Are there any truly “global” RPO providers?

Global resourcing arrangements, outsourced or otherwise, are never going to be perfect.

No. I don’t think there are. Sure, physically speaking, some providers will have offices or an on-site presence in many countries and across several continents and some will deliver excellent regional or in-country services, but do they really deliver a truly global RPO service? I’m sure many “Global” RPO providers will disagree with my view, but having had the privilege of working both sides of the fence for global brands and global suppliers, having procured and sold RPO services; managed RPO teams and managed services in-house and having lead the set-up of global RPO services and in-house recruitment functions these experiences provide a unique perspective and insight on what works and what doesn’t. When requiring an accountable, measureable, well-managed and above all consistent level of quality service in a truly global sense, no RPO provider has delivered. .

Global organisations by their very nature tend to be a federation of cultures, behaviours and ways of working. That means RPO providers can struggle to adapt to their client’s organisational set up. If you then add to that the complexity of global processes, financial structures, different technologies, local customs and legal considerations, the suppliers must work exceptionally hard to ensure their service quality remains consistently high, accountable and measurable within the confines of their client’s organisation. Furthermore, in some cases, they must also overcome their own internal politics, hierarchies and in-fighting over ownership of cross-border P&Ls to ensure this does not compromise the provision of their services.


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These difficulties are, of course, not isolated to suppliers. When clients build their own internal teams to deliver global resourcing capability, many of the same challenges faced by the RPO supplier must be met and overcome. For example:

  • The complexity of the organisation
  • Navigating the organisation
  • Managing virtual teams and Support functions
  • Setting up effective governance structures
  • Commercial terms to drive the right performance
  • Measurement of the service
  • Capability of implementation teams
  • Media strategy
  • Technology to support recruitment and down/up-stream HR and finance processes
  • Regional approach and understand of local culture and customs
  • Agility and adaptability to market
  • Endorsement and buy-in

What’s the answer?
My own view is that no provider can provide a single, global outsourced solution. Organisations can still build a recruitment function that is greater than the sum of its parts and takes the best of what is available to them. Creating a hybrid solution that delivers a high quality service for them globally is a model which many organisations are now embarking on. The success of that depends on a number of elements:

  • Ensuring delivery elements provided by an RPO provider plays to their strengths e.g. regional or sector coverage, off-site sourcing capability
  •  An in-house recruitment team with a focus on direct recruitment and internal mobility A supply chain with the right depth and breadth of coverage in terms of the areas of specialism covered and geographic footprint
  • A single Applicant Tracking System linked to the right procurement and finance systems that provides total visibility on end to end resourcing activity
  • The right governance supported by the right sponsors
    Global resourcing arrangements, outsourced or otherwise, are never going to be perfect, but a carefully managed hybrid approach allows a client to be more agile when adapting to change.

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