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Women Of The C-Suite: “The attributes of success today are what many would term as softer skills”, With Kimberly Rath

Plain and simple — it’s about caring. The attributes of success today are what many would term as “softer skills” and those are strengths…


Plain and simple — it’s about caring. The attributes of success today are what many would term as “softer skills” and those are strengths have found to be successful — taking an individualized approach, role modeling a culture of kindness and caring, envisioning the future with an attitude of appreciation and openness. People just want to feel significant. They want to know that what they are doing each day matters — to the organization and to you. Take the time to meet with each person as often as you can. Know something about each person you manage and ask them about those people/things that are important to them. Let them know they are important to you each day. This attitude moves teams forward in a powerful way.


I had the pleasure to interview Kimberly Rath the Chairman and Co-Founder of Talent Plus, Inc.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been passionate about helping people grow. I studied early childhood development and I believe the business of studying what’s right about people and celebrating that by finding the right fit, the right culture, the right manager is a natural fit for my interest in how people grow and develop. In college, I was part of the mentoring program Dr. William E. Hall started at the University of Nebraska — never knowing that someday be my business partner. At the end of my senior year of college, I was actually the first student to receive an award named for him. It was such a thrill to go into business with he and his wife, along with my husband, Doug Rath, and our longtime coworker, Sandy Maxwell. We started Talent Plus in 1989, because we believed we could change the workplace. We have always had a passion for focusing on what people do well and matching them with a job that offers the right fit for their talents, their team and the culture of their organization. Doing this changes the culture of an organization to one where people are celebrated for what they do well. Now in our 27th year, we see our clients building these types of organizations and the outcomes go right to their bottom line — what’s good for people is good for the businesses they work in — and these organizations are better able to take care of their end users and improve their customer/guest/patient experiences.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When you are a start-up you build off energy, hard work and many times your youthfulness. As you grow, you begin to select in more knowledge, skills and experience and you may miss inexperienced talent that simply needs a platform for growth. The 2018 Triple Crown winner, Justify, did not run a race as a 2-year old. The last time a horse won the Derby without a 2-year old start on his resume was 136 years ago. Matched with a very seasoned jockey they were a hit tune for the Triple Crown. It reminds me that in order to create brand sustainability you must continue to invest in our future and the next generation. I’m thinking about when we landed an elusive client partner in our early years that helped us shape Talent Plus, Inc. in many ways. We landed that client because of relationships. Relationships we formed over a number of years with another client partner who referred us. He referred us because we had demonstrated genuine caring and excellent customer service alongside incredible outcomes. Because of those, they were willing to introduce us to Horst Schulze with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. We demonstrated the strength of our science to Mr. Schulze and it was the beginning of a long-standing relationship through nearly 15 years and a large growth phase for The Ritz-Carlton. We continue our relationship with Horst today in his new organizations which have become clients. Most importantly, however, he has become a life-long friend.


Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In 1989, Sandy Maxwell, another co-founder, and I went shopping to purchase office supplies. As a start-up we were on a tight budget. We purchased a full box of supplies and proudly brought them back to the office. We started placing supplies in our closet and had a real moment of hilarity when we realized all those supplies only took up one shelf. We learned early on that we should only purchase what we need to build a profitable company.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our Science — The Science of Talent: It’s at the very heart of the over 70+ instruments that we’ve created and is based upon the highest validity in the industry. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Interpretation, validity coefficients rarely exceed .40. As a general rule, the higher the validity coefficient, the more beneficial it is to use the assessment. Validity coefficients of .21 to .35 are typical for a single assessment and are considered useful and validity coefficients above .35 are considered very beneficial. Validity coefficients for Talent Plus assessments average at .50 and above — in many cases two times that of our competitors. Why is that important? Our clients rely on our assessments and interviews to select the very best individuals for their employ. Because of these assessments, our client partners experience greater degrees of diversity, higher productivity and profitability and increased rates of retention and engagement.

Our People: Customer service starts first with how our own employees are valued. The selection of each team member is critical and their onboarding is tantamount to the importance of their selection. We focus a great deal on our culture — because we know the better the culture — the better the experience for our customers and in turn, the better our bottom line. We know highly engaged associates deliver an amazing client partner experience. Our clients are wowed by the service they are offered — consistently from associate to associate on their client team. With each hire, your culture becomes better or worse. Having a consistently applied, validated assessment that selects more like your best is key. Several years ago, we said Talent Plus would be our biggest and most important client — we use our own assessment and development tools with all of our associates — we eat our own cooking. If it works for us — we know it will work in application for our client partners. On top of that we layer solutions. I travel to many events that are talking about great cultures — and it’s all about innovative human capital practices. Those are great — but you have to have the right people in place or none of those innovative practices are sustainable. For example, Talent Plus has had a chef for more than 21 of its 29 years — even when we had smaller offices. We did this so our associates could build better relationships with one another. What we know about building relationships is it’s how work gets done. When people are in better relationship with one another, they are more likely to help one another. The net result is better productivity and customer service — both internally and externally. And, one of the best ways to do that is over food. Moreover, it’s a great way for all of us to get in better relationship with one another. For me personally, it’s a way, too, to take the pulse of our culture as well as learn more about people’s families. It’s important leaders be human and approachable and they are able to get to know the people they lead.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

This week we are launching at HR Technology, a sneak peek at two initiatives that we are very excited about:

  1. Enhancements to our proprietary a self-service assessment portal, TalentBank ®. We’ve listened to our client partners and are launching a complete refresh focused on the user experience. Its mobile first UI is 100% mobile responsive and all features are accessible on any mobile device. Its one interface allows recruiters to view results in an easy to understand and interpret manager, share reports and access analytics — resulting in a great experience. Recruiters can send assessments, view applicants’ top talents and review applicants’ status. New candidate reports help hiring managers readily understand a candidate’s talents and gaps against industry and organizational benchmarks. As well, the Talent Summary offers an overview of top themes, situational themes, contrast themes and recommendations for coaching to talents. Talent Plus offers a Fit Guide to aid hiring managers. Integrated with results, its structured, equal, fair treatment removes biases and helps hiring managers determine fit in final interviews. For increased efficiency throughout the hiring process, managers and recruiters can share applicant results with one another with the click of a button. Most exciting for me is the automated Talent Card — revealing a candidate’s top 5 talents immediately. Some of our client partners use the automated functionality, while others like to award those talent cards in a frame to new employees on their first day. Feedback from those receiving these automated Talent Cards has been phenomenal. For many, it’s the first time they’ve seen a visual representation of what they do best each day in their role.
  2. The launch of our newest Talent Online Assessment — Operational Manager. We know there are 11 million middle managers who set the tempo for their teams. When a manager is engaged, team members realize higher engagement. This means the selection of each manager is mission critical for an organization. In a recent study, we discovered what matters most for managers to increase their team’s resiliency and engagement is that they:

a. recognize each person,

b. emphasize the value each person adds and means to the organization,

c. ask what can be done to support team members,

d. identify what they need and actively work on realistic solutions,

e. validate them so they feel heard,

f. ask what would elevate their job satisfaction most, and

g. encourage them to identity a training opportunity.

The Operational Manager assessment is able to discern individuals who can do all of these things at a high level. This assessment identifies individuals who lead and develop people, projects and processes with a focus on healthy business practices and creating profit. Strong performers on this assessment oversee the development of their team, create positive relationships with their employees and help everyone stay on track. They make strategic and tactical day-to-day decisions to implement solutions for the desired outcomes. These individuals move projects forward and make good, spontaneous business decisions to ensure the success of the organization. Recognizing that results depend upon a team effort, they proactively invest in coaching and thrive on building great relationships with their people. Top performers initiate action, make things happen and follow through.​ We’re thrilled to offer this robust assessment with the highest degree of validity into the marketplace.


What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Take time to get every selection right. The selection of each team member is critical and their onboarding is tantamount to the importance of their selection. There’s so much change afoot in the workplace today and when change occurs, individuals who have grit along with flexibility, resourcefulness and optimism can take on change and adapt to what’s happening around them and to them as the workplace changes. My role model is Mary Poppins who truly epitomizes resourcefulness. Using a validated assessment tool that looks for these qualities — as well as the ones that are mission critical to your organization — is essential so you are stacking your culture with individuals who can move forward every day, selection after selection. Most important though as leaders it’s essential you create a culture where change is embraced, accepted and celebrated overcomes the fear that comes with change. Employees’ Day One should be memorable and important not only to the new person but to the organization. Does your leadership team meet with each new employee to get to know each other reciprocally? How do you let people who work for you know that they are important every single day? When you take care of this — you take care of your end users and in turn your organization.

As well, leaders need to stay on their learning journey. Getting my MBA at Pepperdine has helped me to see opportunities and possibilities for Talent Plus in a refreshed way. Every individual needs to keep advancing their skills and knowledge each year. Staying on a learning journey keeps you current and relevant in the workplace. With 4 generations in the workplace, continuing to expose yourself to new ideas helps you stay in the mix of those diverse age groups. It also allows you to be more open-minded to divergent views and have more context for them.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Plain and simple — it’s about caring. The attributes of success today are what many would term as “softer skills” and those are strengths have found to be successful — taking an individualized approach, role modeling a culture of kindness and caring, envisioning the future with an attitude of appreciation and openness. People just want to feel significant. They want to know that what they are doing each day matters — to the organization and to you. Take the time to meet with each person as often as you can. Know something about each person you manage and ask them about those people/things that are important to them. Let them know they are important to you each day. This attitude moves teams forward in a powerful way.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would have to say Dr. William E. Hall. His study of successful people was very much strength-based and grounded in the positive approach. In 1958 when he wrote about the NHRI’s work over the previous nine years, he made it clear that the first principle of the “positive approach” is a strengths-based approach, “Everyone possesses some strengths or potentialities, which when cultivated, make a contribution to society. When this contribution is being made, personality expression appears to reach a high level. The condition prerequisite to making this contribution is the identification of what constitutes a strength and what strength then a individual possesses..” Obviously, Bill wanted more recognition to be given to the exercise of people’s strengths. He helped me to understand that we need to:

  1. Study the best
  2. Give recognition
  3. Invest in people

He believed, the greatest resource available to humankind is the undivided person — the human resource. And, his philosophy of the power of relationships, the development of good relationships is the best method for the development of this human resource.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

It has been our belief since the start of Talent Plus that “to whom much is given, much is required.” The better Talent Plus does, the more we are able to share with the communities where we work.

Talent Plus is about significance in everything we do; making individuals and organizations feel significant based on our scientific research of talent. Several years ago we decided instead of spreading our corporate social responsibility gifts out across every organization that approached us, we wanted to engage a process to make a more significant impact. To that end, every spring, our associates vote on 4 organizations (pillars) they are interested in supporting throughout the year. They encompass at least one local, one national and one international organization to allow our associates across the globe to participate and share our talent, time and treasure.

Over time, with this focus, we have purchased food delivery trucks for a local Good Neighbor Community Center in combination with our Food Bank, granted wishes through Make a Wish, built homes with Habitat for Humanity, developed and taught leadership classes for The Boys and Girls Clubs, redesigned living spaces for the People’s City Mission, held drives for food, diapers, school supplies, clothing and household items; planned, decorated and executed fundraising events; offered our talent assessments to their boards of directors and executive teams and so much more.

One of the more notable things in recent years was after 25 years in business we really wanted to celebrate not only our company accomplishments and growth, but one of the three key “Cs” we talked about from the first dream about Talent Plus:

• To be a compelling place to do business

• To be a compelling place for associates to work and

• To be a compelling citizen to have in any community

That year, we established the Significance Award and donated $25,000 to an organization making a significant difference in their community. Organizations from all over the world submitted and our research team developed a scoring rubric to help our associates vote on and determine the winner. We are committed to corporate social responsibility at Talent Plus and we have fun doing it.

As well, we “plant” our associates along the way. When we move to another organization, associates who continue to have an affinity for a previous year’s pillar, may feel compelled to continue volunteering, serve on their board, etc. and we have numerous examples of this. As well, when we moved from the Backpack Program through our local foodbank to another pillar, they let us know that they would not be able to replace our commitment and that school would no longer have a program. Our associates couldn’t let this be. As a result, we use our holiday party as a fundraiser to fund this ongoing program — to the tune of $7,000-$9,000 — annually. Each year, Talent Plus donates substantial prizes for our holiday party — trips, the latest electronics, experiences — and associates buy raffle tickets and put their tickets in the prize drawings of those they want to be eligible for. Tickets are drawn at the end of the evening. It’s an amazing event on the first Friday of January each year. As well, we have a chef and sous chef on site and 4 times a year, they make dinner for a shelter kitchen for the homeless in our community. Our associates and their families join them in setting up, serving and cleaning up dinner — serving generally 100 individuals. We’re in the selection and development business and we generally select associates who are caring in nature and this is an initiative that is one of the most positive when we survey our associates — one of the most compelling reasons that they are proud to be a Talent Plus associate.

While being more visible in the community is important for the impact it makes — it enhances both our corporate and employment brands.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. “Start & end every day with Top Performers. This gives me momentum to ‘tap dance’ to work daily — largely because I make my first interaction with someone hitting it out of the park — a big project, a client or new solution. As I make my way out of the office, I do the same thing — conversations with one at the top of their game leading a team, etc. My passion is creating platforms for individuals to grow and see brighter futures — whether our leadership team, SMEs or leaders among our client partners. I engage with those struggling & needing insight — I simply try not to start and end my day there.”
  2. “With each hire, your culture becomes better or worse. Determine what you want your culture to be and what you believe it to be today. If there’s a gap, determine how you are going to narrow that gap. Use a consistently applied, validated assessment that selects more like your best is key. I’m very proud we’ve received recognition for Talent Plus’ culture. But it wasn’t the awards we were chasing — it was looking for affirmation that we’ve indeed created what we set out to create — but more importantly, that several years ago, we said that Talent Plus would be our biggest and most important clients — we use our own assessment and development tools with all of our associates — we eat our own cooking. If it works for us — we know it will work in application for our client partners. On top of that we layer solutions. I travel to many events that are talking about great cultures — and it’s all about innovative human capital practices. Those are great — but you have to have the right people in place of none of those innovative practices will last.
  3. Customer service starts first with how our own employees are valued. The selection of each team member is critical and their onboarding is tantamount to the importance of their selection. Their Day One should be memorable and important not only to the new person but to the organization. Does your leadership team meet with each new employee to get to know each other reciprocally? How do you let people who work for you know that they are important every single day? When you take care of this — you take care of your customers. We focus a great deal on our culture — because we know that the better the culture — the better the experience for our customers and in turn, the better our bottom line. We know highly engaged associates deliver an amazing client partner experience. Our clients are wowed by the service they are offered — consistently from associate to associate on their client team.
  4. Take time to get involved in your community. Talent Plus is about significance in everything we do; making individuals and organizations feel significant based on our scientific research of talent. Several years ago we decided instead of spreading our corporate social responsibility gifts out across every organization that approached us, we wanted to engage a process to make a more significant impact. To that end, every spring, our associates vote on 4 organizations (pillars) they are interested in supporting throughout the year. They encompass at least one local, one national and one international organization to allow our associates across the globe to participate and share our talent, time and treasure. We dedicate our time, talent and treasure over the years and our efforts have included purchasing food delivery trucks for a local Good Neighbor Community Center in combination with our Food Bank, granting wishes through Make a Wish, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, developing and teaching leadership classes for The Boys and Girls Clubs, redesigning living spaces for the People’s City Mission, holding drives for food, diapers, school supplies, clothing and household items; planning, decorating and executing fundraising events; offering our talent assessments to their boards of directors and executive teams just to name a few. It has been our belief since the start of Talent Plus that to whom much is given, much is required. The better Talent Plus does, the more we are able to share with the communities in which we work. It has been our belief since the start of Talent Plus that to whom much is given, much is required. The better Talent Plus does, the more we are able to share with the communities in which we work.
  5. The attributes of success today for leaders encompass what many would term as softer skills and those are strengths that I have found to be successful — taking an individualized approach, role modeling a culture of kindness and caring, envisioning the future with an attitude of appreciation and openness. And, in terms of overcoming challenges, the two characteristics that move you through tough times are resilience — or what some would call grit — and optimism. There’s so much change afoot in the workplace today and when change occurs, individuals who have resilience generally are also resourceful and agile. They have the ability to take on change and adapt to what’s happening around them and to them as the workplace changes. Individuals who have resilience/grit are able to take good risks and are open to change.”

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I believe in Talent Plus’ mission — everyone has the talent to do something extraordinarily well given the right fit, team and culture. We started Talent Plus in 1989, because we believed we could change the workplace. We have always had a passion for focusing on what people do well and matching them with a job that offers the right fit for their talents, their team and the culture of their organization. Doing this changes the culture of an organization to one where people are celebrated for what they do well. Now in our 29th year, we see our clients building these types of organizations and the outcomes go right to their bottom line. It’s really true that what’s good for people is good for the businesses they work in. These organizations are better able to take care of their end users and improve their customer/guest/patient experiences.

This past year we celebrated the first Global Talent Day, Monday, August 6. We have set out to have this be a movement where individuals take the day to celebrate their own talents and the talents of those around them — whether at work, in a not for profit where they volunteer or within their own family. We received such a great response from the community around Talent Plus, as well as a number of client partners that we plan to celebrate again next year and how that each year — this recognition of individuals’ talents will catch fire.


Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If you love what you do, you will never work another day in your life.” — Confucius

I know it may sound trite — but people are my passion — their interests, their development, platforms for them to grow. I feel that I get to tap dance to work each day — what I have the opportunity to do and have done is part of my DNA. And, not only do I want to be able to tap dance to work each day herself, but I want those who work at Talent Plus do be able to do the same as well as the employees of the companies we partner with. When you find your passion — what you are good at and enjoy — it enables you to be able to tap dance to work, tap dance home and be a better friend, spouse, parent and community member.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn for Kimberly: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberlyrath

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/talent-plus-inc/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TalentPlusInc/

Twitter: @TalentPlusInc

Originally published at medium.com

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