She recalls one instance at a recruiting conference a few years ago where someone stood up and denounced employers who engaged in RPO because “you don’t outsource things of value, and recruiting is part of value.”
“The reality is that most of us that are doing RPO are not outsourcing the hiring decisions; we are outsourcing the pieces of hiring that we need help with,” says Gray, who is director of global talent acquisition at International Paper. “Recruitment process outsourcing is not like outsourcing other HR processes.”
That’s why Gray, with the sponsorship of the HRO Association, a group of HRO vendors, buyers and consultants, has spearheaded the creation of the RPO Buyers Group.
The goal of the consortium, which is made up of large employers that have engaged in recruitment process outsourcing, is to be independent and objective and establish some research, benchmarks and metrics in the field of RPO, says Gray, who is chair of the group. It has six members, but 50 more have shown interest, she says, declining to name the members since the group is still in its infancy. All of the companies are Fortune 500 companies with at least 30,000 employees.
“We want people who are involved in the strategic direction of RPO at their companies, not necessarily who manage the day-to-day relationships with RPO providers,” Gray says.
During the past couple of years, the buzz about RPO has been gaining momentum, but it’s unclear whether the hype is being generated by real buyer interest or just by vendor promotion, experts say.
“Most employers would admit that they have a problem attracting and recruiting talent, but they aren’t ready to pull the trigger on RPO,” says Stan Lepeak, managing director of research for EquaTerra, a Houston-based sourcing advisor. “There isn’t huge adoption of RPO.”
Since the RPO market is still so new, the buyers group could help establish standards around pricing and service-level agreement language, says Lisa Rowan, a consultant at IDC.
Rowan estimates the RPO market is still under $1 billion.
The RPO Buyers Group will work in conjunction with the RPO Alliance, a group of vendors, buyers and RPO experts, but it will also have separate meetings that will be exclusive for members.
On December 10 and 11, the two groups came together for the second annual RPO Summit in Washington, says Richard Crespin, president of the HRO Association.
“This is a challenging and new environment for many employers,” Crespin says. “You can’t go to Amazon and buy RPO for Dummies.