Talent Acquisition

To RPO or Not to RPO?

To RPO or not to RPO? (Recruitment Process Outsourcing that means of course.)

Frankly, that headline scans better when I’m writing about TUPE, but I’ll leave that for my ER blog.

About three years ago, I headed back into the world of recruitment. The recruitment team at the organisation in question was outsourced and the first thing that I did in my new role was in-source it back again. Well, not literally the first thing, I had a cup of tea and thought it over. But it was the best decision I could have made.

The rule of three

When it comes to outsourcing in general, I am a big believer in the rule of three. You should only outsource in one of the following three circumstances:

  1. Someone else can do it significantly better or significantly cheaper
  2. It’s just not core
  3. It’s broken and you don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to fixing it

On the first point, the word significantly, is well, significant. Outsourcing isn’t that straightforward. You have TUPE to consider for a start if you currently undertake the activity yourself. Added to this an additional supplier relationship to manage, not least the thorny issue of deciding who is the best supplier in the first place. That’s why if you are only saving a fiver I’d question whether it is the right thing to do.

If you genuinely don’t have the internal knowledge, skills or experience to make improvements then consider outsourcing, but you need to be totally clear on the business benefits that the outsource arrangement is going to deliver before starting down this path, as there is guarantee of success, just a set of contractual KPIs and SLAs.

Why not recruitment?

It’s a personal decision for every company whether outsourcing is right for them. I just believe it’s hard for any business serious about attracting the best talent for their organisation to say that recruitment isn’t a core business activity.

If you outsource recruitment you are trusting a third party with your brand. They also have a vested interest in retaining your business which doesn’t necessarily mean they are focused on the things that matter to you.

Can a third party really understand your business as well as you do? Can they help you find the elusive ‘culture fit’ if they are not part of your culture? To make sure that they can, those outsourced individuals providing your recruitment service will need to be so imbedded within your organisation, that they might as well be working for your organisation.

I do think that there are aspects of recruitment that aren’t necessarily core, and can and should be outsourced. A good example is the recruitment might be temps or contractors, depending on your business model. I have outsourced this and jolly well it works too. This ticks point number two on my rule of three list; it’s not core. I believe that an in-house recruitment team can add more value focusing on hiring people who will be with us for the long term rather than on shorter term requirements, so it makes sense to outsource these requirements.

There can be benefits to an RPO arrangement. Some claim it can save you money, although this isn’t my own experience. If your agreement is sufficiently flexible you can make some of your fixed costs variable if you have fluctuating recruitment volume. And…….. that’s my full list.

I know some people won’t agree with these views. They think that the employer brand / core argument is trite. Ultimately it depends on your business model. If I worked in a high turnover, high volume environment then maybe I would consider RPO again. But right now, the only people that I want to recruit for us, is us.

Related: What is the Point of a Recruitment PSL?

By Gemma Reucroft

Gemma Reucroft is a HR professional specialising in recruitment and employee relations, with a passion for coaching. She tweets as @HR_Gem.