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CareerBuilder Leadership Series: Spotlight on Ben Roth, Founder and CEO of Roth Staffing

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In CareerBuilder’s recent interview with Ben Roth, founder and chief executive officer of Roth Staffing Companies, L.P., Ben revealed his thoughts on the “three circles of the hedgehog,” his advice to other companies on how to create a values-driven company, the importance of his company’s “Ambassadors” in driving employee engagement, and more.

What was the mission you set out to accomplish when you created Roth Staffing?

Roth Staffing Companies opened its doors on August 15, 1994 with one office in Newport Beach, California. Anyone who has opened a business knows the excitement and trepidation that comes with those first days. From the start, I was faced with the challenge of operating within what some perceive as a mundane industry. “Aren’t all staffing companies the same?” I had already been in the industry for more than a decade and I knew that the best was yet to come. Our mission was to truly be different and better. We knew from the beginning that we were limited only by our own creativity, vision and ethics.

Many of the key philosophies of Roth were based on enhancing the lives of the people we serve, making our first priority our Ambassadors—the temporary employees who represent our company while on assignment. Don’t get me wrong, we love our customers and want to provide best-in-class solutions, but they don’t come first; our Ambassadors do. This initiative accomplished a broader social responsibility and provided our Ambassadors with greater respect and a more remarkable experience as a temporary employee. We raised the bar in the level of benefits offered to our Ambassadors. We offered benefits that equaled those provided to full-time employees. The bottom line is, we treat our Ambassadors like full-time employees, so they perform with the same passion and engagement in their work as full-time employees. The result is more fulfilled and committed talent and improved quality for our customers.

When we were starting out, our small team constantly discussed being uncompromising in our quality. We wanted to set a new, higher standard of quality and have people rave about the experience we created for them. We never wanted to be the biggest; we just wanted to be the best and to be recognized as a creative industry leader. Surprisingly, the better we became at fulfilling our mission, the faster we grew organically. After our first five years, we were ranked by Inc. magazine as the fastest-growing privately held company in America; we were the only staffing company to ever receive the #1 spot. We also won numerous awards associated with the Malcolm Baldrige criteria. Today, we operate in 22 states and out of 130 branch locations.


How have the mission and values of your company changed throughout the years?

In any business, there is a religion and science. The religion is vision and values, which define the soul of your company. The science is the systems and processes that help you fulfill your vision. As you evolve, you gain an understanding of who you are, why you exist, where you are going, and how to get there.

As Roth evolved, we brought definition to our mission, vision, and values, as well as to the purpose and promise of our company. Our company’s core philosophies are not just rhetoric, and do not simply reside in a statement on our Web site or on a poster in the lobby. Every co-worker at this company champions our philosophies. It all starts with fundamental principles such as our value statement: “Honesty, ethics and integrity guide our behavior and decisions” and “Respect the dignity and worth of every individual and act accordingly.” We work diligently to enliven these shared Values into our company and bring to life the experiences that have become a trademark of our company.

How did you go about formulating the purpose and promise of your company?

Most people reading this interview have read Good to Great by Jim Collins, so they’re familiar with the “three circles of the hedgehog” concept. This concept involves the intersection of three separate “circles” or questions: 1) What are you deeply passionate about? 2) What can you be the best in the world at? 3) What drives your economic engine? The goal is to answer these questions and use the results to guide your efforts.

At Roth, we surveyed our co-workers to determine what they were most passionate about. The resounding response throughout our company was that our co-workers were most passionate about listening to the needs of others, doing good things, always doing the right thing, and cherishing the moments of gratitude. That became the purpose and soul of our company, which is “to make life better for the people we serve®.” Staffing is a wonderful business. We have the opportunity to enhance the lives of all the people we serve – our Ambassadors, candidates for full-time placements, business customers, and our co-workers.

At Roth, we know we can be the very best in the world at creating remarkable experiences for the people we serve. This led to the creation of our brand promise, the Roth Promise, which is “We love to create remarkable experiences…every person, every time.®” We know that we either strengthen or weaken this promise each time we elicit emotions, as measured against our customer’s expectations, at each moment of contact.

Lastly, what drives our economic engine is net income. Without financial success, we cannot fund the impact we make on the lives of the people we serve.

Combine our core values with a company-wide understanding and commitment to our purpose and promise, and you get clarity of focus for our company direction and corresponding efforts that never come into question. The journey of fulfilling the values, purpose and promise is a quest to fill the gaps and create new staffing solutions, like our Ambassador Program™, that make our goals come to life. This is not esoteric, but very basic. When communicated with abundance, it allows an organization to come together and share common values, creating both a meaning behind our work and a consistency of experience for all we serve. For us, it ignites the passion which is the backbone of engagement.

Can you describe your system for measuring employee engagement?

I love this question. We created a full-time department that surveys and measures the engagement of our Ambassadors, co-workers, and customers. When I say engagement, I’m talking about people being passionate and fully-committed in all aspects of their role and responsibility. These engagement scores are leading indicators of how well our company is going to perform in the future. As a customer, you want the people who are rendering your service to be fully engaged, as opposed to not engaged or even disengaged. I am sure most leaders can attest to the difference. We are constantly working to optimize the level of engagement of our co-workers by engaging their hearts and minds, as well as those of the Ambassadors who are assigned to work at our customers’ sites.


How do you bring customers into this larger purpose of enhancing lives?

When a major airline recognized worldwide for its service selected Roth’s commercial staffing division, Ultimate Staffing, as their on-premise supplier of temporary labor, it was obvious why. Both companies shared similar values, contributed greatly to the community and spoke the same language regarding the importance of experiential management. Today, we successfully work together in sharing best practices and accomplishing corporate staffing objectives through a joint effort.

Recently, the CEO of a worldwide relief organization commented on the huge difference he observed following Ultimate Staffing’s replacement of their previous on-premise supplier of contingent labor. He noted that the most obvious difference is how we respect and treat our Ambassadors; it is the same way they treat their employees.

Most CEOs, human resource professionals and hiring managers want to do good things for people and love the fulfillment that comes with doing so. As we introduce our values, Roth Purpose, Promise, and Focus on Social Responsibility, we find that many companies are very similar in desire and intent. It makes it so much easier when both companies embrace similar values, treat people the same way and desire to create like experiences. This is especially important in a service industry as sensitive as staffing in which we assign people to work within another company’s environment and culture.

Most people change staffing providers because the current staffing company can’t provide the quality they desire on a consistent basis. All other concerns are a distant second to quality. The processes we design go beyond rhetoric, allowing the co-workers and Ambassadors of our operating divisions to gain a better understanding of quality and have a roadmap to successfully deliver remarkable experiences. It’s all about becoming one with the companies you serve.

What advice would you give to other companies on how to go about creating a values-based or visionary company?

The most successful companies understand the importance of vision, values, purpose, promise, engagement and what you can be the very best at. It’s a matter of formulating these concepts, communicating effectively, hiring people who share the same passions and aligning the process and technologies to support it. My advice to any business leader is to understand the essence of your company, realize all companies have a soul and define what you want that to be. [Then], cultivate it and nurture it. Business success flows when you create something unique and meaningful that you and all others associated with it are going to be proud of. The other parts always fall into place.

About Roth Staffing

Roth Staffing Companies is one of the nation’s leading staffing companies.  Roth Staffing Companies provides both temporary and temporary-to-hire placements, direct hire placements, and on-site staffing services for thousands of clients in a wide-range of industries. Recognized as a creative industry leader and celebrating 15 years this year, Roth is one of the largest privately-held staffing companies in the United States. For more information on this unique company and its specialized staffing divisions visit www.rothstaffing.com, www.ultimatestaffing.com, www.ledgent.com and www.adamsmartingroup.com.

Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.
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