Talent market transitions are pushing RPO engagements toÂ encompass new services, technologies, and recruitment models.
By Michael Switow
Recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) is undergoingÂ a transition in the Asia-Pacific region. Automation,Â corporate restructuring, and changes in the nature ofÂ the workforce are pressuring RPO partners to evolve inÂ order to compete and remain relevant for their clients.
Just what is the next generation of RPO and how areÂ companies changing?
Industry insiders argue that RPO partners need to getÂ in front of technological change whilst offering moreÂ services. There are five trends that HR needs to knowÂ about in order to to stay ahead of the curve.
1. Expanded offerings. âProcess excellence, efficiency,Â scalability, and cost-savings are just âtable stakesâ now,âÂ Alfonso Nunez, the managing director for businessÂ development and client solutions at Allegis GlobalÂ Solutions, told a seminar of industry professionals inÂ Hong Kong.
âTheyâre not really enough to differentiate us fromÂ any of our competitors.â He says as the market hasÂ matured, the traditional drivers of RPO are often noÂ longer enough to persuade organisations to enter anÂ engagement.
âClients are demanding better quality talent faster andÂ at less cost. At the same time, weâve got candidatesÂ who are more globally mobile, more educated aboutÂ their options, and probably more demanding,â explainsÂ Hudson RPOâs Asia Pacific Chief Executive OfficerÂ Kimberley Hubble, an industry veteran with more thanÂ two decades of experience.
And the nature of the workforce is changing as talentÂ fluidly shifts between full-time and other types of work,Â further complicating the recruitment landscape. As aÂ result, APACâs RPO partners are broadening the scope ofÂ their services.
âRPO companies are increasingly being asked to manageÂ not just permanent and fixed contract hiring, but allÂ parts of hiring, including internal movements, externalÂ hires, graduate hires, intern and apprentice hires, asÂ well as the temporary and contingent labour force,âÂ Hubble says.
2. Integration. To offer these additional services, someÂ RPO partners are leveraging their client bases andÂ industry knowledge. At Hudson, RPO and managedÂ service programmes (MSPs) have been combined intoÂ one function. At Cielo, itâs RPO and executive search.
âRPO by definition requires you to have a very deepÂ understanding of the business, so by virtue of that deepÂ understanding, you can apply that into an executiveÂ recruiting environment and provide good returns moreÂ effectively than a one-off search firm,â argues CieloÂ APAC Vice President Kumar Bhaya.
âIncreasingly, these divisions are being managedÂ together,â Hubble agrees. âIt allows us to provide moreÂ integrated solutions for our customers. Itâs not so muchÂ a niche service, but seeing how those two services canÂ come together for the benefit of the client.â
3. Customisation. âWhen RPO started off, the focus wasÂ on filling high-volume, mass, repeatable rolesâperhapsÂ 300 to 500 hires in just two to three skill categories.Â That has completely changed. The kinds of rolesÂ organisations want to fill now are not as homogeneousÂ as they used to be,â observes Bhaya. He notes that thisÂ change has accelerated in southeast Asia over the pastÂ three to four years.
Take a life sciences company, for example. WhenÂ launching a new drug, it would traditionally engage anÂ RPO partner to ramp up its sales force, hiring hundredsÂ of sales representatives in each market. Similarly,Â it might turn to an RPO company to consolidate itsÂ back-office functions in a large offshore deliveryÂ centre located in a low-cost market like Manila. Today,Â though, Bhaya says a life sciences client is just as likelyÂ to seek help filling more diverse positions like medicalÂ liaison officers, regulatory affairs experts, and healthÂ professionals.
The implication is substantial. âEarlier, youÂ could do a simple short listing ofÂ candidates for roles that wereÂ in a few markets. Now, youÂ have to do short listing ofÂ many roles over a largerÂ number of markets,âÂ Bhaya explains. InÂ addition, solutionsÂ more often needÂ to be tailored toÂ each client.
âGone are theÂ days when theÂ only option anÂ RPO companyÂ could provide isÂ the outsourcedÂ model where weÂ do everything,âÂ agrees Hubble. âIÂ think RPO partners haveÂ to be more flexible andÂ actually listen to what theÂ clientâs pain points are. What isÂ that client trying to solve? Then, beÂ creative about the solution that would bestÂ meet that customerâs requirement.â
4. Automation and innovation. Technological change isÂ pushing RPO partners to expand their services.Â âRPO companies have to be one step ahead of theÂ client,â observes Hubble. âIf the client is innovating atÂ a faster rate than the RPO partner, then how is thatÂ partner truly going to add value? We have to do thingsÂ better than the client can do them.â
Some RPO partners now dedicate resources to testing newÂ software applications so they can better advise clients.Â âWe were basically confused by the huge plethora ofÂ choice around technology products,â says AlexanderÂ Mann Solutionsâ Regional Head of APAC Neil Jones. âIÂ realised that as the managing director, I donât need toÂ know every product because whatâs good today willÂ probably be out-of-date in two to three monthsâ timeÂ anyway. So we developed a partner ecosystem. We haveÂ a team that looks at four digital platforms every week.Â They try, test, check for implementation, and test forÂ security. On top of that, we categorise them intoÂ different areas of the recruitment process.â
Meanwhile, Guidant Global isÂ hiring subject matter expertsâpeople with skills outsideÂ the realm of traditionalÂ RPO in areas like dataÂ analytics and employerÂ brandingâso thatÂ it can expand itsÂ offerings. TheÂ company is drivenÂ by a belief thatÂ technologicalÂ innovationÂ necessitates newÂ business models.
âThe core functionsÂ that almost every RPOÂ carries out are just gettingÂ completely automated,âÂ argues Guidant GlobalâsÂ APAC Director Doug Edmonds.Â âWithout spending a lot of money,Â you can easily automate everythingÂ from sourcing to onboarding and everythingÂ in between.â Small- to medium-sized enterprisesÂ are transitioning the fastest, he says, whilst largerÂ multinationals will follow suit.
5. Buyer sophistication. All the whilst, buyers areÂ becoming more knowledgeable. âToday, weâre findingÂ a lot more clients with very sophisticated people inÂ talent acquisition who really know their stuff,â saysÂ Hubble. âTheyâre thinking more creatively about theÂ talent acquisition process and they expect RPOs to doÂ likewise.â
But the increased awareness of RPO services has anÂ upside as well. More companies are approachingÂ partners first rather than waiting to receive a sales call.Â âOver the past 12 to 18 months, weâve seen the highest-everÂ number of requests for proposal coming fromÂ multinationals that are looking for a multi-region orÂ global RPO solution,â says Bhaya. âUntil a couple yearsÂ ago, Iâd say about a quarter of our opportunities cameÂ from organisations that knew what they wanted andÂ invited proposals. Today, itâs up to 50 per cent.â