RPO & StaffingTalent Acquisition

Baker’s Dozen RPO Case Study:Lessons in Transitioning to a New Service Provider

When Ernst & Young needed a new RPO provider, diligent change management and open communication among all stakeholders enabled a smooth transition.

by Stephen J. Prinn

For many years, consulting giant Ernst & Young had used a recruitment process outsourcer to help staff its financial planner line call centers. Specifically, its RPO provider sourced, screened, hired, and on-boarded candidates. In addition, it administered payroll and benefits and ensured compliance with local, state, and federal requirements for contingent employees.

According to Robert Porter, an executive director who manages Ernst & Young’s centers, this high-touch approach fits well with the company’s Employer of Choice initiative. “This strategy has allowed us to efficiently and cost-effectively acquire and retain the staff we need to service our clients.“

When its service provider was acquired by a larger company who, as it turned out, used Ernst & Young as its auditor, it had to discontinue the relationship due to Sarbanes-Oxley requirements on auditor independence.

“Of paramount concern was finding a new provider who could seamlessly transition the existing relationship,” said Porter. Adding to the challenge was that E&Y needed the change to be completed within 60 days. After receiving submissions to an RFP, the company based its selection on the provider’s customer service reputation and credibility.

“We wanted to work with an outsourced recruitment provider who was responsive to our needs, understood our business model, and had a track record of delivering as promised,” Porter said of the company’s choice of The WorkPlace Group.

E&Y required that “key talent” at the call centers be retained and that no service interruptions could occur during the transition. A successful changeover was also dependent on the previous provider cooperating with The WorkPlace Group to ensure that all relevant data regarding hiring processes and procedures as well as payroll and benefits were properly transferred. To achieve its goal, Ernst & Young maintained an open line of communication with the prior provider’s senior management while facilitating the dialogue between the new and old vendors. This helped the company remain focused on a smooth transition.

In addition, care was taken to emphasize change management, communicating to all stakeholders the reasons for the new vendor and the impact it would have on them. E&Y also tailored its messaging; for example, senior management received a different communication from employees. While all communications contained similar information on why the change was occurring and the timeline involved, facts pertinent to each specific group were also added. In-person meetings also provided opportunities for stakeholders to ask questions and obtain clarification. Reminder emails also summarized the information previously shared.

“We needed everyone to know, be comfortable with, and understand how to work with our new WorkPlace Group team,” Porter explained as part of the change management process. To achieve this, biweekly meetings that included vendor team members were held to discuss progress. One-on-one meetings with relevant individual staff members also were arranged throughout the transition period.

Porter said while the quick transition was difficult, it led to positive results. For example, E&Y’s contingent workforce gained access to better employment benefits and self-service web-portals, which allow access to payroll, 401(k), and medical benefits information. Printing a weekly paystub, a year-to-date earnings report, or changing how 401(k) dollars are allocated can be performed from any computer with Internet access. Traditional, personal assistance is also available from the RPO provider.

Contingent employees also gained access to web-based time recording and work schedules. These processes were previously performed using paper forms and shared files. Today, work schedules are handled and changed in real time via a web portal with very little effort.

“This has minimized the number of management hours needed to ensure adequate coverage in our call centers,” Porter noted. It also has made it easier for contingent employees to more easily change their schedules and know exactly when they are working. Porter said these changes enhanced E&Y’s appeal as an employer of choice.

Furthermore, E&Y management gained access to paperless time recording and invoicing and The WorkPlace Group’s Multimethod-Multisource Candidate Acquisition and WPG Candidate Assessment methodologies. These methodologies provide the call centers with rapid acquisition of diverse, qualified talent that match up with each position.

How well did the company make the transition? E&Y retained 98 percent of its contingent call center staff, experienced no interruptions in service, and met its 60-day deadline requiring that all systems and processes were in place.

“Importantly, the incremental benefits achieved add efficiency and quality to our staffing and recruitment process and end up being better aligned with Ernst & Young’s world-class Employer Of Choice initiative,” Porter concluded.

Stephen Prinn is managing partner of Alpha Equity Group, Inc., a business consulting firm in Boston.

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