Choosing an RPO Provider: How to Avoid the HiPPO

27 January 2021

When outsourcing your recruitment process, the agency you choose to act as your talent partner is the most crucial decision you’ll ever make. An agency’s expertise, experience and network will help you recruit the best talent needed to scale your organisation. With any RPO, the agency you work with will act as strategic partners for your business, helping you to hire great people and plan for future successes. Therefore, it’s vital that the decision of who to work with is not purely down to the highest-paid and most senior person in the room.

In businesses speak, HiPPO means “the highest-paid person’s opinion”, and it is used to define when other team members are too scared to speak up and contest this person’s views. It’s hard to speak up and challenge the boss, but when it’s a decision as crucial as outsourcing your recruitment, it’s critical that all opinions and suggestions are heard. After all, is the boss the one who will be working with the RPO provider directly? Will they be the one training new hires and working with them daily? Will their priorities be the same as those on the ground?

Chances are the answer to all of these questions is no. Therefore, why should they have an overall say?

As with outsourcing any part of a business, multiple opinions should be heard when searching for an RPO agency. Hierarchy doesn’t always make for the best business decisions, especially when forming a real, working, talent partnership.

Here’s our guide to ensuring that the HiPPO doesn’t take over your outsourcing decisions:

Create a diverse panel

When looking to outsource your recruitment process, chances are you’ll give a few carefully selected RPO providers an RFP and the opportunity to pitch for work. Once you’ve distributed your clear RFP (see our guide to writing one here) and are thinking about pitch day, consider having a diverse panel to hear the agencies ideas.

Recruitment affects all areas of the business from marketing and website development through to sales; therefore, you can include many individuals. Ensure that as well as the boss, you have a representative from HR, any areas of the business that you know will need to recruit urgently (and will therefore be impacted by the decision quickly) and other senior stakeholders. Having opinions from across the business is a great way to level the playing field when it comes to decision making. With a range of different perspectives and priorities in the room, it makes sense that everyone will say their piece, shares their opinions, and influence decision-making. More minds make an equal decision. If it’s just a representative from HR and the boss, you run the risk of the HiPPO taking authority.

Although, be wary of having too may people in the decision-making process as it may confuse matters and you may never reach a definitive agreement. Between four and six team members from across the business and even at different levels will be ideal, to show a range of perspectives.

Set clear goals

Before the day of the pitch, ask a member of your team to communicate the goals and the purpose of outsourcing the recruitment process. This could be in a meeting between the deciding parties or a document shared before the day of the pitch.

However you choose to do it, clearly communicating ambitions ensures that all pitch panel members are on the same page and know what to look out for. Otherwise, someone from HR may be looking for someone to shift parts of their workload to while someone from IT may be looking for an agency with in-depth tech knowledge to help support their business plans. It will lead to disagreements that may distract from outsourcing, and then you may end up just trusting the HiPPO. For a pitch and a mutual selection process to succeed, you must all go in with the same business goals in mind.

This also means that if the HiPPO is an agency that doesn’t align with the goals, you all have a valid reason to disagree and can prove why another choice would be a better choice to scale your growing business. Having clearly defined goals and motivations for outsourcing recruitment keeps everyone in line with their thinking.

Create scoring criteria

Along with communicating your reasons and ambitions for outsourcing your recruitment process, a team member should also create some clearly defined scoring criteria. This will guide the decision-making process and ensure that even the most senior person in the room doesn’t let their opinions stray from the overall mission. For example, a CEO of a company could know someone who is pitching. They could have worked with them before on a recruitment project and understand how they work. With clear scoring criteria, they can’t let personal preference or prior knowledge impact their decision as they must judge how the agency matches specific aspects. This removes an unfair advantage and gives agencies a fair chance and gives more valid reason to disagree with the HiPPO.

Remember pitch days are hectic, especially if you have to sit through more than one in a short space of time. Sometimes, pitches can even be spread over a week or two depending on timeframes and schedules. Having a scorecard and clear criteria means that you can easily compare and contrast agencies, you won’t forget any key aspects over time or if the day feels like all pitches are blending into one. It guides the decision-making, reminds you of key elements of their proposed strategy, and ensures a fairer recruitment pitch process for the RPO agencies.

Data-driven decision making

When creating scoring criteria, try to create a numerical scoring system for your RPO agency search. This can lead you to make a data-led decision that no one can argue with. If all decision-makers score the pitching recruitment agencies against each criterion out of 10, the highest-scoring one should be the most successful. There can be no arguing about that.

We live in an era of big data, so relying on your “gut feeling” or “instinct” of one individual to make decisions is a thing of the past. Why risk your company’s future on a feeling? Take advice from all of the data analytics that’s going on around you, we all know it’s the easiest way to remove bias from decision making. While having six individuals analyse four agencies pitches isn’t the most complex of data-driven decision making, the principle remains the same; it allows everyone to voice their opinions in an unbiased way and makes reaching a conclusion fair, inclusive and decisive.

Back up decisions with evidence

It may be that the Highest Paid Person is quite intimidating and you worry that despite making the decision-making process of an RPO pitch as unbiased as possible may be a wasted effort. You may feel that they have authority and can undermine any decision to get their desired outcome; it happens in business, and most of the time it’s their business, so they have the final say. 

However, if you feel passionately about one RPO provider take the time to research them and look into them in more detail. You could even ask them to send over case studies and examples of projects they’re working on. If you have evidence to show why you feel an agency should come out on top, then show it and prove it. If they are the best RPO agency for your company, the boss will thank you in the long run (they just don’t know it yet).

Talent Works help some of the most exciting tech businesses to scale through agile RPO, employer branding, recruitment marketing and scalable sourcing capabilities. We’re a flexible RPO provider with offices in Manchester and Northampton, UK as well as Boston, US. If you’d like us to pitch for one of your upcoming recruitment projects, whether it’s refining your EVP or sourcing tech talent due to increased demand, we’ll be happy to help. Contact our team today to begin your conversation.

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