Staffing Firm with an RPO Practice? 8 Things You Need From Your ATS

Staffing firms are incredibly well positioned to succeed at the Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) model. By their very nature, staffing firms are revenue generating whereas internal recruiting organizations are cost centers. Call me a capitalist, but I believe that the dynamics of having to turn a profit in an incredibly competitive market with low barriers to entry, means that profitable RPO providers have successfully established differentiated business models and business practices that work.

Jamie Stacey, Vice President, Business Transformation Lead at Kelly Services, expands on the value of RPO, “The expectations of a Talent Acquisition team are changing. Talent Acquisition must know talent, be able to reach them through consumer-like marketing channels, develop networks through social platforms. They must engage the most advanced technologies to ensure this process happens instantaneously, blends human and machine, is on target and can all be done on-the-go from your phone. RPOs offer value through recruiting, but also through being a partner to help guide Talent Acquisition through this ever-changing, new world of recruiting.”

Beth Roekle, President, North America at Advantage xPO, agrees that things are changing very rapidly in the RPO space. “When we look at today’s workforce many Talent Acquisition professionals are beginning to think about Total Workforce Solutions which may blend aspects of a  ‘traditional’ RPO and a ‘traditional’ MSP. Some organizations are approaching Talent Acquisition holistically. It is important to have a strategy for when an organization hires an FTE versus a temporary worker, independent contractor or freelancer. Hiring organizations are working through their options and we see more and more talent acquisition strategies blend all of these options into one holistic approach. Internal HR organizations have a very broad set of responsibilities. RPOs are a valuable, strategic partner because talent acquisition is our core competency. By leveraging our recruiting expertise, focus on compliance, and our customer-centric approach, we can deliver meaningful value for our RPO customers.”

When market-winning tactics are leveraged to recruit on behalf of internal staffing organizations, RPOs deliver a great deal of value to hiring organizations, especially when that organization has a powerful employer brand. Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) reports that 75% of the companies that use an RPO decreased their time-to-fill for permanent hiring with the most common selection being a 1-10% decrease in time-to-fill.

At Erecruit we work with enterprise staffing firms, many of whom have an RPO practice. Leveraging one technology across multiple service lines and staffing segments allows large staffing enterprises to:

  • Support total talent acquisition strategies
  • Maximize their technology investment
  • Benefit from visibility across the entire enterprise
  • Capitalize on a single candidate database so that the staffing firm can build one relationship in one system yet staff the person in whatever way works best

So, what features and functions must RPO technology provide in order support a staffing firm’s RPO today and in the future?   

  1. Client-branded ecosystem. For all intents and purposes, RPO recruiters are client recruiters and if they do their jobs well, candidates and hiring managers will never be the wiser. “It is important for candidates to get an understanding of the employer brand and it is critical for RPO recruiters to operate and become a part of that brand messaging,” adds Stacey. To enable this seamless embedding of RPO recruiters into the hiring organization, the RPO provider’s technology must support branded communication (email, text and job board postings, etc.) to protect the fact that a staffing agency is actually driving the process. 
  2. Segregated data. RPO agreements are typically set-up such that the hiring organization owns all of the candidate data. The RPO may source candidates directly to the RPO’s brand or may have the right to share candidates between multiple client opportunities. Candidate data ownership must be completely clear in the system with the ability to differentiate the brand used to source the candidate. Client-owned candidates must be able to be easily exported should the hiring organization decide to take their RPO business elsewhere. 
  3. White label ATS. The client-branded ecosystem may go as far as the RPO providing the hiring organization with their applicant tracking system (ATS). Leading RPOs need to bring their own technology to the table. RPOs that are able to provide a pre- configured, client-branded ATS that provides segregated client data yet is integrated with the RPO’s candidate database will provide their end customers with the most efficient talent acquisition platform.
  4. Direct hire and more. Elizabeth Rennie, SIA’s Global Workforce Solutions Director, explains in an SIA Webinar “RPO Essentials for Success” that total talent acquisition, which is looking at talent across all forms of work (contingent, permanent, statement of work, etc.), is an important RPO trend. RPOs are looking across the workforce, considering the costs and benefits of all sources of talent, to strategically support their customers. A comprehensive software solution that supports all types of employment options allows the RPO the greatest opportunity to support the broad set of client needs.
  5. High-volume, short-term projects. In addition to supporting a hiring organizations ongoing hiring needs, it is very common for an RPO to support short-term hiring needs associated with seasonal peaks, mergers and acquisitions, starting up new business units, new product launches, etc. RPO technology must enable the RPO to quickly spin-up support for high-volume hiring projects that can include 1, ten, or even more different job titles. While individual positions must be managed title, management requires visibility into the status of the overall project.
  6. Client-specific variations. While standardizing business processes across RPO clients is the goal, staffing companies must retain the ability to tailor their services and solution. Tailoring services often results in manual business processes (aka workarounds). RPO providers need technology that can have client-specific workflows and business process steps, when required so that they can deliver a differentiated service without adding cost and time to their service delivery processes. “No two RPO engagements are the same in terms of the scope of what is outsourced, the categories of positions outsources, KPIs, SLAs, etc.,” explains Roekle. “In addition, we are very nimble, reengineering our solution as our client’s business challenges change. Having flexibility in how we engineer the solution and workflow is critical in how we successfully deliver our service.”
  7. Proactive talent acquisition tools. “Hiring organizations are creating content to fuel talent communities, so that when there is a need there is an engaged community so that the candidate search doesn’t have to start from scratch,” explains Roekle. “Recruitment marketing, as opposed to job advertising, is a proactive, relationship-driven approach that helps build strong communities.” RPO technology with recruiting marketing tools to enable talent community development is critical in today’s marketplace.
  8. Analytics. Whether the hiring organization requires the staffing firm to use their ATS or not, there is a need to be integrated with the staffing firm’s reporting engine for overall visibility into program metrics and performance to enable proactive and reactive analysis and management. “Since we can’t control the technology selected by our clients,” notes Roekle, “RPO technology must excel at integrating data for program-wide reporting and business intelligence.”     

While RPO borrows a great deal of business process and practices from traditional staffing, the technology needs and priorities of the RPO are quite unique. Being able to extend your traditional staffing divisions and support an RPO practice using fully integrated, advanced staffing technology will best position your staffing firm to optimize service levels, manage costs and maximize revenue. Whether your staffing firm currently offers RPO services or is thinking about getting into the RPO business, consider how your technology provider supports your ability to succeed and differentiate in this space.

Sara Moss is the Vice President of Staffing Best Practices for Erecruit. Sara is responsible for helping staffing firms evaluating, implementing and running Erecruit to increase operational efficiency, improve service levels and maximize their return on technology investment. Join her in conversation on Twitter, LinkedIn and
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