Problem Solving in RPO Relationships

by Carrie Kolar

Recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) relationships can solve a lot of problems, but they can also create issues of their own. Any new program or project will have sticky spots, and this tendency is only magnified when it involves two different organizations working together. Here, we share insights from a recent RPOA webinar titled “So You’ve Implemented an RPO Program…Now What?” with Heather McGotty, Director of Human Resources of Welch's, Malaika Kattke, Senior Human Resources Manager of QAD, Inc., Cynthia Cohen, Global Managing Director of Mynt Consultants, and Ryan Baca, Vice President of About Talent, on how to address problems that arise within an RPO relationship.

Every RPO engagement will encounter issues, so it’s essential to have problem-solving strategies and processes baked into the engagement from the beginning. These should not only include language and expectations on how to deal with problems when they arise, but ways to prevent problems from developing in the first place, and ways to prevent problems that do arise from happening again. Problem-solving-and-preventing activities that should be a part of any RPO partnership include:


  1. Clearly defining an escalation process as part of your onboarding strategy. A defined escalation process with mutually agreed-on steps and triggers is a must-have for any successful RPO engagement. As Kattke says, “that will eliminate a lot of issues down the road.”
  1. Establishing clear communication channels. Reduce confusion and you’ll reduce problems. Both sides of an RPO engagement need to be able to communicate clearly, effectively, and in a timely manner to both prevent issues and nip and developing problems in the bud. One way to establish clear communication channels is to designate a single individual to be the main point of contact on either side and scheduling regular updates between the client and provider.
  1. Creating a timely feedback portal. Receiving and acting on feedback is a crucial step for preventing and resolving any problems, but you need a vehicle for giving and receiving feedback to feel its effects. Too often, any issues expressed get lost in the noise of the engagement, or siloed where they can’t do any good. Establishing a central portal for feedback ensures that the feedback reaches the people who need it. In additional to establishing the portal, Kattke recommends developing checkpoints within it “so issues are discovered very proactively.”
  1. Doing root cause analysis. When a problem arises, it’s time to roll back your sleeves, dig in, and figure out why. When problems arise, according to Kattke, “the first thing is going into the root cause analysis. What’s leading us here, and what does it look like. Do it without defensiveness on both sides so you can have a good, solution-oriented discussion around it.”

Even though problems arise over the course of your RPO engagement, that doesn’t mean that the partnership is a failure. According to Baca, it’s how and how quickly you deal with the problems that determines the strength or weakness of your relationship. Baca says, “timing is so critical. Problems do happen, but it’s the problem resolution time that matters. Sometimes overcoming challenges can even strengthen the relationship you have.” With established channels to receive communication and feedback, an escalation process for dealing with issues, and a quick turnaround for a solution, you’ll find that your RPO troubles melt away and leave you stronger than ever.

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