I’m sure you think this is a strange topic for me to write about. After all I work in the industry and my company is a successful RPO provider. It’s almost a taboo subject for the industry. No one talks about it. All the articles by various providers, bloggers, industry bodies and experts talk about the benefits and advantages of RPO.  I’m sure my Manadon’t want me talking about it. It is the proverbial elephant in the room.

So why am I talking about the end of an RPO contract? What got me thinking about this?

I was talking with a client last week. They have been a long standing customer, over 5 years, and have engaged us for various different services. RPO has been a staple of the engagement and together we’ve partnered to build an efficient and successful process that delivers. However they are slowly bringing parts of the RPO service in house.

So I asked them out right, “what are your objectives regarding recruitment? Is it to bring all recruitment in house?”

Silence........more silence. Then....

“Well Sean, yes it is. We want to bring everything in house”

Now, many RPO organisations may view this as a negative, or simply a failure to deliver on the account. Sometimes it is. This is not the case here. The client has expressed numerous times how delighted they are with not only the service they receive but the results that are delivered. All the measures are in the green. The account and the relationship is healthy. 

So why are they doing this?

It is the natural cycle of an RPO engagement. The cycle varies from one contract to another, but eventually the client will ask themselves: can we do that?

This question only comes along if the RPO provider is failing or succeeding. I’ve been fortunate enough that 4 of the accounts that I have managed have come to this point on the back of a successful partnership. One came after over 8 years of partnership, another after only 3 years. Every time, I viewed this as a positive outcome.

When a client you’ve partnered with successfully wants to move to an in house model, this is because the RPO is a success. Together we’ve ridden the euphoria, experienced the despair, lost hair frantically scrabbling around for CVs, and overcome the hiring community’s challenges to an outsource model. The client has been there every step of the way. If you’ve partnered right, they’ve seen and heard everything. They’ve been on the journey with you, seen the dead ends, experienced the u-turns and most importantly learned with you by their side. Why shouldn’t my client want something that works and a team that has lived and breathed delivering for them?

Once your client has decided to bring the service in house; work with them. This transition period, in my experience, is more important than any other part of the contract. This is where it is easy to become bitter, lazy and even unresponsive. As the RPO provider, the current custodian and guardian of our client’s recruitment processes, procedures and brand, it’s our duty and responsibility to ensure that the transition is smooth and professional. That lasting impression is definitely important as you never know where individuals will be in the future, but you still want them to speak highly of you.

Then use this experience as a positive. I’ve spoken with HR Directors, Talent Directors and Heads of resourcing where I’ve spoken openly about a point in time where they will ask themselves “can we do what they’re doing?” and we’ll be there to help them answer it. The question always has an element of shock to it, but then there is level of appreciation and respect. Often, they will not have thought about life after RPO, but engaging it early demonstrates a level of strategic thinking that will bring a new level to your relationship.

So what am I driving at here?

Well, it is to not be afraid to talk about the elephant in the room. All good things come to an end. Make sure the ending is a great one, see it as a positive and be proud of the fact that your client sees your service and delivery in such high regard that they now want to do it themselves.

Besides once a client has an in house team the question will inevitably arise; “how can I do this........” and you’ll be the first one they call.


Written by Sean Hardingham, RPO Manager.