RPO & StaffingTalent Acquisition

Partner Up

Six best practices to secure and sustain an RPO engagement.

By Andy Roane
RPO partnerships today come in many shapes and sizes. Beyond the traditional arrangements in which clients outsource the entire recruitment and hiring process, companies now retain an RPO provider for:

  • specific projects;
  • specific elements of the recruiting process;
  • or a certain number of hours over a given period.

Some partnerships even insource RPO, embedding recruiters within the client work group. The number of RPO partnerships continues to rise, according to Everest Group, with record deal signings and 12 percent growth last year despite a drop in hiring volume.

With changes in both the variety and number of RPO partnerships, the level of collaboration and communication between provider and client is more crucial than ever. And RPO is no silver bullet—both client and RPO provider must bring certain traits and objectives to the table and actively work together to ensure a true partnership.

Whether you want to strengthen a current RPO partnership or you’re in the market for an RPO provider and need a better sense of what to look for, here’s what each partner needs to bring to the table to sustain a successful RPO engagement.

What to expect from an RPO firm:
Relevant expertise. RPO providers should be tuned into client needs and understand the details of the client’s process, goals, and recruitment strategy. The RPO provider should be knowledgeable about the type of hiring the organization plans to do—and even have experience doing it. For example, a client in need of high-volume recruiting, such as for a call center, should partner with an RPO firm capable of sourcing 1,000 to 2,000 hires, while clients targeting lower-volume hiring for harder-to-find professionals in a wider range of positions will need an RPO partner with a different skill set. In some cases, RPO providers are adept at both types of recruiting.

Change management guidance. An RPO firm must be able to work closely with a client’s existing human resources (HR) department and hiring managers to define roles and responsibilities so there are as few surprises as possible. Often, engaging an RPO provider is one of a number of strategic changes made at the same time by a client. It’s the RPO’s responsibility to lead a transition that avoids disrupting business operations. At a fundamental level, this means solid communications, understanding a client’s culture, and anticipating how the change will impact the client’s stakeholders.

Solid process design. RPO is as much about process as it is about recruiting. Clients should look to their RPO partner to design a process that satisfies their needs and achieves specific outcomes. Through metrics, trend tracking, feedback, and course correction, RPO providers can deliver the results clients are looking for. Such a design should be based on mutually agreed-upon goals and the RPO firm’s process knowledge of what works best to fulfill client objectives, whether the design is for the entire recruitment process or just portions of it.
What the client should bring to the partnership:
Data and open communication. Clients need to educate their RPO partner on their current recruitment landscape: the types and numbers of hires they expect, the fields, departments, and locations of those hires, as well as any plans for expansion or acquisition that will impact hiring plans. Whether handling all recruiting or only a piece of the process, the RPO partner needs to understand a client’s HR processes in order to set expectations, metrics, service level agreements, and time frames for delivery. The more open and detailed the communication, the more seamless the partnership will be.

Openness to change. While RPO providers should help clients manage the change the partnership brings, clients need to create a culture open and supportive to the engagement. Clients need to educate internal stakeholders about the role of the RPO provider and the division of responsibilities, making sure the HR department views the RPO provider as a partner, not a threat. When organizations are open to change and approach the engagement as a partnership, the transition is smoother and the outcome more successful.

Agreed-upon program goals. Clients need to reach an internal consensus about outsourcing goals. Hiring managers and stakeholders must be on board with the goals and the strategy to accomplish those goals. The most successful RPO partnerships include client-side executive support and clear client leadership communication to internal stakeholders regarding the goals of the outsourcing engagement.

No matter what form an RPO partnership takes, whether for specific projects or the full lifecycle, more effective RPO providers will act as ambassadors through their engagement and change management expertise. In turn, clients will get better results if they fully embrace the change and open lines of communication to convey their business goals and recruitment objectives.

Recruiting is never easy, but a lot of friction can be eliminated and success can be achieved when there is role clarity and an RPO engagement is approached as a true partnership.

Andy Roane is vice president of RPO for Yoh.

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