Global Director of Client Services Alexander Mann Solutions
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The evolution of RPO: What does the future hold?

31st Aug 2016
Global Director of Client Services Alexander Mann Solutions
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Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) has undoubtedly evolved – many thanks to the development in technological capabilities. Such advances have enabled experts to tap into wider pools of talent, better identify and analyse where skills gaps are and where to find the talent to fill these, and even evaluate when individuals are likely to exit a business in order to better create truly strategic workforce plans.

However, many of these developments outlined above perhaps couldn’t have been predicted ten years ago, such is the nature of the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment we live in. With this in mind, just what does the future hold for RPO and the HR professionals involved?

Before we can answer this in detail, it’s important to set the scene by analysing just how RPO has evolved. When first established, this service essentially did what it said on the tin, it was the outsourcing of recruitment processes to an external provider.

Newspaper job adverts, phone calls, employee referrals and the use of the recruiter rolodex were common practice, as was the focus on filling immediate role requirements rather than a strategic long-term focus. Indeed, it really was a numbers game, and RPO firms were used to identify the proverbial needle in the haystack, rather than discovering where the best talent is before conducting targeted engagement and sourcing strategies.

So what’s changed?

Perhaps the biggest change is that RPO is no longer ‘outsourced’ in the traditional sense. The evolving nature of talent and indeed corporate requirements has led to greater integration of RPO teams with their clients and talent networks alike. Candidates now place greater emphasis on selecting an employer that does meaningful work in their eyes. According to the PwC Future of Work report, 65% would like to work for an organisation with a powerful social conscience. Coupled with the fact that candidates look for an employer which has a culture that suits their own; being engaged by a recruiter from outside the business can be seen as a turn off for applicants.

Interestingly, however, it was the strategic RPO firms who first came to this conclusion and then began educating their clients as to why the traditional way they’ve been working together is no longer valid. Indeed, the successful firms who have not just survived, but truly thrived throughout the evolution of RPO have been those able to convey the fact that simply outsourcing is no longer the way forward. These experts forged the way for a partnership approach that would see RPO teams become truly embedded consultants within client organisations.

Technology has also led to the overhaul of RPO. Not only has it made it much easier to reach a wider range of talent pools and engage with them on a regular basis – through social media for example – but is has also made it possible to take a longer term strategic focus. With the ability to use data to predict talent trends, it’s now much easier to identify where skills gaps are likely to emerge, where the candidates to fill these can be found and, more recently, how long an individual is likely to remain with a business.

Looking to the future, this rise of technology in hiring and talent management practices will only continue, particularly as predictive analytics begin to play a greater role in recruitment strategies. These data based predictions enable an individual’s core competencies, soft skills and personal profile to be assessed, with little bias, in line with the role and company culture. More importantly, it is this tool that can pre-empt which existing employees may be looking for a job move – handy information in an uncertain world where the war for top talent is rife.

We also expect to see the trend for RPOs becoming integrated partners to increase. Now that’s not to say that the role of the traditional recruiter is now dead – if that were the case there wouldn’t be so many successful firms operating now. Instead, niche recruitment firms will dominate the sector and RPOs and these agencies will increasingly work together to deliver the best results possible for clients and candidates. In essence, the RPO and recruitment field will continue to evolve together. Those that fail to keep up with the pace of change will be the ones to lose out to the competition.

For organisations to continue to thrive, agility is key. Without the ability to adapt quickly and seamlessly to the evolving market, talent acquisition and management strategies will quickly become outdated and irrelevant.

For human resources teams, knowing that you have a partner that is experienced in the above criteria and constantly strives to stay ahead of the curve is certainly a must.

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