4 Tips for the First 120 days of an RPO Transition

Change is hard. Most of us in the business world are creatures of habit and any disruption to our “norm” will likely be met with resistance. A Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) transition is no exception. A new partnership with an RPO provider can involve anything from augmenting the current model to completely transforming the way a company approaches Talent Acquisition. Great RPO companies know the truth…that regardless of the actual size and scope of the change, it will always feel big to that client.

You’ve probably heard of some of the more common change management frameworks, like Bruce Tuckman’s model of “Form, Storm, Norm, Perform” or the “Loss, Doubt, Discomfort, Discovery, Understanding, Integration” model developed by Lillie Brock and Ann Salerno. These models all most certainly apply to an initiation of an RPO account and are important principal guidelines that focus on how change is typically received and processed by people.

The good news is that with the right amounts of preparation, expectation setting, and stakeholder engagement, an RPO provider will successfully navigate their clients through these predictable phases of change.  Specifically, there are things a great RPO provider will do to ensure a smooth path from implementation to full normalization of a new recruitment operating model:

  • They Involve. Given how tactical and process-oriented implementation can be, it’s easy for the “human” element to be overlooked. Great RPO providers deeply engage key stakeholders such as TA leadership, hiring department heads, and hiring managers very early on during the transition. They ask the right questions, listen carefully to stakeholder issues and concerns, and provide meaningful insight in return. This gets these people involved in the ideation of the new model and acts as an important foundation for the entire engagement. Tip: Always set clear expectations for follow through on feedback/ideas you receive from client stakeholders during transition. Let them know if their idea is a “phase 1, 2, or 3” concept and why by explaining where and when you think the idea can be best addressed.
  • They Acclimatize. Have you ever received a gift that clearly didn’t take into consideration what you actually like or value? Reflect back on how that made you feel…frustrated, annoyed, unappreciated maybe? This is how it can feel for a new client when you don’t give enough thought and care to fitting in with them during an RPO transition. Great RPO providers become fluent in their client’s communication style and protocols and also always speak with benefit-driven language (“what’s in it for them”) when providing rationale or direction. This formula builds optimal connections, attitudinal buy-in, and ultimately full adoption. Tip: Study how they communicate. Look at their vernacular/terminology, focus of their meeting agendas, and hierarchy of players. Mimic these guidelines to make your approach more comfortable and familiar to them.
  • They Prepare. Almost every new mother I know has read “What to Expect When Expecting.” There are a lot of scary chapters in that book of things that may or may not happen. Yet, mothers feel stronger and more prepared after reading it. Just like with a pregnancy, no transition of a new RPO engagement is completely issue free either.  There will always be challenges as participants on both sides get up to speed on the change of their roles in the new relationship. This is 100% normal and must be socialized. A great RPO provider never underestimates this. Instead, they get in front of the trouble spots and prepare the client TA team to manage these predicted or potential bumps in the road. Tip: Talk openly about the specific reality of the first few months after Go Live.  Tell your worst and best transition stories; always pointing out the specific challenges you believe they will face given our knowledge of the engagement and how to best manage these possibilities.
  • They Prove.  The need for the RPO provider to “hit the ground running,” “gain quick wins,” and “have immediate impact” are all going to be enforced heavily by any new RPO client. Certainly, tangible and transactional wins such as hitting SLA’s, finishing key projects, or filling roles is the main focus. But a great RPO provider has a more expansive definition of success in the first few months that goes beyond just transactional wins to also recognize relationship-based wins. Examples of this might be winning over a hard-to-please hiring manager with a highly consultative job intake session, providing useful advice to a TA exec and preventing a major issue, or offering predictive analysis on their data that helps the client better forecast their year. Tip: Make sure the delivery team has a clear list of examples of wins that fall into both categories (transactions and relationships) and reward/recognize both types publicly with the account to reinforce this more holistic definition of success.

The goal for any prospective buyer of Recruitment Process Outsourcing is to find a provider that will truly transform the Talent Acquisition function. Specifically, the provider’s approach to transitioning and implementing a new scope of work will tell you a lot about how they view the engagement and the relationship overall. Change is hard and everything comes down to the nature of the partnership. Companies must select the RPO company who they feel they will work best with to overcome these challenges and win from a TA perspective.