Getting RPO Right: Next Generation Solutions


As outlined in my previous post there are some major maturity problems in the Japan recruitment market. There are not enough quality recruiters in-house, in agency or in RPO. Meanwhile, RPO providers tend to provide a weak solution that places the success or failure of the program squarely on the shoulders of their recruiter. Not knowing any better or for lack of better options, the clients accept it. On a macro level these are all teething problems for a developing market and we have no doubt that things can be better.

We don’t want to put our recruiters into the position of being the sole factor between success or failure

Any RPO “program” should seek to shift the outright success or failure of the program from the shoulders of the recruiter and onto other parts of the delivery model. At least in Japan, unfortunately many RPO providers do not do this so we have to look to the “next generation” of RPO to make this the goal. That really is the essence of the problem. While RPO providers throw the word “program” around as if they have some kind of “solution”, all they really have is a body to throw to the client. Beyond that they have hope and famously, “hope is not a strategy”.

Our RPO division has been fortunate enough to pick up some outstanding recruiters from the competition simply because we’ve been able to recognize the problems and make best efforts to resolve them. Their previous employers essentially shipped them out and said goodbye. We don’t want to put our recruiters into the position of being the sole factor between success or failure, and we want to pay them well for when we get it right. It seems patronizingly simple but we have to limit the factors that put RPO programs at risk.

Talent acquisition in Japan is not easy. RPO is not easy. But there is a fair amount of blame to be placed on market participants for not making it any better. This is where our sense of mission lies and we are building a host of success cases that suggest we are on the right track. The real challenge now is scalability. 

Given the challenges, Japan RPO programs should involve multiple resources to ensure success, and there should be at least some risk allocation toward the RPO provider so that they are incentivized to get it right. Pricing needs to find a fair win-win midpoint where the provider can earn their margins, the client saves a significant amount of money, and the risk of failure is reduced by enabling the program to deliver more than just a “body”. Ideally all RPO’s should provide high quality recruiters who are enabled to focus on recruitment. Reporting, administration, coordination, and all the time consuming tasks should be pushed to alternate resources so the recruiter can focus on adding value through direct sourcing, closing reqs and filling the headcount.

here in Japan ManpowerGroup delivers on upwards of 50 RPO projects at any one point in time

Expectation management is vital to success. Everyone involved needs to understand what the objectives are, what the milestones should look like and what is realistic. We all need to know what both success looks like, and also what we have to objectively call a failure. Any RPO provider knowingly sending their people out into the furnace are doing our whole industry a disservice. They will eventually be found out and pushed to the fringes.

Accountability for the RPO program’s success needs to placed on the owners of the delivery just like for any other professional service. However from what we see in Japan this is often far from the norm, leaving RPO recruiters stranded. Clients need to demand ownership and RPO providers need to ensure that all is done to maximize the chances of a successful outcome and a genuine win-win. This means structures need to be in place to ensure tracking, reporting and reviews are regular and timely so that everyone’s stays ahead of the curve. The pressure has to go on management to get things in place to support the onsite recruiter and improve the odds of success. 

we saved the client saved over $1,000,000 in costs in just 14 months

Perennially ManpowerGroup Solutions is one of the global leaders in RPO and here in Japan ManpowerGroup delivers on upwards of 50 RPO projects at any one point in time. My company, a wholly owned subsidiary of ManpowerGroup (Experis Executive), collaborates with our parent when delivering on end-to-end RPO programs that seek to meet all of the above objectives. The net result for our clients is for the most part a massive reduction in recruitment costs and an overall improvement in recruitment effectiveness, time to hire and by default an ability of the business to meet its goals.

One client saves well over $500,000 per year with our team handling all Japan recruitment for them, while many others have had similar cost savings as we helped them through a specific period of expansion. One client that had severe “issues” hired our team to replace their own after we saved the client saved over $1,000,000 in costs in just 14 months. In all cases direct sourcing came first and in some cases not a single external agency was used.

To be successful in our mission we need to be “growing” the next generation of in-house talent. Already we find ourselves regularly competing with clients and global brands for the best recruiters in the market and we know full well that from time to time as projects, markets or personal motivations dictate, we will lose our people to clients. In fact one of the pains of early RPO success for us has been that our clients offered and hired our people. While this is well and fine in most circumstances, we also recognize the need to look after our best people for the very reason that they may become our clients in the future. 

Ultimately our hope is to see the Japan market mature to be more like the US or Europe where highly skilled and highly paid recruitment professionals can move in and out of clients as the needs exists. Whether on RPO, contract or permanent hires this will put huge pressure on all of us to up our game. Low value agencies that produce low value recruiters will become a thing of the past.

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