J.J. Taylor


J.J. Taylor

The Client

J.J. Taylor is the sixth-largest beer distributor in the United States. Headquartered in Jupiter, Fla., it has operating divisions in Florida and Minnesota. The company, which was founded in 1958 by John J. “Joe” Taylor, represents about 100 suppliers. Selling Miller and Coors in addition to a mix of imports and microbrewery brands, the business moves about 26-million case units annually and employs almost 1,000 employees.


Before David Miller’s arrival as Vice President, Human Resources, J.J. Taylor was using a Caliper competitor’s assessment to identify staff members’ talents. While Jeff Weaver, Corporate Trainer at J.J. Taylor, said the product proved to be sufficient for self-assessment and measuring personality traits, it could not be used for selection. Mr. Miller had used Caliper’s services in his previous roles, and as J.J. Taylor began to grow in its industry, he suggested that the company use Caliper, which was a “more robust and validated” product, for selection purposes.

The Business Challenge

Prior to its involvement with Caliper, J.J. Taylor did not have a means of measuring its leadership talent pool beyond performance and job history.

“That was the problem,” Mr. Weaver told Caliper. “We weren’t looking any deeper than ‘How is this guy doing in his job?,’ and we were promoting people based on that. We weren’t considering the talent needed to be a good manager – whose focus is on execution – versus a good director, who needs to be goal focused and provide a vision. We were having issues, and people we thought would be great managers were flopping. They may have been great in their last job, but they didn’t have the skill set to get to the next level. That was a blindspot for us.”

In its first venture with Caliper, in 2013, J.J. Taylor sought to augment its Leadership Development Program.

“I wanted to identify, target, and develop managers with high potential in a more aggressive way than in the past,” Mr. Weaver said. “We were in a position that we were ready for growth, and our senior leadership was looking to [Mr. Miller] and myself to see who in the organization was capable of more.”

The Strategic Solution

J.J. Taylor used a suite of Caliper products – from the Advisor report, Individual Developmental Guides (IDG), and Talent Audit data analysis – along with consultant feedback and guidance from a dedicated Account Manager and Caliper’s Organizational Development personnel to assess individuals it viewed as having high potential and people in managerial roles. The company then revamped its Leadership Development process, and Mr. Weaver created course options that would help employees compensate for limitations, gleaned from Caliper’s insights.

“When we targeted the training at their true deficiencies, we began to see tangible results…as opposed to our previous buckshot approach,” Mr. Weaver said. “The Caliper Profile is giving us insights into who our team really is, even with 10-, 15-, and 20-year veterans. It’s giving us an under-the-curtain look at where their natural tendencies lie, and it gives me good insights as a trainer and developer to see where they might struggle in a new position if they now are required to do something that is not their natural tendency.”

Part of the Solution: Uncovering Management Talent from Unlikely Places:

J.J. Taylor had a decision to make. A Delivery Manager position became available, and a Team Leader (who is on a management track and works with the Manager) who had been in his position for a considerable amount of time applied. In addition, a Route Driver applied for the Manager role. The HR team initially felt the Team Leader would be a “no-brainer” and a “natural fit” in the management capacity.

After both individuals were interviewed, the HR team and Delivery Director were “surprisingly impressed” by the Route Driver. Caliper was called in and asked to decipher who had the potential to be a Delivery Manager.

“The results blew us out of the water,” Mr. Weaver said. Caliper indicated that the Route Driver was an 8 (out of 10) fit while the Team Leader was a 4. Since their interviews were “basically equal,” the Route Driver was promoted.

The Results

Expanding Caliper Use and Discovering Hidden Gems:

J.J. Taylor’s positive experience of finding hidden talent has led them to expand its Caliper use in 2014. Last year, the company started at the management level, but it only targeted those who were identified as high potential. This year, existing management personnel and all open leadership positions will be assessed using Caliper’s services.

Already, we found that three people who we did not initially include in the high-potential pool – two of whom have only been in their jobs for 6 months – are testing very high,” Mr. Weaver said. “So the more we expand our Caliper use, the more we find that our team’s ability to assess talent [previously] was one-dimensional, and this is giving us a whole new perspective.”

Changes are happening quickly, and Mr. Weaver, armed with a more complete data picture, is leading the process of reevaluating the organization’s succession-planning methods.

“We now had better feedback to give the Team Leader, which was not an easy conversation to have,” Mr. Weaver noted. “But we were able to sit down with real data from Caliper and say why we went in a different direction and show – here’s what we need to see from you in terms of improvement to be considered when the next management position comes up.”

The Team Leader was then given an IDG and was told to reapply for the next position in 6 to 8 months.

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