The Pick ‘n’ Mix Approach To Recruitment Process Outsourcing

If you’re a growing company, it may be tempting to think that Recruitment Process Outsourcing (or RPO) is not for you. Success stories tend to focus on large corporates or long established household names that have saved millions of pounds recruiting thousands of staff – their HR (or more often, procurement) departments basking in the commercial glory.

Likewise, many RPO suppliers hail from larger, well-known consultancies that offer many different flavours of business process outsourcing. Granted – they can offer an end-to-end service to those that want it, but because of their heritage, the focus tends to be on hard metrics such as cost-per-hire and time-to-hire. Some also manage all of your recruitment supplier relationships, even down to paying agencies once the work is done.

If RPO is something you’ve been considering, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this ‘single throat choke’ (as it’s inelegantly known in the market) is the only choice available. But while full-service RPO does have its advantages in consistency and driving cost-efficiencies, it can mean the customer relinquishes control over their employer brand and how they shape the candidate’s experience of their company.

The good news is that a number of RPO companies are responding to growing demand to outsource hiring services from smaller and medium-sized companies. In growing industries such as app and web development, for example, relative start-ups are turning to RPO as they struggle to cope with recruitment demands in-house and want to draw on recruiters’ expertise for specialist recruitment projects.

This need will only increase, too. According to the latest figures on job vacancies from the Office for National Statistics, the number of vacancies in companies employing fewer than 250 staff went up by around 6% in the period between October and December 2013 – while the rise was almost half that in larger companies. Clearly, recruitment requirements in smaller companies are growing in volume and complexity.

So why might opting for a ‘pick n mix’ approach to recruitment outsourcing work in this environment? Here are a few reasons:

  • Using RPO for a particular recruitment need or project can be a great route into outsourcing, and will help you work out what aspects of the deal matter. So if you operate in a high skill-shortage area such as oil and gas, for example, an RPO provider might be able to run a global executive search project to source senior people with the right skills. Research from outsourcing analysts Everest Group has concluded that the biggest type of managed service provision in recruitment is now skilled roles.
  • RPO providers can draw on tools and expertise you might not have in-house, and also mine data in their vast recruitment software platforms to build appropriate pools of talent. Because of their economies of scale, they can perform data analysis or market research across whole sectors or geographies, providing insights you would struggle to find alone.
  • You can retain more control over your overall recruitment strategy. Picking and choosing elements to outsource – for example onboarding new staff or running an assessment centre – means you can maintain close ties with your supplier and it’s easier to have a say in what will be measured and how. If you choose, you can adopt a hybrid model where some of the suppliers’ recruiters work onsite, rather than an offsite team where all you hear about is the number of bums on seats.
  • You can have more of a say in how your brand is presented. Candidate experience in large-scale RPO contracts can be patchy, and they can feel slightly removed from the employer brand they applied for in the first place. If they have a bad experience and don’t receive a response to an application, for example, it will be your brand that suffers.
  • In a less expansive arrangement, it’s easier to agree on things like how their recruiters will sign off emails, or how their behaviour with candidates should reflect your brand.
  • You can scale up, or down. Opting to outsource carefully chosen elements of the hiring process means that you’re not investing in full-time salaries and the time involved in building an in-house resourcing team. Doing it this way means you can have a skeleton team in-house, and bring in resource as and when it’s needed.
  • You can try something different. Perhaps you’re interested in trialling mobile recruitment, but are not ready to commit to investing in the technology backbone. An RPO supplier will usually have experience in running these projects with other customers, and will be able to get you up and running far quicker than if you’d built the capability in-house.

With these issues in mind, consider what your short, medium and long-term goals are, and where an outsourced approach would work well, or where you’d rather keep it in house. After all, it’s becoming more and more possible to have the best of both worlds.