In the most methodical approach yet, ranking the top RPO providers depends on one part customer opinion, one part breadth of service, and one part service quality.
Assessing vendors in the hottest market segment of the HRO industry is no easy task, but in our fifth annual look at recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), we are helping you, the buyer, to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. And this year we have returned to ranking the list of worthy mentions.
In the past, HRO Today has been criticized for its loose ranking methodologies. It is an area that we needed to improve following the recent change of ownership. Much of the criticism surrounded lack of data and justification for the lists of providers produced by the magazine. Moreover, past lists rarely offered much insight for the reader on how to interpret the results. I was, in fact, one of the loudest critics.
For this RPO Baker’s Dozen, we experimented with a new approach, and it is critical that we offer an explanation of the data and how it was derived. We generated a survey that comprised 23 qualitative and quantitative questions. We established criteria and weighting for different questions in advance, but we did not disclose the weighting to the providers. We kept this information and the formula for weighting the various indices a secret. We did this so no provider could coach a respondent to the key questions that drove the overall rating. We built a database of 92 completed customer surveys and some incomplete ones, as well.
The survey items examined the components of RPO service to arrive at an index we show as “Overall Breadth of Service.” A comprehensive service offering that can replace internal functionality is the ultimate goal of the outsourcing industry, so we thought this was important to measure. It is also harder to provide service across broader offerings, and we took this into account. Responses were assigned points, averaged, and calculated to generate the index (see p. 46).
Another index was generated on “Program Size.” This was based on numerical data about average hires managed per year. It is axiomatically harder to get great “Quality of Service” scores with a larger and more complex program. While this was good information for the reader, it is indexed in a way that did not diminish the importance of great service on all programs.
The final component of the index was “Quality of Service.” This was based on a series of questions that examined the performance and the relationship between provider and customer. We used a five-point Likert scale with answers ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Each answer was assigned a point value, which was used to calculate the “Quality of Service” index.
A few points are noteworthy. We recognize that RPO is going global, so we included some leading firms outside of the U.S. We also note that some of the surveys indicated that many of the provider programs were non-exempt labor. Some providers—The RightThing, Spherion, and Kenexa—are providing programs focusing on professional and skilled-labor recruiting. This service pattern differs from programs offered by other providers to whom volume and process management over large geographical areas may be more critical. As you assess your company’s needs, you need to develop your RFP accordingly.
Simply put, the fact that our methodology may create a certain ranking does not mean the top ranked firms would automatically meet your needs. No ranking methodology is perfect, and, in retrospect, I can see ways in which ours could have been improved.
There are many highlights in the data. For example, while Kenexa leads the overall index, Spherion has a capacity for very large programs and good QoS totals. TalentTrack has the happiest customers. If you remove Alexander Mann Solutions, a European market leader, you find Kenexa, Spherion and The RightThing fighting it out at the top of the list among the broad-based providers and pretty close in ratings. The customer data validate the market battle among the largest providers here in North America.
Furthermore, at the end of the listing, we have also listed emerging RPO vendors that you should consider. While this group doesn’t boast the same track record as the Baker’s Dozen, they have demonstrated that they are providing true RPO services and have a client portfolio to prove it.
Whether you agree with our specific ranking (and you will hear lots of opinions), these are the top RPO firms, and we hope this helps you evaluate whom to call in the year to come. And as always, we invite you, the buyer, for your feedback. After all, the customer is always right.