Friday, November 19, 2010


A fellow recruiter I bumped into the other day was giving me their twopence worth on the current state of play in recruitment and the world in general. The upshot being, what on EARTH was I thinking in looking to collaborate with the enemy. For enemy, read RECRUITMENT PROCESS OUTSOURCING.

Good question, I thought. They ARE the enemy, right? Well in actual fact I think it depends where your thinking is at. Is it in the past, present or future? Ideally it will be a combination of the latter two. The past, other than a reference point to help us understand and learn how we are doing now, is not actually that helpful. Just as the Australians might go on about their fantastic record as a cricketing nation, at present they are a shadow of their former selves and no longer own that most sought after of urn's, otherwise known as "The Ashes".


Whilst Australia face the turmoil of change, England, along with some of the emerging nations have looked at the past experience and performance of the boys in the baggie green caps to see how they can learn and build for the future, because if they were not to look and learn and subsequently change what they were doing, their very presence at the top table of world cricket was looking decidedly dodgy. Just look at what happens if you wallow in the past. Think West Indies and, whisper it quietly, Australia. The answer is backwards!

The emergence and subsequent emergence of RECRUITMENT PROCESS OUTSOURCING (RPO) in the recruitment world has I feel, brought some much needed changes to the industry. And instead of being in denial, the sector needs to wake up and begin to engage them, rather than bury our heads in the sand and stay in denial. If you don't believe me then click here to read this well written post by Damien Stork, Director at Ochre House. If you work on the agency side it's scary. And if you work on the agency side and are not sitting up and taking notice, it'll only get even scarier.

I'm going to take notice. Take my own employer, the Stopgap Group. Our market position as specialists in marketing and HR recruitment as well as the reputation we have built over the years, means that we work with many of the FTSE 250 organisations; however the last five years has seen a number of them outsource some or all of their recruitment activity to third parties. Consequently, an increasing proportion of our business is being done through these companies and we wanted to recognise that these RPO's and Managed Service Providers (MSP's) were important customers too. As a result and from what we can tell looking at the current market, we have been the first recruitment company to make a commitment in creating a bespoke role within it's business, through our"Head of Commercial Partnerships". This innovative new role is designed to focus largely on developing and managing relationships with RPOs, MSPs and other third party providers. And it's this that was the foundation of the "enemy" jibe.

I passionately believe that this is a great opportunity. We already have some valuable relationships with these organisations and work hard to meet our objectives with them though service level agreements and and KPI's. However, I believe that there is a missed opportunity to work more proactively across the wider business, building on our existing relationships and exploring new ones too. We believe that it will be great for our business and our customers to have a full-time focus on this growing and ever changing area. Recruitment is changing and evolving at a pace not witnessed previously and it's exciting for Stopgap to be leading in some of that change.

And are the RPOs the enemy in the same way that those age old adversaries Australia and England are? No, why should they be and more importantly, they can't be! They will continue to play a key role in constant change in recruitment and the agency side can choose to be at the party or not.
And we have to be honest here. RPO have already brought some improvements in to play. We are already seeing some of the better, smarter outsourcing providers develop additional offerings - outside of core recruitment for example. So it's ALREADY in a state of evolution with offerings or added value including "employer branding", bespoke talent attraction strategies and so on, as well as including the improvement in some organisations ability and efficiencies in identifying and maximising talent they already have within their own building!

Furthermore, whilst outsourcing requirements will grow and the suite of services expand or shift, I sense that there will be a trend in RPOs and the like, specialising in certain areas to differentiate themselves.
In turn, whilst some HR departments relinquish recruitment as part of their remit, I believe that there will be some movement towards more employers introducing their own in-house teams as they learn enhanced processes, sourcing techniques and the importance of strategic employer branding from the very RPOs that they have employed to that point. So we'll all need to get smarter at how we collaborate with these teams too, because this is another trend that is already very current....

Along with other trends such as the rise of social networking and the in-house model mentioned above, RPO is playing an instrumental role in effecting change across the recruitment industry. Much of this has been for the better, such as bringing more rigour, structure and discipline to bear where, lets face it, it was sorely needed. The rub is that I sense an over emphasis on cost reduction could detract from the offering and the genuine opportunity to collaborate with specialist agencies. Driving out unnecessary cost and making recruitment a leaner business is 100% the right thing for all of us to be doing, but if it is the lead objective in any recruitment, not just where it has been outsourced, then corners will get cut and the potential benefits will not follow, meaning that the best talent won't either.

So the message is, certainly from what I am witnessing in my conversations with RPO and in-house recruiters, that we need to up our game on the agency side. The fact of the matter is though, that the recruitment industry or recruitment agencies typically follow market trends as opposed to leading them or innovating to add value when change occurs. We need to look at ways to change that dynamic, and we are taking the approach of looking to collaborate with "the enemy".

So far the prognosis is really encouraging. I've met a lot of super people during the early days in my new role and had some very good, open, frank and yes, collaborative conversations. There is a general agreement that RPOs do want to move their rather transactional relationships with recruiters on to one that has greater depth and transparency.

I have though, encountered some suspicion or mistrust from the odd RPO in what we are looking to achieve with them. This may well be a manifestation of competing for the same ground some or much of the time, but the overall indications are hugely encouraging and that we can build closer ties to become true partners rather than simply suppliers.

This is an exciting time in recruitment. The pace of change is unprecedented and by looking to truly engage with third parties and bring a specialist approach to how we work with them, the future can be as bright as I'm sure England's visit to Australia will be this winter!

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