Asia Pacific (APAC) currently accounts for between 10% to 15% of the global talent acquisition services market and is the world's fastest-growing region, according to Everest Group research. In Singapore, the research shows that the development of the Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) market has largely been driven by the presence of multinationals, who use the city-state as a regional hub.

RPO is not a regular purchase for most procurement professionals, despite being an approach that many are being requested to investigate more deeply, as C-Suite leaders have grown more aware of the strategic advantage of great talent and the increasing competitiveness around obtaining it.

To facilitate a smooth tender (RFI/RFP/RFQ) and implementation process for procurement managers, we’ve highlighted some of the key challenges and solutions to consider during the selection process.

To get the most out of RPO, managers should first define the scope of services they want to acquire. This can be as basic as making a list of which components of the hiring process they want to outsource or to keep in-house. Ensure that HR and talent acquisition leaders, as well as stakeholders who will use the service on a regular basis, have provided input and there is alignment. Both procurement and the RPO provider must understand exactly what is being bought. If the scope of service is not well defined and clearly articulated, that will not yield an optimal solution, thus potentially depriving the organisation of the expected results of outsourcing.

Another crucial component is to maintain open lines of communication during the tender/bid process. Throughout the procurement cycle, the most efficient and productive buying processes allow for open communication. After a formal buying process has begun, communication between parties is sometimes confined to a single round of inquiries sent by email or an e-procurement system. While this ensures a level playing field for everybody, the procurement’s responses frequently lead to more queries. Allow RPO providers to ask follow-up questions — this is highly beneficial especially when it comes to solution inclusions and pricing assumptions. Set up regular conference calls between all participants so that everyone can ask and answer questions as they come up.

Do thorough due diligence since there sometimes may be a considerable difference between the solution that an RPO provider has priced, and the reality uncovered during implementation. This can necessitate re-solutioning and re-pricing, both of which cause delays and inefficiencies. Before going out to tender, be sure the scope of work is completely defined.

If managers are planning a multi-country RPO, one thing to keep in mind is that each country's recruitment landscape, pain points, and in-house skills can be different. Managers must not only appreciate the distinctions, but also determine whether they are based on legislative, cultural, economic, or political realities versus being based on perceptions and legacy. With this knowledge, they will be able to build solutions with their provider to accommodate those nuances. When it comes to talent acquisition, one size does not fit all when it comes to the different countries and cultures in APAC.

Some organisations make the mistake of moving too quickly in the process. Once they've decided to outsource their recruitment, they're often tempted to act rapidly to realise cost savings and service improvements as soon as feasible. But due to the lack of emphasis on change management, rushed implementations might compromise the effectiveness of an RPO engagement. This can potentially negate or delay some of the benefits of the service. It is better to take the extra time to ease the transition and manage this expectation with the relevant stakeholders upfront.

Finally, many organisations enjoy using a variety of phrases and acronyms that change frequently. Terms are frequently interpreted differently by providers and purchases, and it's not uncommon for words to differ, even within departments in the same company. Managers should avoid using industry jargon as much as possible and instead focus on clearly explaining the process segments they wish to outsource and what results they want to achieve through the RPO engagement.

By factoring in these steps, transitioning to an RPO solution can be achieved seamlessly and efficiently, while driving a better overall experience.

This article was originally published in Today's Manager Issue 3, 2021.