To tame RPO’s Wild, Wild West, the industry’s two trade groups are saddlin’ up together to speak with one voice.
If the hallmark of a maturing industry is an increase in mergers and acquisitions, one marriage about to occur is surely indicative of the RPO industry’s trajectory. After years of operating as two independent industry groups, the RPO Alliance and the RPO Association are finally tying the knot, pooling their resources and membership to unify the entire recruitment process services sector.
According to group members, the move will benefit all stakeholders, including buyers, providers, and third parties. That’s because as the RPO sector matures, a unified body will lessen market confusion. Furthermore, the new trade group will offer all the services that the two existing ones now provide, allowing HR organizations to source all information, query vendors for information and price quotes, and provide educational outlets. For providers, it also means they no longer need to choose which organization to align with.
If you are unclear why there are two trade groups, you’re not alone. The Alliance, a special interest group of the HRO Association, was founded a few years ago by a number of RPO providers who wanted to further practitioners’ understanding of recruitment process outsourcing. Focused on educational efforts, it has distributed educational materials and held meetings to spread the word on RPO. The Association, which has similar advocacy goals, provides a direct link for employers to its members; for instance, its web site enables buyers to submit RFPs to vendors online.
‘Best thing’ for the industry
According to John Younger, the president and a founding member of the Association, the effort to merge the organizations will clearly benefit buyers and providers alike. He said that as the industry has matured during the past few years, it’s become clear that the two organizations must cooperate to further legitimize the segment.
“The best thing for the industry is to have a single governing body guiding it. Early on, no one was sure if it was a real industry,” said Younger, who is also the president of provider firm Accolo. “This is a nod to the future. By combining the organizations, we can combine the best of both and advance the industry materially.”
Younger, who pointed out that the Association began in 2004 before the Alliance’s founding, is unlike it in several respects. For one, it was completely independent, with no affiliations to the HROA or any other associations. It also did not offer up conferences or other meetings. However, the Association also didn’t have as members some of the largest providers in the business, although there were organizations such as The RightThing that belonged to both. On the other hand, he added, the Association offered services to buyers that the Alliance did not, such as the web connect to vendors and online RFP submissions.
He said once the merger is completed, the organization will be called the RPO Association. It is expected to be supported by a membership of 50 to 60 providers and a buyers’ group previously formed under the Alliance. Most importantly, its mission will be to more succinctly define RPO practices because adopters today are attaching the acronym to many practices that are clearly not recruitment process outsourcing.
Indeed, some buyers are confusing simple administrative tasks related to staffing as RPO, but the majority of providers in the segment stress that outsourced services must have a strong element of recruitment and process control to qualify to be RPO. For instance, just sourcing candidates shouldn’t be considered RPO; sourcing as part of a broader package of services including assessment, screening, applicant tracking, and others would be considered RPO. However, the industry hasn’t provided buyers with clear delineations, definitions, or taxonomy, thereby perpetuating confusion in the market.
The new trade group hopes to address these and other issues, Younger said, and members of both previous organizations appear singular in their view. For instance, Jamie Minier, the chief operating officer at The RightThing, which had belonged to both, said she welcomed the merger.
“I think from a buyer perspective, there is confusion out there because you get mixed messages. A collaboration and a real stance on what this is and who we are will be welcomed by all. I think it will allow some of those walls to be broken down,” she added.
Although it will be named the association, the group will also continue to be affiliated with the HROA, explained Richard Crespin, the association’s global executive director.
“Bringing together this merger of equals—the RPO Association and the RPO Alliance—creates a single, definitive industry organization,” said Crespin. “Under the auspices of the HROA, the new organization will serve as the single source for information and insight on the RPO industry, bringing greater clarity to the market and a one-stop shop for members.”
Younger added that an interim board is currently overseeing the merger and that a permanent governing body will eventually select members to two-year terms. In addition, the Association will explore establishing overseas chapters. There has already been discussion about a body to serve the RPO community in Europe, followed by one in Asia as well. As he explained, the end result of the collaboration is to help the industry mature more quickly.
“I think it is best summarized by the fact that it has gone through three phases: from “RP what?” to the Wild West (and we are still in that Wild West) to the third phase,” he said.