The trend towards Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) grew during the recession and, with its emphasis on cost reduction, has continued to gather pace. While it is well suited to contract recruitment, some RPO service providers (RPOs) are applying the same model to all roles. The danger is that they will suffocate their clients’ ability to access top interim talent.
Contractors and interims are both vital resources but are radically different. While contractors provide delivery-focused skills and services, interims provide strategic managerial expertise. To prevent cost from compromising quality, RPOs need to adapt their approach. Otherwise they risk commoditising pivotal interim roles and failing to land the right calibre of candidate.
Jonathan Hime, Chief Client Officer at Marlin Hawk, said: “Interim managers are experienced executives with a track record of achievement. They are hired to solve problems, run transformation programmes or assist in organisational development and growth. But the best interims are not available on tap. Finding them requires the same approach as executive search."
Some RPOs acknowledge that interim demands a different approach and have found ways to work with interim search firms on higher margins. Others do not differentiate between volume suppliers of contractors and search firms providing interims; by driving down the price, they also drive down quality and do not achieve the desired result for clients.
Trevor Moulton, Principal of Marlin Hawk’s Interim Practice said: “Representing the client’s brand in the market is key. The provider must have a deep understanding of the client’s business, culture and requirements if they are to match the perfect candidate. The fee level has to reflect the experience of the interim, the size and complexity of the task and the service provided by the interim search firm.”
The problem of hindering clients’ access to top interim talent will become more prevalent as we head for a candidate-driven market where the best interims can choose which positions to take up and need persuasion.
Moulton added: “Premium talent is often not available on the open market. It takes experienced interim search firms to find it and secure it. Ironically, if quality interims get further out of reach, clients will turn to consultants and increase costs, undoing all the efforts of the RPOs.”