Building relationships through RPO

by 17 Apr 2007

In an effort to improve efficiencies and focus on core business, recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) is being used by organisations to attract talented staff. Carole Goldsmith speaks with HR professionals from a variety of industries that have integrated RPO into their businesses

When selecting an RPO supplier, finding a suitable HR partner is the key to making the process work effectively. The benefits of RPO include reduced staff turnover, a quicker recruitment process, a central point for staff selection and access to a larger talent market.

RPO at Jones Lang LaSalle

Helen Smirniotis, head of HR at Jones Lang LaSalle Australasia, describes RPO as partnering with a high quality partner to manage the recruitment and talent process. As one of the world’s leading commercial real estate services and money management firms, Jones Lang LaSalle employs more than 1,300 people and has offices throughout Australia.

“The RPO supplier is contracted to run the day-to-day operations of the recruitment function, and, more strategically, to develop talent pools to support our workforce planning requirements. The most effective approach is to have the recruitment specialists based within our firm, and part of the HR team,” Smirniotis says.

Talent2 is Jones Lang LaSalle’s main RPO provider, with five of the HR outsourcing company’s staff hosted by Jones Lang LaSalle’s own HR team. The company has outsourced their entire recruitment process to Talent2, including internal mobility and external recruitment. Jones Lang LaSalle still maintains close relationships with a number of key employment agencies, which provide additional support to the recruitment centre at times when specialist recruits may be difficult to source and timeframes are tight.

RPO at New Zealands Ministry of Justice

Colin Geard, senior recruitment advisor at New Zealand’s Ministry of Justice, regards RPO as a partnership between the ministry and a chosen recruitment supplier. The ministry provides strategic and policy advice across the justice sector, with 2,400 employees distributed across 103 locations.

“Since November 2004, our preferred RPO provider is Kelly Services, which delivers RPO solutions through their HRfirst division. Prior to that, we had an agreement with two other suppliers,” Geard says.

Geard estimates that 95 per cent of the Ministry of Justice’s recruitment workload is completed in conjunction with Kelly Services’s HRfirst team, which currently recruits for 23 different ministry roles, and works out of both Kelly Services and Ministry of Justice offices.

Fosters Group and Talent2

For Laurie Hibbs, Foster’s Group’s HR director –corporate, RPO allows a company to retain control over selection while allowing a third party to complete the sourcing, management of the application process, manager liaison and offer coordination. Their RPO partner is also responsible for the maintenance of the recruitment system.

Talent2 has been providing Foster’s in Australia with an onsite RPO team since April 2005. One Talent2 employee works from Sydney and a second representative travels interstate to service Foster’s other Australian sites. The global multi-beverage company employs 4,500 people across the world, with sites in Australia, London, California’s NapaValley, and Asia.

According to Hibbs, the group decided to use an external RPO supplier in order to enable the local HR teams to concentrate on creating a high performance culture across the company.

Foster’s Group uses Talent2 for all its professional, managerial and technical recruitment up to executive level, while a range of different providers are used for frontline recruitment. Talent2 source and shortlist candidates, co-interview those candidates with their prospective managers, complete the offer management process, and create and maintain records for the group’s recruitment database.

Part of the team

Jones Lang LaSalle’s Smirniotis regards its RPO supplier’s staff as part of its HR team. “Internally we refer to them as the recruitment centre, to ensure our managers understand that they are part of the organisation,” she says.

Among its tasks, the recruitment centre confirms job descriptions and employee specifications, determines sourcing strategies, advertises roles internally (current employees are granted priority), assesses résumés, conducts telephone screening and designs the interview guide. They are also responsible for short-listing candidates, conducting biographical and behavioural interviews and testing, carrying out reference checks, managing the offer process, scheduling hiring manager interviews, and providing interview coaching for managers.

At Foster’s, the RPO supplier manager reports directly to Hibbs, and the RPO team is fully integrated into the HR team. “Although recruitment is a key HR skill, the benefits of the arrangement with the RPO is that they are a trusted partner and provide the same levels of manager service as our own employees – but with the added benefit of consistency and some advantageous commercial deals. It’s equivalent to having a highly skilled in-house recruitment team, but only because of the closeness of the relationship,” says Hibbs.

Geard indicates that the Ministry of Justice maintains a similarly integrated approach to the partnership: “The RPO team is really part of our organisation. They know so much about the roles of the various positions and what fits the Ministry.”

The benefits of using an RPO supplier

In assessing the cost-benefits of using an RPO, Smirniotis suggests that “initially we see this as an investment in our future, which will position us ahead of the competition. We expect a reduction in recruitment expenses as staff turnover decreases and as people stay longer with us because they are in the right job and the right company.”

At the Ministry of Justice, Geard advises that one of the major cost-benefits in recruitment using Kelly Services is the fast turnaround time. “We can recruit a new employee in two weeks, and the previous ministry process turnaround-time was slower. Managers are also doing their processing for new positions quickly, as they don’t want to lose talented candidates.”

“Although Kelly Services does not recruit our judges, they assist us in finding their personal assistants. Some of our judges commented ‘we are recruiting a high calibre of candidate’,” Geard says.

He says that the benefits gained from using their current RPO team include increased efficiencies providing more time for managers to focus on core business; more freedom for managers to work with and manage their staff; plus substantial increases in staff retention, particularly in the ministry contact centre. Other benefits include cost savings as a result of staff spending less time on recruitment; increased turnaround-time of securing talented staff; and more accessible advertising through a wide range of websites and markets.

Hibbs reports that there are challenges in having a commercially-led recruitment team at Foster’s, but their RPO provider has managed to balance their own need to generate revenue against their host’s customer service demands exceptionally well. This is partially through the contract terms, but mainly because of the close relationship.

For Hibbs, the positives of partnering with an RPO provider are that costs are controllable; service levels are pre-agreed and consistent; and that there are advantages to having a central negotiator for agencies or advertising suppliers to refer to. Hibbs also values having their expertise in-house for the development of psychometric and behavioural interview standards, as well as other specialist issues.

Hibbs has found that the only down side to an RPO partnership is the time taken to establish relationships at more remote sites, compared to relying on local Foster’s HR personnel who are already familiar with the market and suppliers.

Employers need to change to attract talent

“As an employer, no one can afford to be complacent in thinking that people will eagerly access opportunities with them. Potential employees are far more demanding and have greater expectations of employers than ever before,” Smirniotis says.

“I think this is exciting and challenging as the gauntlet has been thrown by candidates and employers need to be prepared to do things differently and be sensitive to issues like their stand on the environment. It is important for potential employees to know what organisations are all about before they become interested in them.”