U.S. jobless claims are at a seven-year high. More than 9 million Americans are now out of work, and unemployment is cutting across all industries. And with a global recession looming, analysts don't expect unemployment rates to dip anytime soon.
The result is something HR professionals haven't seen for years: a talent glut. Just months ago, HR pros who were tasked with hiring were trying desperately to fill positions and unable to find candidates.
Now the problem has reversed. Instead of a talent shortage, recruiters are buried in an influx of resumes, and sorting through them to find the right candidate is stretching time and resources thin.
Now more than ever, recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) is an attractive option for overworked HR professionals tasked with ensuring a steady stream of qualified talent for their organizations and minimizing time to fill. This outsourcing option may be used to streamline decentralized recruitment systems and processes, maximizing overall efficiencies.
RPO providers are responding to the increased need for recruitment process outsourcing by rolling out a host of specialized services, including assessments, requisition management, advertising, recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, and program management—all of which, taken in total, comprise an end-to-end solution.
The $80 billion HR outsourcing industry is growing at a compounded annual rate of 12 percent, driving the RPO segment to $30 billion overall. Regardless of the economic environment, companies are realizing that transferring all, or part of, their recruitment process to a single outsourcing provider makes good sense.
But for a company that hasn't tried RPO before, navigating this new frontier can be daunting, and result in failure if not implemented and managed correctly. Here are three techniques that can help HR professionals make the move to RPO and reclaim their inbox.
1. Uncover the Real Skills. Recruitment process outsourcing works best when the business and RPO provider share a detailed understanding of the positions that need to be filled. However, this means more than just job titles and descriptions. The HR pro and RPO partner need to uncover everything they can about vacant positions and the company's criteria.
The HR department should start by taking an inventory of open positions and drill into the full array of skills required to fill each slot. Ask department heads to list the fundamental skills of their top performers, as well as additional skills they’d like in all new hires.
For example, when seeking a programmer, HR organizations often define and advertise the role as "Visual Basic programmer" or "Java application developer." But an experienced RPO partner needs to know more. Depending on the position, they might want to cast a net for candidates with a flair for AJAX, XML, PHP, ASP, RIA, and so on.
These acronyms might seem like alphabet soup to a recruiter, but they’re standard lingo when hiring hig--impact talent. Likewise, HR pros often advertise data center positions using generic terms such as "networking manager." The result is a mountain of resumes.
An RPO partner, on the other hand, would leverage deeper understanding about the position to target skill sets, such as fluency in virtualization, data management, storage, IP, security, and privacy.
When taking a skills inventory, it's also important to consider the management traits needed, such as leadership, project management experience, mentoring, and communication skills. Fifty-five percent of IT decision-makers, for example, say project management is a "missing skill set" among techies, according to a 2007 survey by Forrester Research.
It's critical for the HR professional to work with the RPO partner to establish some of the traits of current successful employees. Targeting the skill set is important, but identifying position potential is vital, as well. Could there be other predictive indicators that might influence success? What about the concept of time to productivity? Keeping in mind the timeline as to when an employee is expected to be productive is a crucial factor to success. For example, incorporate time to adapt to the learning curve, as well as time to complete the background processes into the equation.
2. Build a Talent Pipeline. Most HR professionals simply have too many positions to fill, and not enough time to properly vet and place candidates. Shortcuts are taken, and recruiters often are forced to role the dice and hope for the best.
RPO turns this problem on its head. The keystone of RPO is an in-depth screening process, which reliably determines whether candidates are a good fit. The RPO provider evaluates technical skills and experience, leadership qualities, personal demeanor, and additional company criteria that will contribute to a candidate’s success.
To maintain a competitive edge, however, businesses also must use RPO to build and maintain a pipeline of qualified prospective employees. This insulates the organization from market fluctuations and ensures the business is prepared to efficiently react and fill vacancies as they arise.
Begin by identifying the crucial positions and roles that add the most value to your organization. These positions are often the hardest to fill, and pose the highest business risk when they remain vacant for a period of time. Once identified, work with your RPO vendor to source active job seekers for these roles, even though the positions currently are filled.
Also, seek high-caliber passive candidates who might consider leaving their current position should the right opportunity come about. In the sales world, an effective sales team knows that in addition to a base of revenue-producing clients, a rich pipeline of potential clients is vital to achieving sustainable success. The same can be said for passive candidates in the job market. By developing early relationships with passive candidates, RPO providers build a virtual pipeline of potential hires. Much like the sales analogy, frequent, appropriate communications are crucial in order to be the first company the passive candidate considers once in job-search mode.
By establishing a rich pool of talent, you can jump start searches when a position opens, or the moment you suspect a current employee might leave. Obviously, developing a rich pipeline of talent can have a marked impact on business continuity. More important, it mitigates the risk of hiring the wrong candidate when you’re forced to move quickly to fill a critical position.
3. Keep RPO Aligned with the Business. RPO is not a one-size-fits-all solution. In fact, a process that works perfectly for one business might be a recipe for disaster for another. Your RPO plan must be closely aligned with your company's specific requirements and its overall business plan.
Leadership's readiness to outsource HR functions is the first requirement to reaping the benefits of RPO. Develop a sense of your company's growth plans and goals, and evaluate how your RPO solution will help reach them. If the organization has outsourced HR functions in the past, revisit the obstacles that arose, and work with your RPO partner to prevent them from reoccurring.
Work with your RPO partner to establish internal processes that facilitate communication and collaboration. For example, be sure there are mechanisms for the RPO vendor and your hiring managers to discuss position requirements and provide two-way feedback in a timely manner.
Also, look for an RPO provider who can help you measure your RPO ROI, and provide predictive indicators that help determine annual hiring volume and need. Some of these indicators are historical turnover, succession planning, and employee development.
Keep these simple tips in mind when seeking an RPO relationship, and your HR department, and business, will weather any talent storm. With an efficient recruiting process, your business predictably will score top-quality candidates, anticipate demand, and reduce hiring and onboarding costs. And workplace talent and productivity will soar.
Adam Lawrence is vice president at Yoh, a provider of high-impact talent and outsourcing services, and a unit of Day & Zimmermann. For more information, visit www.yoh.com.