What was at stake at RPO Summit 2009?

 I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted.  Not just because I’m now back from a nearly week-long excursion in Sin City, but because for me, 2009 was one bear of a year and I can’t wait for it to be over.  A good friend of mine said to me recently, "Richard, my dog with a note could’ve made money in the ’90s… Shoot, my dog with two notes could’ve made money five years ago, but these last two years, boy I tell you what!"  But you know, these last few months have brought something really home for me:  our mothers were right.  It’s in times of difficulty that our character comes through.  It’s when times are tough that we have our moment to shine.

You see, it’s easy to be a nice guy when things are going your way.  It’s easy to be a leader when your chips are up.  It’s easy to think strategically when your very oxygen isn’t being choked off by gut punch, after gut punch of bad news and tough decisions.  It takes people of character, leaders with vision, and go-getters with passion to make it through the tough times. That’s what we need to get this economy going and put people back to work and those were the people that gathered in Vegas at the RPO Summit.

How do I know?  I know because I know who was in the room.  We had the largest gathering in history of recruiting and staffing executives actively engaged in or considering an RPO solution (53 individuals from 40 companies comprising 40% of the individual and 53% of the organizations in attendance) of which 54% held titles of Senior Director, Global Leader, or SVP.  We also had the leading minds from the RPO provider community (56 individuals from 18 companies, comprising 42% of the individuals and 24% of the organizations in attendance) of which 73% were from their C-Suite (CEO, President, Global Leader).  That means the executives responsible for billions — with a "b" — in RPO contracts and procurement authority were all in one place.  Over a quarter of a billion dollars in potential contracts were actively in play during the Summit.  That also means that if you were a buyer of these services at least one of your peers there had already faced and overcome the challenges you were facing.  You just needed to find them.  And if you were having a problem with your existing RPO solution, more than likely the founder or CEO of your provider was in the room.  Those days in Vegas represented a unique opportunity to get the tough answers to the hard questions.

What was at stake at the RPO Summit?  Nothing less than starting and keeping the economic recovery going.  You see, the solution to the economic crisis isn’t going to come from Washington or from Wall Street.  It’s going to come from everyday companies going about the everyday work of putting people back to work and deploying their resources more effectively around the world.  And that’s exactly what we were taking on at the Summit.  Throughout the year we hosted, a blog to share tips and tactics for surviving the recession and preparing for the recovery.  At the Summit we had the opportunity to not just get the concepts, but also gather the real world stories of what people have done.  The executives gathered at the MGM Grand came together to share their gifts: their insights, lessons learned, and tricks of the trade on how to best attract, retain, and deploy resources in a tough market and get people working and this economy moving again.  

In many ways — and I’m really not overstating the case here — the RPO Summit in Las Vegas will bear more fruit more quickly than all the White House meetings with bank executives and economists.  While those people debate the theory, we worked on the practicality.  At the end of the day, until hiring restarts, the economy will languish.  Until companies can free up more resources, shaving costs here and fundamentally changing their model for deploying resources there, they won’t have the wherewithal or confidence to hire in the numbers we need to bring unemployment down.  At the RPO Summit we tackled those very issues, looking at how to fundamentally change the economics of staffing and recruiting, freeing up more resources to make new hires and better deploy existing resources.  

Will we see an immediate bump in unemployment numbers in the weeks and months after the RPO Summit?  Only time will tell.  But I know this:  the right people came together for a few days in the Nevada desert and had the consequential conversations that have the power to get this economy going.  They showed throughout 2009 the character, the vision, and the passion to work through the tough decisions, and in Vegas they laid down the fundamentals for getting the economy and their companies growing again.  I congratulate them and I thank them.
Richard Crespin is the president of member services for SharedXpertise.

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