the state grape of Indiana. Didn’t even know we had a state grape.

Here’s one more tidbit: the United States of America recently became the No. 1 wine-consuming nation in the world. Take that, France and Italy!

In the Indiana varietal pack, there are five wineries represented: Rettig Hill in Batesville, Best Winery in Harrison County, Chateau Thomas Winery in Plainfield and other locations, Turtle Run Winery in Corydon and Butler Winery in Bloomington.

My favorite was the Turtle Run Red My Mind. Sweet and fruity without being too sugary – it went with my steak shish kabobs and fancy cheese selection. And we finished that bottle off before any of the rest of them. But, honestly, there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch. For a novice wine drinker, I now have some lingo to use and a better understanding of my tastes, along with more knowledge about the Hoosier wine business.

And, my family had a totally unique Father’s Day, complete with wine and fancy cheese.

For more information on the program or to schedule a party, visit

Occupation – Freedom and Capitalism

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself sitting at the corner of Freedom Street and Capitalism Boulevard, right in the middle of what seemed to be the Occupy Commerce movement. During the roughly 10 minutes of my sit-in, though, it was apparent that this movement was more than simply some people occupying a place, it was a way of life that involved the true spectrum of occupation as only occurs regularly in America.

Indeed, the setting was quintessentially Americana in the modern era – a large, new, sleek, upscale hotel and conference center, squarely at the hub of a city that has been reinvented in recent decades – Indianapolis. The scene was bustling with people of all colors and ethnicities. There were the young, the old, and the middle-aged, like me. Business people in big boy and big girl clothes heading to an annual awards dinner shared the grand hallways with couples vacationing, enjoying the fruits of their labor, and with high school students visiting the Midwestern metropolis for a religious-oriented convention.

Some of the participants in this movement moved quickly by our small (two-person) temporary sit-in. A few, however, slowed down to converse with my newly found friend, Jerry, and me. We spoke of the weather, the evening ahead, our families and, of course, business.

A handful of the passers-by, some Catholic student conventioneers, actually took photos of my new friend, our host Vivian, and me. The kids were full of energy, taking in their surroundings, awkwardly moving through the setting of adults on their own journey to adulthood. What the students were capturing in their own photography was not celebrity or even one of the numerous and beautiful sites of downtown Indy. What the students were capturing with the latest of the digital medium, their cell phones/cameras/internet devices, was something as simple as two men, one woman and two chairs.

At first I found this youthful paparazzi to be odd, then humorous and then hopeful. Whether these polite young adults intended to eventually use the photos to mark and remember their days in the city or simply post their visual art and add funny, snarky comments to share with their friends, this movement caught their attention. Perhaps in a really small, but significant way, these youngsters were digitizing for posterity an element of their own aspirations that captured their attention.

Let me explain: What caught the attention of the teens was something pretty simple – a small business, its proprietor and two guys in suits, enjoying a brief respite and the luxury of a shoeshine. Watching these kids who were capturing and even participating in this scene was inspiring as I thought of the background stories around me.

As we sat comfortably at the shoeshine stand, Jerry, a well-known and well-respected leader of business and philanthropy engaged our fellow capitalist, Vivian, with conversation. While polite and friendly, Jerry’s assiduous enquiry was deeper than the usually forgettable small talk. He asked Vivian, or “V” as she prefers, about her business. How did she get started? How long had she been in business? At what times of day or week was business best? Did she have plans for expansion?

Listening to the banter of these two business people, the sole-proprietor entrepreneur and the CEO whose business claims the name of a skyscraper, was inspirational — he with gracious, yet penetrating business questions, she with fast, detailed, proud answers. His questions and exchanges reflected the respect he inspires in those who know him well and those who know only of him. Her answers were inspirational because they reflected countless stories that have preceded hers – stories founded on the principles of hard work, risk taking, and the desire to improve one’s own lot in life.

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Effective Hiring Critical in Reducing Turnover

Anthony Casablanca, VP of Operations for the Batesville Casket Company and Hillenbrand, Inc., recently penned an incredibly useful column for BizVoice regarding his approach to filling positions. (Casablanca was named as the 2009 Ogletree Deakins/HR Dimensions HR Professional of the Year):

The candidate has been selected to come in for a face-to-face interview. Depending on the role, this is a one- to two-day process that includes a plant tour, customer business center tour, between two to six hours of interview time with both the hiring manager and the HR department lead, as well as several one-hour sessions with other members of the interview team (normally people who will interact with the person in this position).

During this phase, everyone has an assignment. The people conducting the tours are “soft selling” the company and helping us gauge how the candidate conducts himself or herself in a non-interview setting. You would be amazed at some of the feedback we get. The six-hour interview with the hiring manager and HR lead is conducted in a very structured way, although it is very conversational. We are looking for behavioral patterns, starting with high school and progressing through the candidate’s most recent roles.

This culminates in a detailed interview report (generally between four to eight pages long). The report is written by the hiring manager, who is expected to provide a summary of the candidate’s personal life and work history, and describes the candidate’s behavioral patterns – both strengths and weaknesses. They are also required to make a call on the candidate’s talent level, fit for the role and potential next roles. If we cannot see candidates moving to that next role, we will more often than not pass on hiring them.

How do we know this works? Our human resources team has developed metrics around our success rate of hiring “A” level talent. The HR team goes back to the hiring manager after six months and asks if the new hire is performing well, and if he or she is still considered an “A” talent. This is repeated at one year. Currently we get it right about 70% of the time.

For more on this topic, you can consult our ePub, The Interviewing Guide – 2nd Edition. Authored by attorneys from Ogletree Deakins, this online guide is now available for just $49. The book is also available in our Hiring & Firing/Leave Issues Package.

Present an Award; Accept the Boos

Over the last two days, the Indiana Chamber visited eight of the 10 Head of the Class schools identified in the annual Indiana’s Best Buys report. (Mother Nature interfered with two trips scheduled for Wednesday).

Chamber education expert Derek Redelman gets the road warrior award for a Tuesday itinerary that took him to Signature School in Evansville, nearby Castle and across the southern part of the state to North Harrison. President Kevin Brinegar stayed closer to home with North Central (Indianapolis) and Hamilton Southeastern presentations.

I ended up with a Batesville-Monroe Central doubleheader — both schools I had visited under different circumstances. For Monroe Central in Parker City, it was covering high school basketball games as part of my sportswriting role prior to coming to the Chamber. I was able to share a few basketball tales and names from the past with the current staff.

Batesville, though, is where things were most interesting. While I was born a mere minute away from the town’s high school at the local hospital, the students gathered for the announcement focused on the fact that I went to school at rival East Central. They expressed their vocal displeasure, but I won them back by telling them their school earned a majority of the basketball victories in matchups between their Bulldogs and my Trojans during my prep days.

Another note: First-year Batesville Principal Tim Stephens deserves kudos as he was the leader at Hauser (a Best Buy honoree each of the last two years). While the report measures high school performance, Stephens pointed out that it is really an award for the entire district.

Rounding out the top 10 are Center Grove and Rushville. Congratulations to all.

View current and past Best Buys reports, along with this year’s press release.