RPO & StaffingTalent Acquisition

History Doesn’t Repeat With Itron’s Second-Generation RPO

The global utilities technology firm learns from previous inefficiencies and expands its talent acquisition with new RPO relationship with Futurestep.
By Tracie Zanol
As a leading technology provider to the global energy and water industries, Itron provides intelligent metering, data collection, and software solutions to nearly 8,000 utilities worldwide. Competing for critical talent in any specialized industry can be challenging, and the market for wireless data communications technology is no exception.
Recently, Itron embarked on a renewed RPO arrangement to improve the company’s ability to compete for talent. Following an initial engagement with one provider, the company built an effective second-generation relationship with Futurestep to address evolving needs. This effort required a combination of careful planning as well as strategic recruitment capability and commitment from the new provider. The result is a talent function that is uniquely suited to reaching the right talent in a challenging industry.
Adjusting the Model
Itron’s RPO story began more than three years ago, when the company first engaged an RPO provider to provide recruitment services. The process was internally distributed, and Itron’s RPO partner provided the central function for talent acquisition. Requests were arranged directly from the hiring manager to the provider, with little internal involvement in between.The RPO provider focused on supporting and administering a process, however that process left hiring managers unsatisfied with the candidates they received, particularly in a competitive market for critical specialized talent. With limited in-house resources, Itron also faced expectations for increased growth in the energy and technology sectors nationwide. In addition, the company also sought to strengthen its global recruiting capability.
The company’s talent organization realized   it needed to reexamine its recruiting process. Itron reconfigured its talent acquisition process, creating an internal staffing consultant as the official point of contact between hiring manager and RPO provider. This strategy provided a standard point of interaction, centralizing the flow of requisitions to the provider without requiring extensive re-organization of internal structure.
New RPO for Talent Needs
The new approach to talent acquisition helped Itron realize that a new RPO provider would be needed to provide improved recruitment capability. In late 2008, the company engaged Futurestep to meet that need. In this second generation RPO relationship, Itron had the internal resources in place to better accommodate the workflow, and the provider had the resources and industry understanding to better focus on attracting and retaining hard-to-reach specialized talent. In the new arrangement, the hiring manager works directly with the internal staffing consultant. 
Over the six months since Itron and Futurestep launched their RPO partnership, a marked improvement in recruiting performance has taken shape. A boost in the quality of candidate and improved timeline are notable results. Compared with last year’s spend, the company is on pace to save approximately 33 percent in the cost per hire rate.
For Itron, however, the cost per hire does not represent the entire story. The real advantage for the company is in the quality of candidate, and, most importantly, a renewed trust with internal hiring managers. Improved interaction between provider, staffing consultant, and hiring manager translates to an improved understanding of hiring needs, better quality of hire, and less dependency on third-party agencies.
In addition to the performance benefits of a strategic RPO relationship, Itron now has a clear foundation for an enhanced global recruitment capability. This is due in large part to the provider’s global scope of operations, with offices in 17 countries and a history of successful RPO across multiple regions.
Lessons in Success
For anyone embarking on an RPO relationship, the experience of Itron reveals several important lessons. One of the most important  is related to price and effectiveness. While the original RPO provider offered a lower cost solution at the outset, the real cost, in terms of candidate quality and talent acquisition performance, was greater.
Key considerations for anyone embarking on an RPO initiative are quality of hire, industry-specific understanding, and quality of relationship with recruiters and internal resources. In these respects, the Itron-Futurestep relationship was uniquely positioned to succeed, as the provider was a clear fit for objectives related to critical talent and global scope. 
Tracie Zanol, compliance and talent acquisition manager of Itron’s competitive resources division, is responsible for recruiting for North America. Prior to her work in human resources, she was support services manager for Itron where she worked for 13 years supporting Itron’s external customers, and managing customer support representatives.

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