In its beginning, recruitment-process outsourcing was a response to the boom-or-bust mentality of companies that would cycle through large-scale hiring to hiring freezes, sometimes in the same year.
Back then, RPO companies provided remote sourcing, resume farming through automation, call-center interviews and resume delivery. It has since become much more complex and dependent on many types of innovation and technology.
Before we examine the role of social media, digital networking, Software-as-a-Service and other means of improving hiring and hiring effectiveness, let's re-examine why hiring is such a critical function. HR professionals are confronted with a sea of conflicting data on unemployment, jobs availability and macro-economic trends. But, amidst all that conflicting data, there is some clarity: Labor supply for skilled managers faces the highest level of disruptive lack of supply in 40 years. The baby boomers are at retirement, not just in the United States, but in the world.
In Western Europe, the United States and Japan, we face a massive resourcing challenge that will disrupt the productivity gains we have seen over the last seven years. RPO today offers one very real answer to this issue, and recruiting -- along with learning and training -- is probably the most important issue facing the HR executive for the next five years.
The modern tools available to us through RPO are very rich and growing year by year:
* Social media is being incorporated massively throughout the industry, and almost all top-tier RPO providers use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and a host of other sites to extend their sourcing networks. At the same time, these host companies are improving their games and profile and contact scanning, and are pushing participants to extend their own networks by adding keywords to their profiles -- which, in turn, enhances the searchability of the profile for job requirements.
* Talent communities are being developed by the RPO providers. Some are managing knowledge-sharing sites that enable engineers and health professionals to find white papers, post questions about problems and issues, and share commentary. Discipline-specific blogging helps build communities of talent and interest -- and, of course, provides an active roster to mine for candidates.
* The use of time-to-effectiveness tools is accelerating. Online assessment and profiling are both part of the services of several innovative RPO providers. These tools allow the hiring manager and interview group to focus on the most critical facets of the hiring decision rather than having to first understand how the candidate perceives and tackles problems.
As we come back into strong hiring needs -- in part, due to the economic cycle and, in part, due to generational demographics -- we need to exploit the current capacity of the RPO industry as much as we can.
Internal-hiring resources must focus on critical hires and next-generation leadership. RPO providers can help with all ends of the hiring spectrum, and we should be deploying the innovation and technology available through them to supplement and enhance our own internal resources.
Lowell Williams is a director in KPMG's Shared Services and Outsourcing Advisory group, based in New York. He can be reached at lcwilliams@KPMG.com.