Examining the 2011 RPO Baker’s Dozen.
By Elliot Clark
The 2011 HRO Today magazine RPO Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction Survey is completed. It is always an exciting and exhausting time of year. My compliments and deep thanks to Elizabeth Boudrie who heads research at SharedXpertise and Debbie Bolla our managing editor for their hard work in managing the process. We collected 466 certifiable surveys from 266 companies. This represents the largest and most industrially and geographically diverse survey sample ever collected of the RPO buying community. We want to thank all the participants for sharing your feedback with each other and with prospective buyers. It is a great service you do for the HR community at large, and we are proud to provide a vehicle through which your voice can be heard and this peer-to-peer to learning platform can be facilitated.
Last year we saw a modest dip in overall satisfaction numbers in RPO. I attributed this to what I called “industrial indigestion.” In 2009, the rebound in hiring left many RPO firms confused about whether they were seeing a “blip” or a trend, and they were slow to add resources. Service quality suffered, as they had too few recruiters carry too high a load of requisitions. “Time to fill” metrics ballooned, and processes slowed. This effect played out in the data we collected. We also saw some providers and buyer alike complain in the comments sections about resources and resource allocations. In follow up as part of our research report practice, we discovered from the practitioners that the providers they were struggling with had been the “very low cost” bid that was “too good to turn down” and had very low contractual minimums or virtually no fixed costs. Hmmm! There is a message there about value propositions that are too good to be true.
Your cost level determines your resource level. Low cost may mean low-level recruiters, and inexperienced recruiters leads to unfilled jobs. Remember, the cheapest RPO engagement is the one that fails to fill jobs. Of course, the successor firm to that failed provider will handle the position from which you have been terminated as their first requisition; so don’t make that mistake.
For the most part, the RPO firms have made good deals, and providers have been judicious in their selections and configuration of programs. Outcomes have been good, and market growth has been strong. Overall satisfaction has rebounded. In spite of strong market growth of an estimated 35 percent to 40 percent in North America, the scores on some key items are shown in the table below. The scores are on a 5-point Likert Scale, so these are very high, and we see this high distribution from the RPO buying community as a general rule. These overall satisfaction numbers had drifted down closer to the 4.0 level or even the high 3’s in last years’ survey, so this is a strong rebound in performance for the provider community.
The other phenomenon that is clearly evident is that RPO is going to global deals. As you will see of the top 13 providers, nine are on the global leaders list where they have more than two clients for which they are performing services in more than two global regions. Of the four companies that did not qualify, one has a subsidiary that does international work that operates in other regions, and the other two each have global partnerships. The message is less about what providers offer than it is about what practitioners are buying. They are starting to buy multi-country deals or, at least, buying in one region and expanding scope to include other regions.
It has been another year for the HRO Today magazine RPO Baker’s Dozen Customer Satisfaction Survey, and, more importantly, the RPO industry. Read on, and we hope that as in past years this is helpful as you decide how to manage your staffing and recruiting operations.