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The growth of RPO and smartphones in 2011

I have a BlackBerry Bold and an iPhone 4G. I love my BlackBerry and have been using one form or another for many years. I also love my iPhone and have been using that for only a few months. The former is superior for work and messaging, although lacking in design. The latter is less competent for messaging, but flawlessly designed and fantastic for media consumption and apps.

What does any of this have to do with RPO? Just as 2010 seemed to be the year of the smartphone, in many ways, it was the same for Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO). They both bear a resemblance in many ways as emerging and evolving business models. We saw providers launch, expand, and enhance offerings. New companies emerged, and well-established ones faltered. Global partners and services grew and show promise, but are still immature and finding their way. Others continue to successfully build and execute domestically, rapidly ascending the HRO RPO Baker's Dozen.

RPO and smartphone market share grew nicely in 2010, with no sign of slowing down in 2011. They both passed the "early adopter" stage of the Maturity Curve and are disruptive in a mostly positive and meaningful way. In other words, they are here to stay. Why? Because they add value and are innovative.

Were there mistakes? Of course. That's the beauty of science and change. Providers and buyers both bear some burden of responsibility for errors, change management, and ultimately, successful course corrections. Many consultants make their living advising on these issues. They reveal a greater promise of improved productivity and effectiveness -- emphasis on promise -- even though they have a long way to go. Everyone likes the promise of something great, even if it comes with a few blemishes. (Can you say iPhone antenna issues? Already forgotten.)

My predictions for 2011? Expect more of the same. More RPO growth, mostly domestically, but global and in country expertise will improve. Consumers and critics should expect more hype, of course. Steve Jobs might be the most famous practitioner, but there's plenty to go around in RPO.

Expect more consolidation (read: mergers and joint ventures) amongst pure play RPO and larger staffing concerns. Of course China will continue to be a hot center for growth, along with APAC at large. Buyers and advisors are looking for stability and proof of operational maturity, especially second generation buyers. All of this largely depends one economic and job growth. Though, in some ways, a lack of it drives the promised value of scalability that RPOs are famous for selling (including us).

Companies that leverage the latest technology like Jobs2Web and embrace social media will excel, but only if they use them to maintain meaningful, real conversations and interaction. Last, and maybe most importantly, the expansion of workforce planning competencies and information management will be high on the agenda.

We discussed some of this trend at the 2010 RPO Summit in Las Vegas. The real objective is to provide value beyond tactics and streamlined operations, and deliver a strategic, measurable, competitive advantage through talent. At the end of the day, that's the promise of RPO.

This post was written by Doug Lubin, a successful Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) Practice Leader and Consultant, who brings over a decade of expertise building sustainable solutions for clients and partners.  Doug helps firms develop high performing talent acquisition and management strategies locally and globally.  Learn more about Doug.

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