You’ve Hired an RPO … Now What?

By Emily Gordon Mar 11, 2014
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How do you ensure a successful rollout of your recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) solution?

Some companies see their RPO provider as only a vendor, but those that take a partnership mindset can experience a more satisfying, successful working relationship. Working well together from the beginning can make for an easier, smoother rollout.

The implementation and transition phases before and after a rollout are crucial, as this is when you set the tone and expectations for all involved. It’s also when certain issues that may not have been fully addressed before the contract was signed need to be hammered out. Here are some key areas to focus on during this period:

Mutually define success. Create a clear definition of what success means to your company, and share it with your RPO so that you both work toward and measure against the same goals. For example, if the goal is to “reduce the noise and complaints I hear on a daily basis” or “staff all positions so that none is ever vacant more than x number of days,” be sure your RPO knows this.

If you do not have sufficient historical data, it may be helpful to hold a workshop to specifically determine what stakeholders want and how it can be measured.

Identify key players early in the process. Although it may seem logical to designate one point person as the key decision-maker, many companies do not clearly establish this upfront. An internal point person who has the power to get things done should be identified. There’s often a lengthy checklist of tasks that need to be completed before a rollout. The appointed decision-maker must be able to use their influence with HR, legal, IT and other stakeholders, including hiring managers and vice presidents, to make sure the work is completed.

Conversely, the RPO team needs to provide a main point of contact who will work closely with you to navigate the process. Much work is required by both sides, and your ability to communicate effectively with your contact will keep things moving forward. Also, be sure to let your RPO team know who your internal stakeholders are (especially any unofficial ones) and how they may influence the implementation/rollout process.

Communicate. This cannot be overstated: Communication is essential to establishing a strong working partnership with your RPO firm. Whether discussing how the written service-level agreements (SLAs) match up with your measurable business goals or the reason for hiring the firm, the more you communicate, the better your RPO team can serve you. The team should ask stakeholders what their experience has been, what they want to achieve with the current engagement, and what process and potential obstacles the team might encounter.

Be transparent. The RPO firm sees you as a valued client and itself as your partner. Be open about what is really happening in the company. If something is working against the process, let the representatives know so they can work around it.

For example, if you’re not documenting things in the ATS or if human resources is performing tasks expected of the hiring managers, don’t hide it. It may not be the best practice, but if it works, and everyone knows how things work, that’s what matters.

Remember, RPO firms can advise you only on best practices; ultimately, they are there to serve your needs. Communicate openly and your RPO team can make decisions that will ensure they’ll give you a positive experience.

Build trusting relationships. Schedule face-time at least every two or three weeks, having the RPO team visit onsite to build trusting relationships. Get to know each other’s personalities, and put faces to names. The more a team approach is taken, the smoother the transition will be. Also, loop your RPO team into conference calls and meetings so they can get a feel for the issues at hand and start building a presence with stakeholders.

Identify risks upfront. Don’t assume that your RPO firm knows what the risks are based on your company’s past experience. Talk about your concerns and what you see as risks. For example, if a certain division has historically been run by an anti-talent-acquisition person who has great influence with peers and who will go directly to an agency or circumvent the process, share this with the firm. Together, make contingency plans to address how such situations will be handled, and categorize risks by the level of fallout that would occur. Be sure to discuss what are considered normal mistakes and what kinds of things absolutely cannot be allowed.

Provide historical data. An RPO firm will help identify which metrics provide the greatest insight into how your talent management strategy is achieving business goals. Although it may seem like the firm should do this before you sign the contract, it often doesn’t happen. If historical data on key performance indicators (KPIs) is available, now is the time to provide it to your RPO firm, which will set a baseline for future measurements.

Set realistic expectations, timelines. A typical implementation is 30-60 days, with a 90-day transition period afterward. Map your timelines out on the front end, and stick to the timetable and deliverables, but realize that you get just one chance to roll the process out well. Thus, you should keep your rollout date flexible enough to get the process right.

It’s also useful to set an expectation that the first 90 days are a learning curve for all involved. Talk about what is fixed and what is flexible. A fixed timeline, for instance, might be set for the configuration of the ATS, but determining who has access to it and can run reports might warrant flexibility. Set appropriate stakeholder expectations for process, measurement, accountability and available training. Determine phases and iterations, and understand that it will take time to fully get up to speed.

Taking the time to interact, communicate well and build relationships with the people on your RPO team can make a huge difference in ensuring a smooth and successful rollout.

Emily Gordon is a 15-year veteran in the recruiting process space. She has a green belt in Six Sigma, with an emphasis on analytics and recruiting/staffing processes and efficiencies. She can be reached

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