Recruitment Process Outsourcing – RPO – is not outsourcing. This might seem counterintuitive, since the word is right there in the acronym, but when you engage in an RPO partnership, you are not removing recruitment functions from your core infrastructure. Instead, you are making a bold decision to initiate process improvements and help ensure successful delivery for your organization. You are engaging in Recruitment Process Augmentation.
The Recruitment Process Outsourcing Association defines RPO as: “when a provider acts as a company’s internal recruitment function for a portion or all of its jobs … a properly managed RPO will improve a company’s time to hire, increase the quality of the candidate pool, provide verifiable metrics, reduce cost and improve governmental compliance”
The definition is correct, but it’s only the minimum starting point for a true RPO solution; RPO is more than just the oversight of your recruitment functions. As your strategic partner and a subject matter expert on talent acquisition, your RPO partner should also be monitoring the industry and talent trends, informing you of opportunities, and making recommendations for process improvement, technology solutions, and best practices.
A strategic RPO provider will not limit the relationship to simply processing transactions, but hopefully will become a champion and promoter of your brand as an employer of choice. They will develop and manage processes that advocate for and leverage your employee value proposition to help attract the best candidates. With proper change management, RPO can be seamlessly integrated as an augmentation to your organization, tailoring solutions to meet your individual needs.
Whenever an organization considers modifying a process as critical as talent acquisition, there is an element of risk associated with the change. A desire for improvement is at the heart of the decision to explore RPO: there is a goal to be met, and RPO has been chosen as a means to that end. Engaging an RPO can be a dramatic transition, often accompanied by concern or resistance from internal stakeholders.
A critical step in helping to ensure successful engagement and buy-in is regular, open communication with key business stakeholders, acknowledging that the business needs will be adequately and proactively supported to assist with continuity and future success. If they feel informed, well-supported, and understand that the desired outcome is business improvement, the groundwork is in place to help ensure that the talent acquisition program will achieve your organizational objectives.
A successful RPO becomes an extension of your organization, rather than a separate entity. Whether your RPO partner assumes the role held by in-house recruiters, supplements their efforts, or manages a portion of the process, RPO should become an integrated component of your talent acquisition program. Your RPO partner is responsible for providing the consultative insight to develop and execute a recruitment process with an eye on progress. The ability to embrace new technology and best practices adapted to the ever-changing demands of a complex recruiting landscape are key elements of recruitment process augmentation, and will help keep you ahead of the competitive curb.
When James Carville struggled to get then candidate Bill Clinton’s first campaign off the ground, he was trying to determine what was wrong with the country. He did lots of fancy analysis and brainstorming sessions and then he stumbled on his famous phrase,” It’s the economy, stupid!” Whenever I look at RPOs that aren’t going well and have done the root cause analysis and brainstormed a dozen reasons why, at the end it comes to me, its change management, stupid! Whether you have decided to RPO a part of your organization, a small project or wall to wall, change management is essential to success. I advocate a fairly simple model that encompasses a business case, leadership alignment, communication/mobilization and training.
Business Case: The first part of the change model is to understand why you want to make the change. Is it cost savings, efficiency, quality, increased capability, access to the latest social media and sourcing tools? Moving to an RPO is not always about the hard core savings, but you should at least be able to demonstrate to Senior Leadership what your current costs are, what will be outsourced and what you want to remain in house. By analyzing your cost structure, you can help the RPO vendor understand whether they can indeed save you money. You can also estimate efficiency savings and how that can turn into hard core savings. Reducing time to hire which can translate into faster time on territory equates to real top line revenue. The business case should also include the intangibles like quality and increased capability.
Leadership Alignment: Just because HR has decided to move to an RPO doesn’t mean that you don’t have to align your leadership across the business. We all know Senior Leaders who are okay if you RPO someone else’s division, but not theirs. It’s important to have a stakeholder map and understand who needs to gain buy-in. Socializing the business case with Senior Leaders is also helpful. One common mistake is leaving middle management out of the change model. These individuals do most of the hiring and it is essential that you take the time to gain their support.
Communication/Mobilization: What is the key message you want to communicate? Simply announcing an RPO contract to the business can conjure up horror stories regarding bad outsourcing deals. How do you tailor your message to talk about the partnership and a different delivery model to acquire the best talent? As always you want to emphasize what’s in it for them: faster sales reps on territory, higher quality candidates, access to new social media tools, better sourcing techniques to mine passive candidates, etc.
Communications can also tend to be one way so it’s vital to think about how to better mobilize the Hiring Managers. Could you ask a Senior Leader from one of your high volume recruiting divisions or a Hiring Manager from one of your difficult to fill groups to be on the RPO selection team? Do you have Hiring Managers on the team to map the new process? Think of creative ways to involve them in the decision making and implementation so they feel their voices are heard. These leaders will then in turn sell RPO to their peers.
Training: Training Hiring Managers on the new RPO process and technology is often the first time they interact with the new RPO team and should therefore be delivered in the most convenient manner. A cumbersome training program can quickly equate in the minds of the Hiring Manager to a cumbersome recruiting process. To help form a true partnership, the training should also provide an opportunity for feedback and ongoing changes to improve the process.
There are many change management models out there, so whether you use the one described above or another one that has worked for you in the past, remember it’s all about the change management.
About 4 months ago I decided to take the leap and move from a Corporate Recruitment Director role working as a client and champion of RPO to being a member of the RPO provider itself. Having been in an RPO relationship for 5 years, I thought I had a strong knowledge of RPO and how they delivered to the client. After my initial orientation, there have been two interesting surprises: the vast number of resources that it takes to deliver to a client and the role of the client.
As a Recruitment Director, intuitively you know that it takes a large team of highly skilled professionals to scout and land the very best talent for your organization and you’ve probably moved to an RPO provider because you either couldn’t manage the scale, didn’t have the skill set, or couldn’t afford the cost of an in-house team. What I never realized was the sheer size of the resources that an RPO puts behind an account to deliver. In–house, I had a couple of recruiters who were good at sourcing candidates, with RPO, we have access to over 100 sourcers who share best practices and new ideas daily on how to search the vast web of information to find that one needle in the haystack. Additionally, when someone went on vacation or on leave, there was the usual scramble to make sure that the back-up was prepared, in RPO, resources are cross-trained so regardless of leave or workload, there is always a resource providing seamless service. Most importantly, there are a multitude of recruiters who truly want a career in recruitment vs the individual who is passing through recruitment on a career path to higher role in HR. RPO is so much more than just a replacement for your in-house team.
The other difference I have found is the role of the client in RPO. The most successful RPO relationships are those that are partnership relationships vs vendor relationships. While that may seem obvious, I’ve been surprised how often that’s not the case. To maximize partnership success, clients should consider:
Accountability: Accept as much accountability for the success of the RPO as the RPO provider does. Let’s face it; you will only be successful in your role, if the RPO is successful.
Invest in the relationship: Be highly engaged in the implementation process, accurately assess the degree of resistance and create a change management plan and provide a solid orientation for your RPO recruiters. RPO providers don’t live within your organization, so it’s vital to teach them what it is like to work in your company.
Champion the RPO: Recruitment is hard and the business is always vocal on the quality of the candidates and the recruitment process. It’s vital that Hiring Managers provide feedback on these things. A common thing I’ve heard repeatedly over the last four months is the lack of feedback from the Manager or the Manager’s unavailability to interview. It’s up to you as the client to teach the organization of the value of candidate relationship management.
On-going Discussions: Keep the channels of communication open between yourself, your team, the Account Manager and the Recruiters. Focus on solutions instead of placing blame and resist threats to call the Senior Leadership of the RPO. Recruiters are not always as committed to being on accounts where clients are quick to judge. They take ownership for their mistakes, but they like the praise as well. Celebrate the wins and resolve the issues.
With the unique opportunity to deliver on both sides of the spectrum, I’ve certainly come to a deeper appreciation of RPO and what it takes both from a client and provider to maximize success. By gaining a better understanding of each other, we can continue to build better partnerships and better outcomes.