RPO in 2020: Key Takeaways from the RPO Virtual Conference

Guest Contributorby Andrew Brown | Posted | Industry Buzz

RPO in 2020: Key Takeaways from the RPO Virtual Conference

Fun fact: the world of Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is full of misconceptions. Is it expensive? Not always. Is it only for huge companies? Not exactly. Does it mean surrendering control of your recruitment? Nope.

As an RPO leader, I love nothing more than engaging in discussion about the world of recruitment outsourcing, what it really means and the untapped potential it presents. That's why it was incredibly exciting to partner with the Recruitment Process Outsourcing Association (RPOA) on their recent RPO Virtual Conference.

The event brought together leaders across a wide range of businesses to share thoughts, discuss best practice and take a look at what the future holds for this exciting piece of the talent acquisition puzzle. Here are some of the key takeaways from the conference.


RPO and its evolving role

It's important for people to fully understand what RPO is, where it came from and why it's a crucial element in the world of talent acquisition. I was delighted to see the conference open with that very question: "Wait, what is RPO again?".

Cory Kruse – the President of RPO organisation and Saba client, Orion Novotus – kicked off proceedings by talking about where the need for recruitment outsourcing came from, stating that "recruitment is the basic humanitarian mission of finding people jobs and finding organisations people".

When RPO first came about, it was a derivative of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and typically looked to help organisations with volume hiring challenges. But times have changed, and so has RPO! Pam Verhoff from Advanced RPO highlighted this change, saying that "some businesses look at talent acquisition as a basic business function and are happy with the status quo, but most organisations are understanding that they need to do a better job".

With this need for better recruiting and a critical talent acquisition strategy, RPO has carved out an area of the industry where outsourcing firms are working as strategic partners to their clients and effectively becoming an extension of that organisation.

It was fascinating to hear the panelists talking about the misconceptions within RPO and how they're going about tackling those. As RPO becomes more strategic and less an external function, Cory hit the nail on the head: "We need to be careful about how we educate".

Ignoring the 'O' in RPO

A key theme throughout the virtual conference was around ignoring that final piece – outsourcing. How can RPO leaders overcome the stigma of outsourced recruitment and demonstrate how this crucial piece of the TA puzzle will elevate a recruitment strategy and not replace it? Kim Pope, COO at WilsonHCG, thinks it's all about "the journey that the organisation is on and identifying where the solution fits and aligns."

Similarly, Executive Vice President of Global Client Solutions at WilsonHCG, Jenifer Kihm, believes the key is letting clients know what RPO can provide that's different from what they can do themselves. "Partial RPO, RPO in one location, full end to end RPO, reporting, market mapping, technological infrastructure; the RPO toolkit is the power behind the partnership," Kihm said.

It was awesome to see Aberdeen Group on the panel as well, with HCM Analyst Zachary Chertok offering up the stats to confirm what we already know. Hires made through RPO result in:

  • Increased tenure
  • Reduced turnover
  • Increased rates of successfully hiring within the top 3 candidates for a role.

Great news!

Total talent – buzzword or the future of RPO?

At Saba, we in the RPO world have long been talking to the market about our 'total talent solution' – enabling outsourcing providers to support all of their clients, across all types of hiring strategy, all on one platform.

WilsonHCG's Kim Pope made the interesting observation that when you search for information about this concept online, there's not much out there. The reason why, she thinks, might have to do with the ambiguity of what the term actually means. In her words, "talent is talent" and organisations aren't necessarily thinking about the difference between hiring for their permanent vs contingent workforce. Their focus is more on the fact that they have a need and that need has to be met. But, with numbers of contingent workers increasing from 18 percent in 2015 to a predicted 40 percent by the end of 2020, organisations need to start getting creative with how they manage this change.

"Initiative-based work is disrupting the market," said Jennifer Torres, MSP Leader at PeopleScout. This might be true, and if it is then it's more important than ever that talent leaders are reflecting this in their hiring strategies.

Panelists gave several suggestions for how companies can be making a smoother transition into this new 'total talent' future:

  • Making the employer brand attractive is key – regardless of the type of hire. Don't dilute the importance of this element just because a potential new hire isn't due a long tenure.
  • Work on culture – companies like Amazon and Netflix ride out change easily because their culture supports it. Most organisations have a lot of silos and a lack of alignment.
  • Visibility – bring together all the hiring data and make key observations. How are you hiring talent? What's working well? What not so much?
  • Get buy-in – tricky but essential! Decide how you need to innovate your talent acquisition and push the conversation, even if it's uncomfortable.
  • Technology! Bring all the elements of your talent acquisition together. Find a tech partner who can enable standard ATS activity but also vendor management and candidate management capabilities, plus the reporting tool needed to deep dive into the data.

Metrics that matter – speed vs. quality?

How can TA leaders measure the success of their RPO strategies? While there's a myriad of metrics available, John Younger, the founder of Accolo, says that the root of successful measurement lies in both the speed and quality of hiring.

When it comes to speed, the panel agreed that there were three key measurable elements for RPO:

  • Date to present
  • Date to accept
  • Date to start

To measure quality, Cory Kruse suggests a 360-degree diagnostic view carried out over time, and in close alliance with the client.

To better understand the data, Kruse wants clients to segment their results further to identify potential issues. For example, a hiring manager who is frequently unsatisfied with the quality of their hire may be the same hiring manager who lets requisitions sit for weeks before they action!

The future is bright for RPO

The main message throughout the virtual conference was that all organisations are (or will be) facing skills shortages and need to be smarter with their hiring strategies. For outsourcing providers, there is a challenge around shifting the mindset when it comes to RPO and seeing the value that can be added through a true partnership.

RPO doesn't swoop in and take away jobs. It observes, diagnoses and slots into an organisation's talent acquisition strategy to help drive efficiency, best practice and build the employer brand.

Learn more about how Saba supports RPO and MSP providers to deliver better recruitment for their clients.

Driving Better Recruitment Through Exceptional Experiences

Discover what it takes to build a winning recruiting experience.


Download Now
Cover of the book
Cover of the book

Driving Better Recruitment Through Exceptional Experiences

Discover what it takes to build a winning recruiting experience.


Download Now


Related Articles


Close [x]

Get our Saba Blog Digest email delivered right to your inbox.

Join over 100,000 of your HR peers: