Ready, Set, RPO: What to Expect in a New RPO Partnership

Ready, Set, RPO: What to Expect in a New RPO Partnership

Some companies see their RPO provider as only a vendor, but taking a partnership mindset creates a more satisfying, successful working relationship. Working well together as a united front always makes for an easier, smoother rollout of a new RPO program.

The implementation and transition phases before and after a rollout are crucial, as this is when you set the tone and expectations for all involved. It’s also when certain issues that may not have been fully addressed before the contract was signed need to be addressed and configured.

Here are eight key areas to focus on during the implementation and transition phases of a new RPO program:

Identify key players early in the process.

During the transition, many companies fail to establish one person as the key decision maker, but it is one of the most important steps. An internal point of contact with the power to get things done should be identified. There’s often a lengthy checklist of tasks that need to be completed before a rollout. The appointed decision-maker must be able to use their influence with HR, legal, IT and other stakeholders, including hiring managers and vice presidents, to make sure the work is completed.

Conversely, the RPO team needs to also provide a primary point of contact who will work closely with you to navigate the process. A lot of work is required by both sides, and your ability to communicate effectively with your RPO contact will keep things moving forward. Also, be sure to let your RPO team know who your internal stakeholders are (especially any unofficial ones) and how they may influence the implementation and rollout process.

Mutually define success.

Create a clear definition of what success means to your company, and share it with your RPO so that you both work toward, and measure against, the same goals. For example, if the goals are to “reduce the noise and complaints I hear on a daily basis” and “staff all positions so that none is ever vacant more than x number of days,” be sure your RPO knows this.

If you do not have sufficient historical data, it may be helpful to hold a workshop to specifically determine what stakeholders want out of the RPO program and how those goals can be measured.


This cannot be overstated: communication is essential to establishing a strong working partnership with your RPO provider. Whether discussing how the written service level agreements (SLAs) match up with your measurable business goals or the reason for hiring the RPO provider, the more you communicate, the better your RPO team can serve you. The RPO team should ask stakeholders what their experience has been, what they want to achieve with the new engagement and what potential obstacles the team might encounter.

Be transparent.

The RPO provider sees you as a valued client and itself as your partner. Be open about what is happening in the company. If something is working against the RPO process, let the team know so they can work around it.

For example, if you’re not documenting things in your ATS or if HR is performing tasks expected of the hiring managers, don’t hide it. It may not be the best practice, but if it works, and everyone is aware, that’s what matters.

Remember, RPO providers can only advise you on best practices; ultimately, they are there to serve your needs. Communicate openly, and your RPO team can make the decisions that will ensure you have a positive experience.

Build trusting relationships.

Schedule face-time with your RPO team at least every two to three weeks to create trusting relationships. Get to know each other’s personalities, and put faces to names. The more collaborative the approach is, the smoother the transition will be. Also, loop your RPO team into conference calls and meetings so they can get a feel for the issues at hand and start building a presence with stakeholders.

Identify risks up front.

Don’t assume that your RPO provider knows what the risks are based on your company’s experience. Talk about your concerns and what you see as risks. For example, if a division has historically been run by a person with a negative view of talent acquisition who has significant influence with their peers and who will go directly to an agency or circumvent the process, share this with the firm. Together, make contingency plans to address how such situations will be handled, and categorize risks by the level of fallout that would occur. Be sure to discuss what kinds of issues are considered common mistakes and what kinds of things absolutely cannot be allowed.

Provide historical data.

An RPO provider will help identify which metrics provide the greatest insight into how your talent management strategy is achieving business goals. Although it may seem like the RPO team should do this before you sign the contract, it often doesn’t happen. If historical data on key performance indicators (KPIs) is available, now is the time to provide it to your RPO contacts so they can use the data to set a baseline for future measurements.

Set realistic expectations and timelines.

A typical implementation is 30-60 days, with a 90-day transition period afterward. Map your timelines out before beginning implementation, and stick to the timetable and deliverables. However, realise that you get just one chance to roll the process out well. Thus, you should keep your rollout date flexible enough to get the process right.

It’s also useful to set the expectation that the first 90 days of a new RPO program are a learning curve for all involved. Talk about what is fixed and what is flexible. A fixed timeline, for instance, might be set for the configuration of the ATS, but determining who has access to it and can run reports might warrant flexibility. Set appropriate stakeholder expectations for the process, measurement, accountability and available training. Identify phases and iterations, and understand that it will take time to get up to speed fully.

Taking the time to interact, communicate well and build relationships with the people on your RPO team can make a huge difference in ensuring a smooth and successful rollout.

Post by Emily Gordon