Four Tips to Keep an RPO Transition on Track
Want a smooth transition to an outsourced recruitment process? Never underestimate the importance of change management.
By Natalie Scheiman
Change is hard. Most people are creatures of habit and any disruption to the norm is likely to be met with resistance. A recruitment process outsourcing 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. Regardless of the actual size and scope of the change, however, it always feels big when it's happening to you.
If change is hard, change management is harder. With 75 percent of change management initiatives failing over the long term, according to a Towers Watson study, establishing the right framework for any talent acquisition change is a critical first step. 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 most certainly apply to the start of an RPO implementation and offer important guidelines based on how change is typically received and processed by people.
The good news is that with the right amount of preparation, expectation setting and stakeholder engagement, a company can successfully navigate through these predictable phases of change. Here are a few ways to ensure a smooth path from implementation to full normalization of a new recruitment operating model:
Create meaningful interaction. Given how tactical and process-oriented implementation can be, it's easy for the "human" element to be overlooked. RPO providers and key account stakeholders need to be engaged very early on during the transition and aware of each other's feelings and impressions. RPO providers should ask questions, listen carefully to stakeholder issues and concerns, and provide valuable insight in return. This gets the right people involved in the ideation of the new model to make everyone feel they are an important part of it. This also acts as an important communication foundation for the entire engagement. Tip: Providers should always set clear expectations when following through on feedback/ideas received from stakeholders during transition. Clearly determine if an idea is a "phase 1, 2, or 3" concept and why, in order to determine where and when the idea can be best addressed.
Staying true to the culture. Have you ever received a gift that was clearly purchased with no consideration as to what you actually like or value? Reflect on how that made you feel -- frustrated or unappreciated, maybe? This is how it can feel if the new TA process doesn't feel authentic to the company's culture. RPO providers can help by placing culture at the core of all ideas and instruction and they will increase buy-in by speaking in benefit-driven language ("What's in it for you"). This builds optimal connections and, ultimately, full adoption. Tip: To ensure that a change-management process doesn't stray too far from a company's culture, the provider should know the right vernacular/terminology, preferred focus of meeting agendas and hierarchy of decision making players. Mimicking these guidelines will make the process feel more comfortable and familiar to the client during the transition.
Prepare for every contingency. Almost every new mother I know has read What to Expect When You're Expecting. There are a lot of scary chapters in that book about things that may or may not happen during pregnancy. Yet, most mothers actually feel stronger and more confident 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 in roles that come with this new relationship. This is 100 percent normal and must be socialized. Both sides should be honest and vocal about trouble spots to manage any inevitable or potential bumps in the road. Tip: Make sure all parties understand the reality of the first few months after go live and are prepared to make adjustments as the new process is tested in real time.
Aim for Direct AND Indirect Wins. Certainly, tangible and transactional wins such as hitting SLAs, finishing key projects or filling roles will be the main barometer for success. But executives and account stakeholders will also benefit from hearing about other wins that affect their program. Examples of this might be winning over a very difficult hiring manager with a highly consultative job intake session, providing a useful piece of advice to a talent acquisition exec that prevented a major issue, or offering predictive analysis on data to help better forecast the year ahead. Tip: Look to your RPO provider for clear examples of wins that fall into both categories (direct & indirect) to reinforce this more holistic definition of success.
The goal for any prospective RPO buyer is to find a great provider that will transform the talent acquisition function. Change is hard, and success may come down to the nature and strength of your relationship with your RPO provider. Only a strong partnership will allow you to overcome the challenges of change and win from a talent acquisition perspective.
Natalie Scheiman is the senior manager for global transformation services at Sevenstep.