By Sandra Zawacki, Executive Director, Client Solutions
Hiring in today's business climate is no simple task as companies navigate a world of unknowns and contradictions. Consider the current conditions:
Talent remains scarce: Early 2024 data indicates only 6.1 million unemployed workers for 9 million job openings in the US, and across EMEA, four of five employers have cited difficulty finding skilled workers.
Internal recruiting teams are lean: Among tech startups in 2023, 50% of job cuts were on recruiting teams. And large organizations followed suite, as Google cut hundreds of its recruiting staff in late 2023. Yet, for surveyed HR departments, recruiting is the #1 priority in 2024, while 68% cite capacity issues as a roadblock on delivering on priorities.
Employers are uncertain: While fears of a full economic downturn have moderated somewhat since 2023, experts see continuing turbulence as leaders invest in their organizations with extreme caution in 2024
In the face of economic uncertainty, companies cannot afford to wait and see what happens in the market. They may need to hire in a core area with a "surgical strike" recruiting effort, even as they lay off workers in other areas – or try to redeploy internal resources with transferrable skills to new roles. It is a delicate balancing act that demands the TA function to act decisively and deliver on near-term goals.
Internal TA teams may often lack the bandwidth or capability to meet those hiring goals. The data available to them may not provide a clear view of how best to approach the market. And frequently, there is little appetite for hiring new recruiters or committing to a long-term outsourced recruitment solution. How do you make ends meet?
One answer is to engage a project Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) provider to bring in recruiters quickly and support near-term hiring demands. Once the needs are met, the project is complete, and the commitment is done. The approach addresses challenging talent needs without a long-term commitment of resources.
The solution is not new. Project RPO has been a staple of the talent solutions industry for decades, but the path to success and expectations now are more complex than in the past. With a highly variable market for talent, a best-fit project recruitment partner must not only scale to support hiring goals but also have the means to see the path forward and adjust to changing demands.
What should you know to ensure a project recruitment solution has what it takes to deliver? To help answer that question, the following is a quick overview of the fundamentals, highlighting where providers are stepping up from past practices.
Project RPO varies widely based on a company's needs. Organizations may seek recruiters, sourcers or interview schedulers to augment internal teams. Or, they may require a fully outsourced recruiting process to deliver on a specific hiring goal.
In both cases, companies expect RPO providers to quickly scale up the talent acquisition function. The immediate talent need is usually urgent, so buyers have traditionally favored the provider offering the fastest scaling solution. A clear hand-off plan and ready-now recruiters are essential for staff augmentation, and an established deployment strategy, resources, and technology are crucial for a process-based project RPO.
In the current environment, an effective provider should not only scale efficiently to launch the project; it should also be able to bring new resources into the mix after the engagement is underway. When conditions change, can additional recruiters, coordinators, sourcing options or technologies be brought into the fold without re-inventing the project?
The answer can influence the success and timing of the outcome. A record of success in enterprise RPO solutions and project recruitment engagements can indicate the provider's ability to bring new resources to bear quickly.
In the past, project RPO engagements often began with a list of client operational demands at the outset. From the number of required recruiters to the working relationships between outsourced and internal client teams, the details of execution were assumed at the start.
This approach works well when the client has clear data about the talent supply, costs, markets and process efficiency. However, many organizations now have a limited view of these factors because conditions change rapidly, and they cannot rely on last year's assumptions to guide the strategy.
Unlike past 'order-taking' approaches, a market-ready RPO approach starts with an assessment and planning stage at the beginning of the engagement. This strategy puts the desired outcome first and includes a focused assessment and guidance to remove obstacles and determine the best path to results.
In many cases, a provider can identify ways to clear delays in approvals or better align resources according to the difficulty level in roles being recruited, locations or targeted skills. The extra time spent at the outset of the engagement is made up through improved process efficiency and predictable results against agreed timelines.
What is the best recruiter for the job? Does the ideal project solution add less-experienced recruiters at the lowest cost? Or does filling the targeted roles require more experienced resources with extensive networks and domain expertise?
For project RPO that augments the client's internal staff, quality is defined by the recruiter's experience and domain expertise in targeted industries or skills. For a full project RPO, companies were often drawn to technology features or industry expertise, but cost and speed of deployment often weighed heavily when determining the best resource.
In the current environment, an effective RPO partner adds a dimension of flexibility to its resources. The best ecosystem of recruiting talent, technology and processes now includes a deep bench to draw on as new demands arise.
Once again, flexibility and an open mind matter. If considering an RPO provider, give them a chance to recommend the best resource to achieve the desired outcome. Often, a client may be best served by an RPO partner that aligns different recruiters to fill distinct roles, looks outside the client's industry for talent, and sets the stage to target new or different skills in the future.
In the past, organizations often relied on historical data and intuition to inform talent acquisition expectations. The provider might have relied on the client's data, exported from limited internal systems, to help set those expectations.
That meant the average time to fill and pay rates for talent from last year's effort would determine the time and costs for future hiring. This approach may have been adequate when conditions remained consistent year over year. Today, however, intuitive assumptions based on old data can result in drawn-out hiring cycles, misaligned resources and missed milestones.
Technology has evolved to take the guesswork out of talent acquisition. Thanks to advances in analytics and architecture, it is possible to aggregate information from all internal and external sources into one view, analyze the data, and deliver meaningful intelligence.
Expect a project that is informed on all fronts. Start with workforce supply, demand and cost data. This input drives detailed strategies on what to pay and where to recruit. Likewise, a single dashboard can inform everything from where the recruiter should focus their efforts to the best-performing sourcing channels. Finally, a predictive analytics function can apply data over time to forecast hiring conditions and demands.
Our experience with clients using our Sevayo® Insights technology has taught us that aggregation and predictive analytics have a powerful impact on the recruiting process. It enables us to bring many information sources together in a way that clarifies complex data sets to inform real-world decisions. Our clients depend on us for that view, which makes a difference in steering project- or enterprise RPO operations.
If there is one quality that should drive every project recruiting decision today, it is flexibility. Every improvement in today's RPO contributes to a more agile function: bringing resources to bear quickly, removing barriers to success, delivering superior recruiting talent, and guiding the operation with precise data and analytics.
When the project RPO engagement ends, the organization should not only have the talent in place to meet its business goals. It should have the expertise and specialized provider capabilities available to meet new talent demands as they arise. With a flexible partner to support talent acquisition, an organization gains a vital path to the talent it needs, no matter what the future may hold.