RPO & StaffingTalent Acquisition

Supplementing Recruitment

Faced with high turnovers, a protracted time-to-hire, and steep staffing costs, global nutrition company Numico went on a fortified diet of RPO services. The results: improved quality in hires, a dramatic reduction in turnover, and recruitment savings.

by Harold Van Aart

When Serge Polderman became the head of HR at global nutritional foods maker Numico’s headquarters in February, he quickly realized that the company’s internal recruiting process was somewhat anemic.

The problem was especially severe in its procurement department, where turnover was problematic, time-to-hire was protracted, and costs were exorbitant. Polderman estimated that about 75 percent of the Dutch company’s hire came from outside agencies, which significantly drove up staffing costs. Furthermore, the company’s brands such as Nutricia, Dumex, Milupa, Cow & Gate, Bambix, and others were well recognized throughout the world, but few consumers were aware of the Numico name, which made recruiting more difficult.

Procurement, which had been located in Lausanne, Switzerland, until 2004, became centralized at the company’s new headquarters at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. The move meant a requirement to staff up, and Global Procurement Director Chris Vervoort faced the challenge of finding the appropriate talent.

It wasn’t easy. Company officials conceded that terminations—whether voluntary or involuntary—were high within the first 12 months of employment. In addition, it took six to eight weeks to get a candidate hired because of the existing recruitment process. Some difficult-to-fill positions took more than two months to fill. And the agency fees simply became unacceptable.

“We had not been very successful to get people on board,” recalled Vervoort. “Of course we had made some hires, but we were not happy. We were not getting the right type of people, and we had an increasing number of vacancies because we had refused to let go on our quality standards.”

When Polderman arrived at the company, this was just one of many HR-related tasks he faced. The headquarters grew headcount from 50 to 350 in a matter of four years, so demand for talent was voracious. But Polderman didn’t walk into a completely impossible situation. Even before his arrival, procurement had engaged in a pilot recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) program with provider Adecco, which had been brought in specifically to address procurement’s staffing woes. What the third-party provider brought was a fresh perspective and a counterpoint to Numico’s sometimes autocratic culture. Polderman added that the company found it especially difficult to fill positions that were pivotal to Numico’s operations.

The problem with the company’s historic recruitment process was that not only were candidates sourced from outside agencies, but also internally it took a long time to process these candidates.

The company decided to try out RPO on a pilot basis because it was unfamiliar with the concept and wanted it to prove its worthiness before rolling it out on a larger scale. Both Polderman and Vervoort said from the beginning the program showed great promise. Adecco helped the company adopt a more rigid and formalized process for recruiting procurement professionals and placed its own recruiter on site. Robust scripts and background checks were incorporated in the process, helping to ensure candidates were a good match for the company. To help accelerate time-to-hire, all candidates were invited to interviews on the same day, where they met with numerous stakeholders, were interviewed, and then evaluated. This helped reduce hiring time from six to eight weeks to about a month.

Other measurable improvements included a reduction in cost, with agency usage cut from more than 75 percent to 32 percent, according to Adecco. Since implementing the pilot program, no new hires had left the company, confirming that candidates hired were a good match.

Because the pilot program led to such strong results, the company has entered into a three-year contract with Adecco to continue RPO services on a broader scale, with an estimated 60 positions to be filled at headquarters in the first year. Although the company isn’t rolling out RPO throughout all of its operations around the world, it may consider it in the future. One reason for limiting RPO adoption to headquarters is because satellite offices are given autonomous decision-making about their operations.

Polderman said of all the benefits they’ve realized so far, the most important has been improved retention. “We are looking in a structured way if people fit our culture,” he added. “The biggest benefit is that there have been no leavers so far. That’s zero turnover, and that’s a big difference from last year.”

Tags: RPO & Staffing, Talent Acquisition

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