Does the mantra of local service superiority apply when youâre talking about outsourcing
RPO takes the delivery model debate and writes it large on a big, neon billboard by the side of the HRO highway. It’s easy to write off the call center naysayers when it comes to handling overtime queries or life-event data changes, but do you really want that type of service model handling your next executive search assignment?
“Of course,” say some. “Why not? It’s the same as being called by a headhunter anyway; everything’s handled over the phone.” Not everyone is convinced.
HRO has become synonymous with outsourcing standard processes to centralized call centers in value-wage locations and running as much as possible through self-service technology. For the record, this doesn’t have to be the case, and in some cases isn’t. For now it’s pretty much the way things are.
Recruitment, on the other hand, is still often regarded as a face-to-face, high-touch, local activity. Some companies make no bones about it being core to their business and have removed it from the outsourcing table altogether.
Nevertheless, even companies that run in-house recruitment use search firms to generate candidates for some positions and have no compunction about using staffing agencies for temporary needs. Some exploit similar service models to HRO, such as online application and centralized call centers, but use their own employees.
However, they supplement the remote service with on-site promotions. For example, at colleges, they still deal nicely with walk-ins and include company site visits, as well as “in-the-flesh” interviews. They also easily adapt the process according to opening.
Generally speaking, HRO does not do this. The disclaimer being that, of course, it can be done, is being done occasionally, and could definitely be done if a buyer paid enough. But, generally speaking, it isn’t done.
HRO wants to administer big-volume hires that can be tested online and pre-selected through a telephone questionnaire before being handed off to the buyer. Ad placement can be included along with expense processing and remote new hire orientation. But, typically, it’s about information processing rather than candidate attraction or selection. HRO doesn’t like to bother with site visits, local new hire orientation, manual selection tests, cognitive interviews, or handing over work tools and ID badges.
Also, HRO does not feature big when trying to impress mid- to senior-level candidates in very competitive talent markets. Consequently, it tends to concentrate on processing applications with the intention of handing over the “feely bits” of the job to the buyer.
Which brings us to RPO. There are differences in capability between recruitment companies growing into RPO and HRO providers including RPO in their portfolios. The most obvious is that the former have locally based networks that bring the option of on-site, face-to-face management and local market expertise. This is not so important, maybe, for white-collar, national recruitment, but multinational or blue-collar needs can benefit from a local footprint. They also tend to have both temporary staffing and permanent placement capabilities and specialized functional recruitment arms.
In a nutshell, HRO tends to adjust recruitment to the HRO service delivery world, whereas RPO wants to mold process outsourcing to the recruitment world.
Both have a mix of characteristics that appeal to buyers differently. HRO players can usually build on superior technology and call-center expertise to deliver cost-effective recruitment services integrated into the overall HR offering. RPO folk can offer local, flexible, face-to-face services and experienced (but relatively expensive) recruiters covering the full range of staffing needs.
It doesn’t always work this way, and to label one “RPO” and the other “HRO” is just convenient semantics on my part, all contrived to raise the point about local and remote delivery models with respect to recruitment. Usually it doesn’t matter because HRO and the business world are debunking the myth of superior local services. But, there are instances when any industry should revisit its sacred cows and for HRO, maybe, just sometimes, recruitment should be one of them.