Industry Experts Share Valuable Insights on Trends in Global RPO

by Tim Plamondon


Global demands for talent and talent solutions are on the rise as the world rebounds from the pandemic. Recent research by the Everest Group shows an increase in global recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) activities since Q4 2020 and predicts continued growth into 2021. 

In a recent panel discussion hosted by the Recruitment Process Outsourcing Association (RPOA), Erin Peterson, Global RPO Consultant at PeopleResults, Kathy Auld, Customer-Focused Recruitment Ninja at Pontoon Solutions, and Andrew Brown, Head of Recruitment Outsourcing Partners at Cornerstone OnDemand,  shared informative insights on the current state of global RPO. 

Overall, increased demands for global RPO have changed the role of RPO providers (RPOs) and RPO Technology. The experts discussed drivers, changes, challenges, and success stories of global RPO. This article is a recap of their discussion. 

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What is Causing the Rise in Global RPO Demand?

Increased global RPO demand suggests to many RPO executives the existence of pent-up business demand.  However, pent-up business might not be the only driver of increased RPO adoption. Other possible drivers could be that organizations started to understand and reap the value and benefits of RPO. RPO allows organizations to pivot fast internally during sudden disruptions in the labor markets. Auld explained that companies initially scaled back their internal recruiting resources during the pandemic, reducing their workforce and down-staffing. As the economy bounced back, companies experienced dramatic shifts in business. “To scale up quickly and with flexibility, [organizations] are turning to RPO more frequently than they may have in times past,” said Auld, “because they can escalate their recruiting more quickly than they can within their internal resources."

Global RPO Market Shifts

“Because of this new-found agility and flexibility, companies are now figuring out whether they need local RPO partners or one global partner,” Brown said. These business explorations will develop into new trends in global RPO. 

Along with shifts in global demand, the pandemic-induced distributions have caused changes in the relationship between RPOs and their clients. Traditionally, the relationship has been strategic; source and hire the best talent. However, over the last year, that relationship has expanded to RPOs taking over post-hire and talent management functions. Brown commented that "over the last 12 months or so, we've seen a lot more focus around learning… and the concept of re-skilling versus rehiring,” not part of traditional RPO services. 

Brown referenced total talent acquisition and total talent management as new trends he is seeing in the global RPO space. "We're certainly seeing more and more of an uptick or conversations anyway about total talent management as opposed to total talent acquisition,” Brown said. 

Companies are experiencing RPO’s flexibility through these strategic relationships. Companies know RPOs can help them quickly increase or decrease their hiring functions. From this experience, companies now see RPOs as trusted hiring and talent management partners. “There's a lot more trust there,” Brown observed. As RPOs build more trust with their clients, they become open to expanding the partnership to new scopes such as “ learning, re-skilling, total talent management."

Increase in Demand for RPOs to Support Re-Skilling

There does seem to be an increase in demand for RPOs to support internal mobility programs like re-skilling. Traditionally, RPO clients handled re-skilling in-house, but that seems to be changing. And along with that change comes the question of how technology can help. "Internal mobility is absolutely top of everyone's list at the moment," Brown said. Organizations are looking to mobilize and understand what skills they have internally. “This is one of those areas that we talk about a lot when considering re-skilling for the jobs of tomorrow, especially blue-collar and, I suppose, the evolution of different roles in that region,” Brown said. Organizations are looking to understand how tech can support and enable this internal mobility and reskilling. 

Technology Expectations Met With True Partnership and Commitment

While the demand for technology to help with internal mobility might be rising, RPO clients also have expectations that RPOs have the technology stack to enable the best results. However, Auld believes that RPOs and their clients need true partnership and commitment for the technology to meet those expectations. Auld observed that there is more emphasis on technology in recent RFPs (request for proposals). In particular, clients want to know “what does your technology stack do? How does it integrate with ours? What are you bringing to the table?” 

However, there is another important factor to make technology work. Auld explained “There's an expectation that RPO providers will bring tools to the table, but there still isn't the understanding on the customer side that in order to make everything sing, and be a completely frictionless process and deliver the best outcomes, there is some true partnership and commitment on both sides that are required."

Best Practices for RPO technology

As an RPO tech provider, Auld gave some advice about technology best practices. Technology for an RPO solution is not a one-size-fits-all. Auld believes that before introducing and integrating a technology into a tech stack, it’s vital for the provider to understand its needs. "Understanding the why behind a customer and what their ecosystem looks like is really critical,” she said. “So depending on what stack they bring to the table, what portion of the business, or what portion of the recruitment they're looking to outsource, bringing their own technologies to the table may be a great option. Or we may just bring complementary systems to the table.”

RPOs Need to Be Flexible When Working With an RPO Tech Partner

The pandemic has changed the way companies work and recruit talent. Candidate needs and behavior changed as well. Companies are now looking for RPOs that have the advanced technologies to reduce hiring costs. Therefore, Auld believes that RPOs need to be adaptable when working with an RPO tech provider. 

The pandemic has definitely forced companies to reevaluate how they operate. The work environment has changed in a way that none of us could have expected. And along with that, the needs of candidates have shifted and changed as well, said Auld. “And so RPOs need to allow for that flexibility, to say, 'we don't know exactly what strategy we want to take yet, but by bringing in a partner that will execute the process and bring the best market technologies to the table we can then figure out our new work environment while being able to scale our business up as the needs of the market completely change’”.

What RPO Tech Providers Focus on in Designing a Solution for a Global RPO Strategy

For RPO tech providers, designing a solution for a global RPO strategy can get complicated. For example, the technology needs to consider data privacy for local needs and the place to store that data. Unfortunately, when working with countries like China and Russia, these issues aren’t quickly resolved. 

However, Brown points out that focusing on efficiency and compliance are keys to designing the right global strategy. “From a technology provider that provides RPO solutions, we have two things we have to focus on: (1) driving efficiencies into a global or localized process, and (2) compliance,” Brown said. “When we get those two things right, then we're absolutely doing our job."

The RPOA hopes this discussion helps you get a true sense of global RPO. So, please join this discussion and others like it to gain the knowledge you need to plan your global RPO strategy. 

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