The Shift to Matrixed Client Engagement

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Today’s businesses don’t run on the same linear and predictable decision-making models of their past. Many companies are moving to flatter and less hierarchical structures and looking to drive much more of a consensus model.

Talent Acquisition is a particularly matrixed structure that requires any participating RPO Providers to develop multi-faceted communication to truly understand the various stakeholder perspectives. And with the frequency of shifts within TA leadership that can occur, it’s crucial that providers cast a wide net to stay ahead of this change. The wider the perspective, the better position an RPO provider is in to be successful in both the short and long term with the program.

But, building a matrixed engagement model can be complex. The communication strategies need to be managed vertically up and down the ladder of Talent Acquisition leadership to capture all the valuable insights that can/will vary by “level”. Some TA leaders will be driving the strategy while others may be delivering or supporting the strategy. All of these motives and opinions are valuable. The communication also needs to be managed horizontally and reach across departmental/functional boundaries outside of TA to truly understand the consumption of the solution and the impressions made. And finally, these communications need to be managed consistently. Client engagement is never a one-time, high impact conversation, but rather a process. It should be an ongoing discipline offering a continuum of feedback that keeps the account tuned in and evolving at all times.

The heightened complexity and additional effort of a matrixed engagement is well worth it however – as all of this leads to deeper and richer knowledge of the client perspective. Here are a few key tips to managing complex client communication paths:

  1. The Other Perspective. What makes matrixed leadership structures so difficult to manage is all the varying points of view. If someone had the inside scoop on what all the other stakeholders may be thinking, it would certainly remove the guesswork and create more engagement synergy for the provider. So why not ask about these other people? RPO Providers should never be so short-sighted to only ask for the single perspective of the person they are speaking with. Ask about other key players… “How do you think the Head of Finance recruiting will respond to this?”… “What do you think your boss’s reaction will be to this change?”. This by no means is a substitute for the valuable 1:1 with this other person, but will provide incredibly useful insight to approach them.
  2. Keep the Story Straight. More senior people involved means more people discussing your service with or without your presence. RPO Providers need to keep a consistent narrative when engaging various stakeholders. When one person at the client thinks they heard one opinion from the provider and another client contact thinks they heard another, trust can be eroded. This is very important with matrixed structures. The easiest way to deal with this is to always tell the truth and proactively share questions and concerns so “versions” are not an issue. When client teams hear a universal message about goals, strategy and accountability, this builds a strong foundation for the partnership.
  3. Emotions vs Data. It is a fact that the right data helps companies move faster and make smarter decisions.  However, the success and health of a TA program is actually weighted much more heavily in how the client “feels” about the outcomes than solely in the outcomes themselves. This is why RPO providers should never derive their value to a client from numbers alone and must focus also on how the client is perceiving and responding to these numbers. Whether it’s a TA exec or department head, a smart RPO provider will never make assumptions about the emotional response to a body of work. They will ask everyone in their stakeholder ecosystem, “How do you feel about that # of hires?”…“How do you feel about that decrease in time-to-fill?” Explicitly asking for this reaction conveys full care and empathy and will also gather the most accurate and holistic perspective across the matrix.  This allows you to drive deeper conversations around these topics that are important to the customer.

A larger team of involved and engaged client stakeholders can be a big advantage to delivering a winning RPO solution – but only if this dynamic is managed well. Successful matrixed engagement can and should reap the benefits of new and different perspectives that help build better solutions and better partnerships.

Learn more about our Enterprise Recruitment Process Outsourcing solutions and how Sevenstep successfully engages these large, global client leadership teams here


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