Talent Strategies That Can Make Your Company Unquittable

Talent Strategy

We all know that people are our greatest resource in business, but are we doing all that we can to attract, develop and retain quality talent? Our guest for this week's ProjectHR is Jim Bitterle, Managing Partner at EDSI. and in this episode, he'll be addressing the topic of talent strategy. Here, he'll explore:

  • The four "Failwaves" that businesses have experienced over the last fifty years;
  • The types of leadership that can lead to talent failures;
  • The perspective shift that comes from identifying your workforce as "talent", rather than as "employees" or "workers"; and
  • How to implement talent strategies that won't break the bank!

Jim Bitterle

 Talent Strategy

""We've seen study after study after study that tells us when people are doing what they like and what they're good at, they're happier, and they tend to do better for the company and they're more engaged. So it's good, all around, if we can think about people that way, versus the classic Boss/Employee relationship."

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Unquittable: Finding and Keeping The Talent You Need

  • Many companies fail because they do a terrible job at attracting, retaining, and developing talent.
  • The purpose of the book is to help supervisors, managers, and leaders really understand what is going on in the talent world.
    • A goal for the creation of the book is for people to avoid making the same mistakes that companies have made in the past and to become better by learning how to avoid those mistakes.
    • This will help those people become better leaders and create better, more engaged workplaces. hopefully leading to more success for the companies and people who read the book. 


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The War for Talent - Being at the Top of Our Talent Strategy Game

  • A sports team is a great example of how important talent is.
    • If you create a football team of amazing athletes and put them in an environment in which they are capable of succeeding, odds are you will see a successful football team.
    • This is no different in the workplace - talent needs to be placed in an environment in which they can succeed.
  • As things have changed over the last 5-6 years, a plethora of companies are failing and more often than not, talent is a root of their failures. 


  • There are four different “failwaves.”
    • Quality Failwave
    • Cost Failwave
      • “The race to the bottom” was a common phrase when strategic planning was involved. meaning: Who could achieve the lowest cost product the fastest?
      • Walmart is a great example.
        • Walmart competed with “Mom & Pop Shops” locally and they almost always were able to have the lowest cost. 
        • Walmart today still prides themselves on having the lowest prices in the industry.
    • Technology Failwave
    • Talent Failwave
      • Talent is the newest failwave - we are just now entering this phase.
      • An example is one of Mr. Bitterle & EDSI’s clients.
        • This particular client manufactures individual components that go into high-end vehicles. 
        • This company lost two of their three largest customers in a matter of just about six months.
        • The root cause of this was that this company had an assembly department within their facility and this department had a horrible culture.
          • They did not pay well, it was not a glamorous position, and the head of HR told Mr. Bitterle that the company was just trying to find “warm bodies that can pass drug tests and will show up.”
          • Workers were not trained well which led to quality mistakes, which in turn led to losing clients and near complete failure for this particular manufacturing company. 
      • Today we are seeing that a common root of corporate failure is not being able to attract, retain, and develop talent. 

Types of Leadership that Can Lead to Failure

  • There are many types of leadership that can hinder success for a company, but there are two main types that can really hurt a business profoundly. 
    • “Smartest Person in the Room Syndrome”
      • This occurs when a CEO or leader within a company acts and/or believes that they are smarter and better than everyone else around them.
      • They often will not listen to suggestions and will create an environment in which people are not engaged or empowered, and that will trickle down through the organization. 
      • This can create a company that is truly not a great place to work. 
    • Older Leaders (Baby Boomers)
      • The second leadership style that can hinder success comes in the form of older leaders who grew up in a very different environment and are unwilling to be flexible or change with the times. 
      • Gen X and Millennials have a very different view of work. 
        • Typically, both younger generations have a very “good” attitude and outlook on work.
        • The mistake older leaders can make is treating the work environment as they may view it. This means creating a work environment in which newer and younger employees may need to go through the “ranks” to earn their position when younger workers no longer view that as normal. 
      • Older leaders who are incapable of adapting to the ways of the Gen X and Millenial workforce will have a much harder time finding success than those who can.

Avoiding Generational Leadership Mistakes

  • We all make mistakes and we all learn more from our mistakes than successes. 
  • In his experience, Mr. Bitterle, a “Boomer” himself,  has made many mistakes when it comes to generation leadership mistakes and attracting & retaining talent simply because the generations do not necessarily view work the same as he did. 
    • Through exit interviews and other methods, the company was able to learn what the issues were.
    • They created a goal of becoming a “destination workplace” (being a great place to work in their respective area). 
    • EDSI has adapted and recently was the only company to earn every “best place to work” award in Michigan.
  • Continuous improvement is imperative.

“Talent” vs. “Employees”/”Workers”

  • The term “talent” has an elevated place in a corporate thought process, whereas the term “employee” or “worker”does not.
  • An “employee” or “worker” is seen as someone who does a specific job who works for you or your company. 
  • By viewing those same employees or workers as “talent”, it requires leaders to consider and appreciate their individual strengths and weaknesses, as well as how they can put those people into the positions and situations where they can be successful personally and for the company.
  • When people are doing what they love and what they are good at, they are happier, which is better for everyone involved. 
  • People should be placed into a role in which they can thrive. 

Talent Strategies

  • Talent strategies incorporate not only attracting talent, but also retaining and developing that talent. 
  • These strategies are also focused on what situation/position these people can be put in in which they are going to be successful personally and professionally along with being happy to be at work. 
  • Talent strategies go beyond the basics. 

Attracting Talent

  • Attracting talent has often been a painful process over the past decade or so.
  • Companies are continuing to try to attract the talent they need, and there are many jobs currently vacant, despite the pandemic.
  • Employer brand is a critical tool for attracting potential employees to your company.
    • Employer brand is your company’s reputation as an employer, 
    • Oftentimes an employer brand can be found by taking feedback of many people who have worked for you and finding the three or four things you hear said consistently. 
  • To improve your brand, focus on company culture -- define what it is presently, if you’d like it to change in the future and how you’d like it to change.
  • Utilizing resources like Glassdoor, the job search & review engine, can be powerful when attracting new and young talent. 
  • People today are smarter than ever before and they will check places like Glassdoor to see what kind of company culture exists at a place they are interested in.
  • The utilization of services like Glassdoor encourages your current employees to honestly rate the company and their leaders.

Developing Talent

  • Organizations ideally should have clear career paths and ladders going straight up and lattices that cross through different functions as ways people can ascend within the company. 
    • Based on the structure of these ladders and lattices, create training that fits within that structure. 
  • It is imperative to develop talent so that when they are promoted, they are prepared to be successful in that next role. 
  • It is very important for organizations to attract their own and develop their own talent, but it should be said that the view of the organization should also include some outside talent. 
    • When companies tend to hire only from within, you can often be left with large amounts of groupthink because everyone who is promoted from within has not seen how things are done elsewhere.
    • Ideas and procedures can become stagnant.
    • Cultural knowledge can be shared among companies and talent to improve and create a highly engaged workplace. 

Retaining Talent

  • Retaining talent has become more and more difficult over the years and there are numerous reasons for that. 
    • One reason is the generational differences discussed earlier.
    • Another is purely statistics, especially with the pandemic.
  • Many companies are raising their game in terms of creating a great work environment and culture. 
  • It is becoming the “haves and have-nots” in terms of companies that have a great culture and those that do not. The gap seems to be widening between the two. 
  • The companies that are doing a good job of creating a great culture are now poaching talent from the companies that are lacking that culture.
  • There are many tools that can help retain talent.
    • Creating a flexible work environment will have a huge impact on retention.
    • There are different types of flexibility systems that can work in different departments, but each one should be utilized accordingly in order to keep your talent happy.
    • Working from home is part of a flexibility system, which is particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Implementing Talent Strategies Without Breaking the Bank

  • Most talent strategies actually do not take much of a financial commitment. 
    • They take commitment, time, and resources, but not always money. 
    • Build a talent dashboard.
      • This will allow you to measure different metrics like morale, turnover, and filling positions. PLUS, it is absolutely free to do.
    • Implement flex systems. 
      • People are less likely to leave the company and are more engaged
    • Build a Corporate University.
      • This may require a little more money, but it does not have to be too expensive. 

How EDSI Can Help

  • EDSI has about 900 employees and is located all over the eastern side of the United States.
  • EDSI can help companies with cultural transformation, succession planning, customized training (boot camps & corporate universities), turnover remediation, and develop career paths.
  • They are also involved in operational aspects such as strategy, turnaround, and operational improvement.

Jim Bitterle Backstory


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