RPO partnerships are moving beyond the transactional and entering the realm of the strategic.
By Simon Kent
The days of using an RPO provider to simply deal with the grunt work of recruiting people into an organisation are over. Today’s competitive market—both in terms of the employment market where talent is scarcer than ever and the RPO market itself—means providers must demonstrate that they can bring extra value to the organisations with which they are working. Achieving this means becoming a specialist in more than recruitment alone.
“Expectations of RPO have started to move away from being so heavily weighted to cost and time efficiencies of candidate supply alone,” explains Jade Clifford, executive director of RPO global accounts and services design at Allegis Global Solutions. “Where we now see the value assessment has become more directly linked to the depth of business impact and the ability to work within complex and unpredictable business climates.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Clifford lists digital evolution among the areas RPO partners must address. Brand development is also important, which means putting customer experience at the forefront of a solution.
“To remain as a leader in a fast-evolving industry, our models have become digitally enabled at their core and we create our solutions based around key moments of truth for our customers,” explains Clifford.
Seb O’Connell, president of EMEA and APAC at Cielo, confirms that the attraction of partnering with an RPO still rests in the mitigation of the cost and risk of recruitment. “The highly competitive market means that firms can end up struggling with simple day-to-day tasks such as CV screening, telephone interviewing, and keeping candidates warm throughout the selection process as well as becoming responsible for GDPR and other local legislation compliance,” he says.
However, whilst RPO partners used to be seen as “just a team of recruiters,” now they must fulfil a deeper role—acting as strategic partners who bring long-term value into the business. “A good RPO provider should be able to do far more than recruit candidates and fill open positions,” says O’Connell. “It should really understand an organisation and act as a strategic, consultative partner, looking at long-term factors that may affect the end client’s business and bottom line.”
O’Connell also highlights the need to create and deliver a great employer brand. He emphasises the use of the employee value proposition (EVP), adding, “This goes far beyond general corporate branding or a marketing slogan and addresses all the touch points in the candidate and employee ecosystem. Central to this premise is what makes an organisation different and what it means for its current and future people. This has never been more important than in today’s digital global marketplace.”
Alexander Mann Solutions (AMS) has been working with Santander for nearly 20 years. Initially, the engagement was all about reducing agency fees. “Over time, more sophisticated clients started to realise the value in the quality of people being brought into the organisation,” says David Mason, a member of Santander’s TA team who works with AMS. “Businesses are becoming much more strategic about how and where they’re acquiring resources.”
For Santander, the RPO deal has incorporated more innovative practices into the recruitment function, delivering a better performance. “We’re working much more closely on strategic workforce planning and are considering how the RPO can benefit the business much more beyond ‘it’s cheaper than what I was doing before,’” Mason says.
Jo-Ann Feely, global director of business development at AMS, agrees that clients should expect RPO partners to offer alternative hiring approaches—after all, why hire someone who can do what organisations can do themselves? Their influence can impact brand perception, diversity and inclusion, and even resourcing strategies around supply and demand.
“It’s important for RPO providers not to present solutions that are just ‘shiny new toys’ that distract businesses from their real-world challenges,” she says. “Achieving the right balance between informing clients of new practices, tools, and trends and also providing sound advice on the viability of implementing them is key.”
Whilst innovation, both in terms of processes and technology, can be valuable, it must also be relevant. “RPO companies that can provide valuable guidance on which technologies work best in specific business environments and deliver solid options to address real business challenges are the most valuable partners,” says Feely. “Working together in this way creates a climate of trust and as the relationship develops, innovation can be accelerated.”
Essentially, argues Feely, getting the most from engagements means going beyond the purely transactional and into a strategic or transformative stage. To do this, the right mindset is crucial: “Only by placing the client’s business interests at heart can an RPO provider be truly effective.”
“RPO is absolutely at its best when there is a strategic partnership built on a strong two-way relationship where transparency and shared ownership is at its foundation,” confirms Clifford. “We aim to be a trusted advisor to our clients and believe an invested relationship that is centred on solving for the longterm business impact is going to reap the most benefit.”