NES Fircroft: Lessons for Building Sticky RPO Relationships

by Tim Plamondon


Fifty percent of employers using recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) are planning to change providers in the next two years, according to a 2022 RPO study commission by the Recruitment Process Outsourcing Association (RPOA). This makes the 12-year-old partnership between leading global RPO firm NES Fircroft and their client Baker Hughes quite remarkable.

During the 2022 RPOA Conference, Shalena Shaheed, Managing Director, and Mike Chapman, Senior Strategy Consultant at NES Fircroft, laid out four principles for its successful sticky RPO relationship with Baker Hughes, one of the world's largest oil field services companies. This post is a recap of their presentation and the principles they attribute to their RPO relationship success.

Principle #1: People-Centric

The NES Fircroft RPO partnership with Baker Hughes started in Asia Pacific with a team of 11 people. As this relationship moves into its 12th year, the NES Fircroft/Baker Hughes team is 200 people strong. Shalena Shaheed described the team as a "very loud, noisy, dispersed family."

The growth of the NES Fircroft/Baker Hughes team is a testament to the stickiness of NES Fircroft's people-centric approach. Some members of the team did leave, but they came back. Shaheed said just under 5 percent of the team of 200 people are rehires.

Four elements of NES Fircroft's people-centric approach encourage its talent to stay or return after leaving. Those elements include:

  1. Build Teams Local to the Region

  2. Agility and Autonomy

  3. Servant Leadership

  4. Continuity of People

Read Spotlight Story
NES Fircroft: A People-Focused & Client-Centric Way to Fill Talent Needs

Build Teams Local To The Region

NES Fircroft's solid local presence creates resilient local teams that can adapt to all circumstances within the region. "When you have teams that are local to the region, local to the stakeholders whom they operate with, there's a connection, there's an allegiance," Shaheed said. As a result, the team ensures that the action of the global talent market gets a response that makes sense locally.

NES Fircroft's local teams are also empowered to give valuable insight into what's happening in their region. Shaheed explained that each local team could let their offices in Houston, TX know what action will and won't work in their region. Each locale is different, and each local team provides healthy, diverse perspectives valuable to NES Fircroft and its clients. Each team knows that team leadership hears their voice and takes action on their insights.

With such a large number of dispersed teams globally, Shaheed observed that it's also essential to be active in preserving NES Fircroft's culture while still making efficient local commercial decisions for its clients. “You must make a conscious effort to ensure that an NES Fircroft recruiter in Singapore feels part of the team in Houston or Saudi Arabia,” Shaheed explained.

Agility and Autonomy

"A really big part of our success is agility and autonomy," Shaheed said. The NES Fircroft/Baker team doesn't get bogged down in the decision-making bureaucracy. If the team needs recruiting in Thailand, it can receive a great CV and make a great offer to the candidate within 24 hours.

NES Fircroft encourages autonomy by paying recruiters on commission. “We expect the recruiters to operate their portfolios like their own business,” Shaheed said. And the commission-based model reinforces the recruiter's ownership of the account. The recruiters know that the benefits of the account are in their hands.

Also, holding the recruiter accountable for compliance with the Service-level agreement (SLA) promotes autonomy and drives productivity. Shaheed explained that this approach drives stakeholder engagement because the recruiters know success or failure of the account is in their control. The recruiter is allowed to use the tactics they think will work to fill the roles in their market.

Servant Leadership

NES Fircroft's servant leadership approach uplifts team members and constantly looks for ways to enhance development and unlock potential. To fulfill this approach to servant leadership, the organization ensures that transparent employee development and individual career paths are in place.

To be transparent about employee development, Shaheed noted that the organization shows new team members its development framework. The new team member sees what's expected of them if they want to progress and move within other areas of the team.

Shaheed also explained that it's also compelling for new team members to work alongside people who have progressed through the organization's employee development framework. As a result, the notion of NES Fircroft's investment in the success of new team members becomes real in their minds.

The organization's senior leadership recognizes that everyone's path is different, and it supports employees in their journeys. They understand that some team members want to focus their careers on being a senior recruiter. At the same time, other team members want to progress upward through the ranks. No matter the career path a team member chooses, senior leadership will support it.

Continuity of People

Continuity of people is vital to NES Fircroft because there's nothing more reassuring in a dynamic global business arena than seeing a dependable and familiar face. Retaining people give clients an advantage because these employees have been around for a while and know the procedures. Chapman shared that continuity of people also helps NES Fircroft forge successful sticky RPO relationships with clients. He strongly believes it's easier to build successful business relationships with the continuity of people.

Principle #2: Single Account Centric

The second principle NES Fircroft applies for successful sticky RPO relationships is single account centric. This approach makes the organization unique because NES Fircroft builds its models and solutions around each client. And they flex and ebb with each client's needs. NES Fircroft's single account-centric methodology includes the following elements:

  1. Integrity

  2. Planned Relationship Management

  3. Listening Instead of Selling

  4. Hyperopic Vision


Chapman shared that integrity at NES Fircroft means doing the right thing for the client at every opportunity. If a procedure in the contract doesn't fit the reality of the relationship, the team manager won't enforce it because enforcing that particular procedure won't give value to the client.

Listen to Mike Chapman give an example of NES Fircroft doing right by Baker Hughes when it had a change in its recruitment marketing process. 

Planned Relationship Management

Chapman shared that to build a successful sticky relationship, you need to be a partner and have a relationship plan. When you're a partner, you create a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship that profits the client and organization more.

He also pointed out that you need a relationship plan to have a successful relationship. "If you're not planning your relationship management, you're planning to lose the account," Chapman said. "Eventually someone will underprice you, out technology you, but the one thing they can never do is out relationship you."

Listening Instead of Selling

Shaheed shared that NES Fircroft never goes in looking to sell a product. They are always listening to the needs and problems of the client. They're always seeking to solve problems and being trusted advisors.

Hyperopic Vision

In all of NES Fircroft's relationships, it applies hyperopic vision. It envisions the long-term possibilities of what the client's business could become and shapes its plans and directives with those opportunities in mind. In other words, each NES Fircroft team looks further down the road and seeks out potential roadblocks to solving a particular problem.

Listen to Shalena Shaheed explain how NES Fircroft used listening instead of selling and hyperopic vision to solve a problem for Baker Hughes in Kuwait. 



Principle #3: Ingenious Partnership

The third principle of creating successful sticky RPO relationships is ingenious partnerships. For NES, it's a complementary exercise. Teaming up with a partner with correlative strengths and abilities to your own amplifies what you can accomplish and achieve. The benefit is that it streamlines points of entry and speeds up decision-making. Chapman explained that NES Fircroft is always looking for partners doing something great in the market that NES could bring to their clients.

Principle #4: Attention to Detail

The last principle to forging a successful sticky RPO relationship is attention to detail. The details can make or break any project and relationship. Shaheed explained that it's important always to be aware of what's driving the client, and the client's perception is about the data. Focusing on the client's needs and perceptions allows you to adapt to them.

Paying attention to detail also means "taking ownership of those local issues and stories, and owning them and making sure that you know them all," Shaheed said. Knowing those local issues and stories facilitates engagement with the client, a better understanding of their problems, and creating an effective solution.

In Conclusion

It is clear why NES Fircroft and Baker Hughes have sustained a sticky relationship for 12 years. NES Fircroft has implemented four principles that are crucial for successful, long-term partnerships with its clients: people-centric, single account-centric, ingenious partnership, and attention to detail. By prioritizing these principles, NES Fircroft leverages talented and diverse teams worldwide that respond quickly to problems, consistently deliver what the client wants, and ensure they are happy with the delivery and don't abuse their power.

RPO providers of all sizes looking to strengthen their existing partnerships or explore new ones should keep the lessons from NES Fircroft’s success in mind to build lasting relationships. For more detailed information on the strategies used by NES Fircroft, watch the full presentation Shaheed and Chapman gave at the 2022 RPOA Conference.

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