RTT – The Pros and Cons of a Multi-market RPO Rollout

These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Resourcing Think Tank (RTT) held on Thursday 25th April 2013 hosted by American Express’ Thea Fineren (EMEA Recruitment Director), titled ‘The Pros and Cons of a Multi-market RPO Rollout’.

The following summary has been prepared to reflect a segment of the discussion held amongst senior Resourcing and HR professionals from leading UK and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.

A common misconception when enlisting the services of an RPO is that RPO stands for Recruitment Problem Outsourcing. We all know that this of course isn’t the case, but it seems worrying the amount of businesses that will willingly outsource their recruitment before fully understanding the process and what good looks like for their organisation. When utilised effectively, this model can: help reduce costs, improve process and brand consistency, relieve pain from the business and provide flexibility depending on hiring volumes. So, what are the implications, limitations and challenges of rolling out a pan-market RPO model?

Foreseeing the Challenges

When looking to fundamentally change the way recruitment is delivered globally by enlisting an RPO(s), there are naturally going to be some stumbling blocks. One of the most notable is the cultural acceptance of the model. For example, it’s crucial to be aware that in parts of Europe, such as Switzerland, RPOs aren’t a widely used or accepted tool. This poses a challenge for securing the trust of regional hiring managers and also for finding good RPO recruiters.

When tackling the former issue, it’s essential to prove the model in these non-believing regions. Rather than bursting in with a bulldozer, suggest your RPO works in addition to the current local hiring model and demonstrate the ROI in terms of time and cost savings, and of course quality improvements. Looking at the latter challenge of finding good RPO recruiters in these less established RPO markets, it begs the question ‘why does an RPO have to sit locally amongst the region it is recruiting for?’ Whilst much of  today’s recruitment is conducted online and assuming that your remote RPO recruiters culturally fit the region they are recruiting for, there’s no reason your German hiring centre can’t sit in the Netherlands, for example.

Additionally, being aware of the cultural complications that could arise is advisable. Within parts of Asia it is culturally unacceptable to work for an RPO and recruiters often won’t receive basic resources like business cards, if associated with such an employer. A recommended way around this is to employ the recruiters on a contract basis so they are pay-rolled from the client organisation and therefore receive the benefits of working directly for the company.

Finally, ensuring your recruitment technology platform and processes are scalable across multiple geographies is paramount. Operating a universal system will improve compliance, make reporting on recruitment far more straight-forward and will positively impact the internal mobility of your employees.

Understand what you’re Outsourcing

Before making the decision to introduce a global RPO model, it’s firstly crucial to fully understand the structure of your global resourcing policies and importantly be confident in what it’s delivering. After all, how can you possibly outsource a process you don’t understand yourself? Once you have this process mapped, it provides a solid starting point to refer back to and measure against.

Solutions not Problems

Discovering a one-size fits all global multi-market RPO seems like a bit of a long shot, however it’s absolutely possible to develop a global RPO model with some regional ‘plugs’. It’s essential to avoid generalising on behalf of your markets and understand what works for individual regions. Whilst it’s arguably impossible to centralise your entire global resourcing process, you can introduce a set of minimum standards which must be abided to regardless of location. This then allows for the processes conducted in the individual markets to be more tailored and suited to the region’s requirements, whilst always maintaining the minimum standards from a reporting and consistency perspective.

To ensure that regionally all standards are upheld, processes have to be driven from the top down and if possible fronted by someone of authority from the c-suite population. Moreover, make it impossible for hiring managers to deviate from formal practices by preventing new joiners from being issued an email address and ID card if the correct avenue (RPO) has not been involved in the process.

Hybrid Resourcing Models

A growing trend within the resourcing space seems to be the utilisation of a hybrid model, whereby internal recruitment looks after Executive level and campus recruitment and the RPO manages everything else. Other variations of this blended approach sees internal resourcing managing ‘biller’ or ‘revenue generating’ hires in-house to mitigate the risk of employer brand damage as much as possible.

Getting the Contract Right

Deciding on your RPO provider is a task in itself, but the real challenge lies with getting the contract right. This is the most important element of the RPO implementation and will ultimately govern the behaviour and your relationship with the provider. Within this all important document every eventuality must be planned for, from price and exit strategies, through to service sensitive changes and volume variations. Your business projections for Year 1 won’t be the same for Year 2; therefore it’s crucial to build flexibility into your contract. It’s likely that your business objectives will change and you don’t want to be in a position where you continually have to renegotiate your RPO contract.

Another element of the contract which cannot be overlooked is your exit strategy. It’s important to remember that nothing lasts forever and there will need to be a termination point when your relationship comes to an end. What will this look like and who will own your candidate data? Finally, when overseeing the implementation of your RPO, ensure it’s a consolidated decision and involves a blend of Resourcing, HR and Procurement to ensure all parties’ key objectives have been met with the proposed solution.

Partnering with your RPO

Developing a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with your RPO is crucial for sustained success and ensuring you get the best out of the service. Investigate how the RPO manages and incentivises their employees; you want an engaged team focused on quality, not hitting ‘pie in the sky’ targets.

Tips for building an effective RPO partnership:

  • Ensure that all systems and processes are completely transparent
  • Build in candidate meeting / travel costs to your RPO contract to help ensure cultural fit and expertise match the role requirements
  • Avoid targeting recruiters on individual KPIs but on meeting the overall SLAs of the client
  • Always treat your RPO recruiters as ‘your people’ and where possible stipulate their salaries in your contract to ensure quality
  • Get involved in the recruiters’ professional development and collaborate on mapping out the team’s succession plan with the RPO.

Final Thoughts

For some businesses operating a multi-market model might not be right, but the fact is that if managed appropriately, it can be very effective. However, the main objectives really need to be routed around quality and consistency, as apposed to cost. It’s also crucial to take into consideration the cultural barriers and challenges that might exist when utilising a pan-market approach. For recruiters, multi-lingual capabilities within these varied regions are a necessity to demonstrate a deeper understanding of the market and individuals working within it.


  • When rolling out a global process, set consistent minimum standards across all locations and then build upon the process dependent on region
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of an exit strategy within your RPO contract; with particular reference to candidate data ownership
  • Ensure you fully understand what will be required from a change management perspective when enlisting the support of an RPO
  • When it comes to outsourcing to an RPO, there isn’t a one size fits all model; the process will undoubtedly morph into something slightly different depending on location and culture
  • Remember that you’re signing up with the long-term in mind; your business pressures aren’t static so there needs to be a degree of flexibility built into your contractual arrangement  – you don’t want to be continually renegotiating
  • Work closely with your RPO to influence the professional development of your recruiters and where possible help construct the succession plans within your outsource provider
  • You can’t just outsource a problem – you need to understand what you are outsourcing before you do it. Otherwise, how can you possibly measure success?
Oasis HR

Written by , Network Driven HR Recruitment

Oasis HR is a multi-award winning HR Recruitment Agency based in London that delivers Contingency and Search services within the Human Resource and Business Change Markets. Our client base encompasses all industry sectors and we have a proven track record of delivering permanent, interim and temporary professionals at all levels across all HR disciplines. From a £20k HR Administrator to a £200k HR Director, Oasis HR is well placed to identify, approach and secure the best available talent in the market

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