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RPO: The case for further outsourcing in Talent Acquisition & Employer Brand

20th October 2020

by Liam Stokey

I was chatting recently with our Marketing Manager about our recruitment outsourcing proposition (RPO) and recruitment marketing content in general; her observation was that a lot of recruiters sound defensive in tone – even when they’re saying something positive about themselves or their business. I gave the analogy of legal services and the difference in customer perception across the legal landscape; there’s always going to be a stigma with a service that is ‘no-win-no-fee’, versus a more specialised consultancy where solicitors are paid for their expertise and not always their actions. That stigma, in some eyes, requires a defense.

Now there is absolutely a time and a place for partnering with ‘no-win-no-fee’ contingency recruiters – this is something I partly make a living from after all. Sometimes this competitive and fast approach is just what is needed. I do question whether too many organisations in the Consumer & Retail industry are needlessly keeping recruiters at arm’s length though with this overused contingency model to the point where it becomes counter-intuitive. Moreover has this ‘no-win-no-fee’ contingency recruitment ‘norm’ created an unnecessary reticence against outsourcing in recruitment?

Consider this; we all know examples of how outsourcing works well for other functions in the consumer industry – many of our clients outsource their field sales teams for example. Attitudes have changed, when I started in FMCG there weren’t too many outsourcing businesses operating in the consumer space but it’s the accepted ‘norm’ now for field sales to be handled by an outsourced service provider (such as CPM, McCurrach, REL etc). The parallels are obvious; field sales needs to be:

–         Cost effective (like recruitment)

–         Flexible (like recruitment)

–         Scalable (like recruitment)

–         Measurable (like recruitment)

–         Handled by the best partner, with shared values and goals (like recruitment…)

Outsourcing your recruitment fully or partly (RPO) moves recruitment beyond that ‘no-win-no-fee’ model and allows the recruitment team to work as a true extension of the client’s brand. In the process of working with an HR function each day, they’ll develop deep insights into the business. Those insights can form the basis of a strong Talent Acquisition strategy that attracts more relevant candidates, gives those candidates a more relaxed and holistic view of your business and ultimately results in more of the right talent for the client.

Whenever a business considers outsourcing any part of their organisation they are always likely to experience hesitation around which supplier to trust; how well do we know them? How do we know they’ll deliver? All the same questions you’d ask of any long term supplier. The answers to those questions are again exactly the same for how you’d find the right recruiter for you; what’s their track record? Where have they delivered? Who else do they work with? What are their values?

I’d extend the comparison to the marketing function. All medium to large FMCG businesses outsource sections of the marketing team to agencies; usually for creative and strategic direction, as those skills can work best as a flexible resource and with a degree of objectivity not necessarily found or needed in-house. I don’t see this as very different to the recruitment function. A degree of objectivity and a different approach and skill-set learnt elsewhere can only help the recruitment function move towards a well-rounded talent acquisition model that handles the employer brand as carefully as the consumer brand. Consumer brand has long been outsourced; when will it be the accepted route for Employer brands also?

Why then, would an HR Director show hesitancy around outsourcing even though they might work alongside a Sales Director or Marketing Director or any other functional Director who are doing just that? I’ve already said what questions I feel need to be asked. They also need to think about where their recruitment function can improve and what success would look like to their business. Our RPO relationships and the success metrics / SLAs for each client are very different because the processes have been mapped out and tailored to each client before we began. It’s this attention to detail and ability to really listen that a business should look for in any supplier, but particularly relevant for recruitment businesses looking to be your outsourcing partner. Given the current Covid pandemic, we’ve all had to adapt quickly and you’re bound to see greater agility and transformation from a trusted partner than a roster of multiple suppliers with separate agendas.

To go back to the ‘no-win-no-fee’ contingency recruitment comparison. You employ those services when you want a fast, perhaps one-off result. You don’t employ those services when your long term goals are complex and your goalposts might shift. When you want permanent results and true progress, you invest in relationships that may require some adjustments at first, but the return on investment will be growth on both sides. I see every day in Seven how fully or partly outsourcing recruitment & employer brand in the right circumstances can bring about fantastic commercial & cultural results.

I’d encourage all HR, Procurement & Managing Directors to keep a close eye on their recruitment spend & time to fill numbers and always be questioning their return on investment. If they feel they’re not seeing a great return then perhaps too much is being invested in the wrong recruitment solution; engaging the right recruitment partner is crucial but just as important is deciding on the right service.

(image via Unsplash.com)

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