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3 tenets for fostering a strong RPO partnership 

October 19, 2023

The ink is still drying on your newly signed recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) partnership, and you’re wondering “What next?” After all, you’ve done a lot of due diligence to get to this point. If you’re like most talent leaders, you’re anxious to hand over all your open requisitions and let your new RPO provider get to it! 

But, wait. When kicking off a partnership with a new RPO provider, the key to success is a robust implementation process. When done properly, the time, effort and resources invested will pay back exponentially. If you rush it, the consequences are great. You’ll leave disappointed hiring managers, HR business partners and candidates in your wake. (Never mind, leaving your new RPO provider in a tough position.) 

Scoping implementation  

The first question RPOs always get is, “how long will implementation take?” Of course, this varies by client and depends on the complexity of the implementation. You can set out on the right foot with a well-defined scope for implementation. Average timeframes range from six to 12 weeks. Complexity can be determined by questions such as: 

  • What are your goals for this RPO implementation? (A lofty one, and sky’s the limit here.) 
  • Does your company have an incumbent RPO provider in place? (Often it means exploring what needs to be done differently for better success.) 
  • What level of variation exists in processes among locations and role types? Do you have global locations with different compliance requirements, hence varying processes? Do role types require different sourcing techniques (likely so) and hiring steps? 
  • What existing talent acquisition (TA) and HR systems are in use, and do they need optimization? A major benefit of using an RPO provider is their technology advisory.  
  • How are you tracking current recruitment efforts and metrics? Is the right data being tracked and measured for success? 

There are a host of other elements that come into play when designing an RPO implementation, but these touch on the complexities that may elongate the timeline. In this stage, communication is the most important factor. Ask a lot of questions and tell your new RPO provider that you expect transparency (not false promises) in return. It will make for a stronger foundation from which to build the relationship – and speedier success.  

3 tenets to RPO success 

No matter the timeline for the RPO implementation, there are three keys that lead to a successful implementation every time. If you can foster these tenets throughout your RPO relationship, they will carry you through any challenges you may encounter. 

#1: Trust: If you haven’t already, you will be sharing sensitive data with your new RPO provider. You will be telling them about where you see challenges in the process and showing them your uncensored recruitment metrics (the good, the bad and the ugly). If you’re guarded and not sure if you can fully trust your new RPO partner, you won’t be able make meaningful strides and progress. They need to be able to see the whole picture to determine how to improve and innovate. Just the same, your new RPO provider needs to trust you. They will be sharing their process design expertise, recruitment marketing prowess and other talent consultation insights with you, and deserve the chance to implement changes and see results come to fruition. 

#2: Partnership: Your new RPO partner is responsible for delivering on the agreed recruitment key performance indicators (KPIs), but you have a vested interest in their success. You want to see your company hiring processes improve, time-to-hire decrease and quality-of-hire increase. Act as a partner to your new provider and give them information, insights or anything else they need to drive success. For example, to accurately represent your employment brand in market, they will need access to brand guidelines and company collateral. Remember: If they succeed, then so do you. After all, you brought them into the organization and have tasked them with improvements to your recruitment efforts. 

#3: Shared ownership: While partnership requires collaboration and swapping of information that leads to success, shared ownership goes a bit deeper. An RPO partnership requires effort from both the client and service provider, and a sense of ownership over success. Your new RPO provider needs an internal advocate to help troubleshoot issues, facilitate ongoing information exchanges and mediate conflicts with an unbiased approach.

An internal sponsor from your organization is critical to gaining participation during implementation and in practice, as well as setting realistic expectations on both sides. Even if you’ve fully outsourced recruitment responsibilities, you’ll still have some legwork to do on a regular basis.  

A commitment to trust, partnership and shared ownership will see you through an RPO implementation and ongoing relationship thereafter.  

Ensuring continuous improvement 

Implementation is only the beginning of an RPO partnership; however, it is the foundation for which the relationship is built. Trust, partnership and shared ownership are integral to seeing that continuous improvement has a place in the process.  

Continuous improvement can only be reached once the process is known and repeatable and there is a mutual trust and shared responsibility for success. This allows both parties to focus on refining processes and elevating goals – then putting effort and resources in place to make them happen.  

As with any transition, issues can crop up, but a thoughtful and rigorous implementation process will help you get through those bumps more smoothly. A successful RPO implementation takes trust, partnership, and shared ownership, but the rewards of winning are well-worth the work it takes to get there. 

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About WilsonHCG

WilsonHCG is an award-winning, global leader in total talent solutions. Operating as a strategic partner, it helps some of the world’s most admired brands build comprehensive talent functions. With a global presence spanning more than 65 countries and six continents, WilsonHCG provides a full suite of configurable talent services including recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), executive search, contingent talent solutions and talent consulting. TALENT.™ It’s more than a solution, it’s who we are.