I’ve spent the last couple of days with Zachari Misko, Sally Hunter and some of the team from Kelly OCG at the RPO and e-recruitment summit organised by Symposium. I was on a bit of twitter silence because the event had no free wireless, and delegates were asked to turn off their phones. It has been a while since I’ve been at an event without wireless. It is always the first thing I check when I look at a venue.The internet aside, this was a good opportunity to look closely at what is happening in the RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing) market.

Over the last 6 months or so I’ve had a good opportunity to take a good look at the RPO companies, and they fall in to two distinct camps. The good ones, and the not so good ones, and there’s a big difference. The good ones you don’t really hear getting talked about. They become almost invisible because like any good outsourced solution, they are considered an integral part of the client. When you see the cracks, and look on them in their own name then you know you have a problem.Great RPO is invisible in an organisation, and the recruiters see themselves as a part of the organisation.

It was noticeable to listen to the firms in the room, and some of their representatives, that some of the talk was straight out of the agency book around areas like temp to perm, temp to temp etc, where as the more established players talked talent topics, employers branding, skills shortage etc. An RPO should not be rent a recruiter. It’s not about simply moving the physical location of the agency, it really should be about full integration.

My friend Jonathan Campbell of SocialTalent talked about what he is seeing in the market, where corporate companies are reversing the 80/20 model.Two years ago hiring was 80% agency and 20% direct, whereas the ratio has been reversed by many of the organisations he works with, training recruiters in direct sourcing so that they can do it themselves. The corporate teams take on responsibility for sourcing and hiring the core staff with the biggest requirement, and use agency for the one-off positions or specialized roles.

I had this conversation with one of the clients I worked with earlier this year. The graduate team were spending most of their time recruiting for small teams as one-off positions, and using agency for their bulk hiring, they now do this the other way round.

Adam Templeman of RWE NPower shared a great case study about how they have integrated social recruiting and e-recruiting strategies in to the business. Over the last year they have hired 1000 staff. The historical spend was 98% agency, but is now 85% direct hire. Of course there are big cost savings, but one of the big problems was confusion over employer brand. With 136 agencies telling their own version of the story, they were pushing out a really confused message.  Bringing things in-house changed this. They have turned things around by clear messaging, vanity URL’s for each job, and getting active in social, particularly LinkedIn. NPower now hire 40% of their staff via LinkedIn, employing a mixed strategy of sourcing using LinkedIn recruiter accounts, advertising and group activity.

The other interesting data Templeman shared was that 18% of traffic to their career site comes via mobile. Their career site is fully optimised with an additional mobile app. NPower recognize that it is important that the experience is the same whatever the device candidates are using to access the site. Templeman also shared a very neat QR code campaign that worked and that I’m going to include in a post next week. I really enjoyed this presentation, and hope to get NPower to #truLondon to share the story again.

Sally Hunter, of Kelly OCG ran a track at #TruEurope in Brussels about the reasons companies are looking to RPO as a solution. Because they want to move to a direct sourcing model for hiring, but lack the internal expertise. They see RPO as a route to bring in expertise and experience, reducing cost per hire and regaining control and influence over employer brand. An RPO should be bringing much more than hiring to the table, with culture and employer branding being a shared responsibility.

The table I was sat at made up of a mix of HR professionals and recruiters, with a 50/50 split between those who worked with an RPO provider and those who didn’t. As an observer, it was interesting to note what people were willing to outsource, and what functions they wanted to retain. There was a general consensus that the recruitment admin functions like references, CRB checks, scheduling, etc., could easily be outsourced for reasons of both cost and efficiency, but had concerns about outsourcing the recruiting and branding elements, whereas the ones who had taken the plunge were for the most part delighted with the results. An outsourced recruiting partner offered them. I think the key is in achieving real partnership, where the partner has become fully integrated in to the business. The advice of those who had been down the route was not to leave the contracts to the lawyers, involving operational management on both sides to agree realistic expectations, Communication is key, including the RPO team in all operational meetings.

What do you think?

Bill

Disclosure: Kelly OCG are sponsors of #trulondon