A complete guide to Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO)
In today’s uncertain economy, HR professionals are facing a tougher-than-ever talent market. As hiring fluctuates, businesses are necessarily downsizing their TA teams, only to be met with a sudden need to rapidly assemble a larger talent function. What’s more, a global talent shortage is making the right candidates harder to find.
Now more than ever, organizations need to do more with less. They need a more strategic, more holistic, and more innovative approach to recruiting and retaining talent. They also must be agile in their own teams – ready to scale up or down when the market demands it.
Thankfully, this is not a challenge that organizations need to tackle alone. An RPO partner can help to supercharge your TA processes and optimize your hiring power in an increasingly competitive market.
But exactly how does RPO work, and why should you consider outsourcing recruitment to an RPO partner? This guide covers frequently asked questions about RPO, from different types of RPO models, to typical RPO services and benefits.
What is RPO?
The acronym ‘RPO’ can have several different meanings when used across a range of industries. But what does RPO stand for in the recruitment space?
Put simply, Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is a form of outsourcing in which an employer transfers part or all or part of its recruitment processes to a third-party provider.
RPO services can include everything from advertising roles and resume screening, to candidate sourcing, interviewing, and hiring. An RPO partner can be responsible for managing your applicant tracking system, coordinating with hiring managers, and ensuring legal compliance. They may support all or just a few of the above areas, depending on your needs. In most cases, they will manage all pathways to talent.
But in recent years, RPO has evolved beyond simply supporting foundational hiring processes. Today, many RPO providers have more holistic expertise that ranges from Talent Acquisition advisory, to employer branding, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
How does RPO work?
RPO providers act as a seamless extension of a business’s HR team to become part of your TA function. Having the right RPO partner will not feel as if your recruitment is being outsourced, but rather that your own team’s expertise has simply grown. They will become embedded in your organization to form a deep knowledge of your culture and build a real relationship to fully understand the pain points and gaps in your recruitment processes.
This level of immersion and collaboration means an RPO provider becomes a true talent partner –crafting an optimized talent acquisition function that creates tangible value for your business. This is measured against a clear Scope of Service, with defined SLAs and KPIs in areas such as:
- Improved candidate quality
- Improved time to hire
- Reduced costs
- Candidate and hiring manager satisfaction rates
An RPO partner’s goal is not simply to fill headcount. Armed with an in-depth understanding of your business and unmatched expertise in the talent market, they will work rigorously to secure the very best people for it – whether that’s filling current vacancies or building your future talent pipeline – as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
What are the different types of RPO models?
When it comes to the simple question, ‘how does RPO work?’, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. While there are three main RPO models, all can be tailored to meet your unique needs. An RPO provider will work alongside you to determine which model best suits your organization.
Enterprise RPO, sometimes called Traditional RPO or Full-Service RPO, involves a long-term RPO partner taking on all your recruitment needs.
This model is best suited to businesses looking for support with complex, long-term talent acquisition strategies and/or high-volume recruitment. Enterprise RPO services will see your outsourcing partner manage the entire recruitment process from start to finish.
As this type of RPO is typically used by organizations who need continuous support with their overall processes, Enterprise RPO partnerships often last over two years.
Learn more about Enterprise RPO in our digital whitepaper, ‘Partner Up to Power Up.’
On-demand RPO (or Project RPO)
On-demand RPO is an agile and flexible alternative designed for organizations not looking for a lengthy outsourcing partnership commitment.
Typically lasting between six months to two years, On-demand RPO partnerships address short-term talent needs on a project-to-project basis amid rapidly changing business demands. This may be to quickly bridge an internal talent resource gap during uncertain times when hiring is fluctuating, or to support with a specific urgent ask – like staffing up a newly-opened office.
On-demand RPO allows businesses to solve short-term hiring challenges while creating long-term value as expertise is often transferred from the RPO partner to your inhouse team. You can temporarily access the support, resources, and expertise available with an Enterprise RPO solution, but flexed to suit a shorter timeline.
Learn more about the benefits of On-demand RPO in our digital whitepaper.
This model offers a tailored combination of both Enterprise and On-demand RPO services across the business depending on specific needs. It is quite common for an outsourcing partner to provide shorter-term, project-based support in one business unit or location, and full-service support in others.
Fitting in recruitment support to scale where and when it’s needed, a Hybrid RPO approach puts flexibility at the forefront of your talent strategy.
RPO benefits: why should I consider an RPO partner?
Working with an RPO partner means harnessing decades of market expertise across a wide range of global industries and recruitment campaigns. Whether you are hiring for a team of thousands or just a few, if you are seeking permanent or contingent, hourly or executive talent, your RPO partner has seen it all.
Rather than replacing your TA team, partnering with a trusted RPO provider will future-proof and supercharge your existing in-house capabilities. If you need support in just one or all the below areas, outsourcing your recruitment process offers a range of benefits:
To mitigate the uncertainty caused by a fluctuating talent landscape, RPO partners are masters of scalability. They can support HR departments in managing these peaks and troughs – moments of high growth or a hiring surge, followed by periods of employee reduction – at speed.
Crucially, an RPO partner will also take on internal hiring risks, allowing businesses to scale their own TA capabilities as the market demands. This helps avoid any rapid decreases or increases in team headcount, which can be a hit to brand reputation.
Working closely with an RPO expert, you can always be ready for what’s next.
The built-in agility afforded by an RPO partner allows businesses to scale cost up and down in line with demand, as well as your TA function. As a result, organizations typically find that they make significant savings with recruitment outsourcing, especially against the use of a staffing agency, due to improved processes, economies of scale, and the ability to leverage lower-cost recruiting channels and technology.
Access the best and widest talent pool
RPO providers have access to an expanded talent pool. Their extensive network of expert recruiters can quickly source, engage, and hire the right people for the right roles.
An RPO partner will also help organizations tap into hidden talent streams. These include existing internal networks – nurturing and upskilling talent already inside the organization. They will also have data-led insights on different industries that are ripe with skills-adjacent talent, which your TA team may not have considered before.
Rethinking internal mobility and bringing in more strategic, skills-based hiring practices has huge advantages in terms of loyalty and recruitment cost, leading to increased productivity and reduced turnover. An RPO provider will be a close advisor in the journey towards a more skills-focused talent function.
Discover more diverse talent
Many RPO providers have in-depth expertise in DEI. They help businesses find talent by proactively considering underrepresented groups and overlooked audiences.
A close RPO partner can review your current attraction strategies and routes to market against in-depth market data to pinpoint exactly where this diverse talent is. What’s more, they have access to sourcing channels that are specifically aimed at minority groups.
With a partner that is truly experienced in DEI, inclusive recruitment becomes standard for your business. RPO providers can also help to implement any changes made to your DEI strategy, and ensure they are long-lasting with real impact.
Improve your employer brand
Having a strong, well-defined employee value proposition (EVP) has been linked to everything from decreased attrition to better productivity and bottom-line impact. But in a tough talent market where candidates are examining organizations with even greater scrutiny, standing out has never been more critical.
Many RPO providers can improve employer brand as part of their expert service. An RPO partner knows how to develop an authentic and compelling EVP. Fully immersing themselves in an organization’s brand, they can communicate your story in a way that is compelling and resonates with candidates.
Build the right tech stack
With thousands of different talent technology solutions available, it can be difficult to identify which are right for your business.
A qualified RPO partner will identify the best technology stack for your business goals, whether that's streamlining candidate processing, or insight-led sourcing. RPO providers regularly trial, rate and rank new solutions on behalf of their clients, giving them deep insight into the talent tech landscape. They can also train TA teams on using the resources if businesses decide to embed them in house.
Craft the best candidate experience
The experienced recruiters that come with working alongside an RPO partner will expertly navigate candidates through every stage of the hiring process. While accessing powerful talent technology is important, RPO partners understand that technology alone will not help you hire better – optimizing how people use it will.
With the right mix of tech and touch, RPO services allow you to find candidates quickly and efficiently, without missing out on the real, human connection that attracts them to your business. Many RPO partners have expert teams dedicated to candidate experience advisory services.
Reduce time to hire
A wider and more diverse talent pool. A streamlined, tech-focused strategy. Data-led market insights. Up-to-the-minute sourcing methods. Expert employer brand advisory teams.
All of the above means that organizations partnering with RPO experts typically find that time to hire comes down. Working with a close partner on these key business elements allows you to find the right candidates faster and move them into roles with ease.
Is outsourcing recruitment with an RPO partner right for me?
If you are unsure whether you should partner with an RPO provider, it’s helpful to ask the following questions:
- Do you find your hiring constantly fluctuating with business demand?
- Do you have hard-to-fill roles?
- Is time to hire and cost to hire going up?
- Do you receive complaints from hiring managers about candidate quality?
- Do you have a retention challenge?
- Are you looking for data and insights to inform your hiring process?
- Do you want to take a more data-driven approach to your hiring?
- Are you struggling to meet your DEI targets?
- Do you struggle to keep up with the fast-moving talent technology landscape?
- Are you looking to build a more effective and agile talent acquisition team?
If the answer to any of the above is ‘yes’, an RPO partner can be an invaluable addition to your talent team. Discover how to build a business case for RPO in your organization today.
For more information on RPO, or for dedicated support from an outsourcing partner you can trust, contact us today.
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