Historically, Unisys’s HR department did all its recruiting internally. “We would have been happy continuing to do this on our own,” says Brian Krueger, Vice President, Global Recruiting for Unisys. But then Unisys won three major outsourcing engagements at once and had to staff them in just 60 days. One required 600 people.
Unisys’s CEO and SVP of HR felt the corporation needed to use a recruitment process outsourcer (RPO) in order to fill positions quickly in this type of circumstance. “In global recruiting we didn’t think we could find an RPO who could do this job better, faster, or cheaper,” recalls Krueger. “But we didn’t have the scalability and flexibility to staff our engagements when three different projects hit at the same time, especially when the work had to be done in new locations for us.”
Krueger says he didn’t initially believe an RPO could be as cost effective as his own staff. Yet he now acknowledges that the outsourcer, The RightThing Inc., “has been price competitive from the outset.”
Krueger went about selecting an RPO supplier by sending a Request for Information to HRO Magazine‘s Baker’s Dozen list and then added five RPO suppliers that he felt were missing from the list. Unisys reduced the initial list of 18 suppliers to14 for the RFP, then four for best and final. After a rigorous selection process, Unisys eventually selected The RightThing, which filled over 60,000 positions last year. “It was clear they understood the RPO space. Its staff had a long history of providing RPO services over the past 15 years.” He was also impressed with Terry Terhark, The RightThing’s CEO and founder. “He is an extremely credible RPO executive,” Krueger adds. Unisys also liked the supplier’s delivery model which could scale up and down as required.
Just as important, The RightThing’s executives were good listeners. “We knew they heard what we wanted because they really responded to our needs in the best-and-final offer phase.” He also notes that he was shocked that one of the four finalists didn’t change one word of its proposal after Unisys made a significant change to its request.
As an outsourcing supplier itself, Unisys knows that a lot of buyers enter into outsourcing negotiations in an adversarial mode. “They try to extract as much as they can from the relationship,” he says. He says as a buyer Unisys wanted the best deal possible. But he also knew outsourcing relationships only work if there is a spirit of partnership. “We want to be a good partner to them; we want them to make money and be successful. It was never our intention to pillage or plunder. Instead, it was our goal at the outset to find the common ground,” the Unisys executive says.
Then Krueger and the Unisys executive committee had to make the final decision: Hire The RightThing or keep recruiting in house. “Outsourcing’s predictable costs and the supplier’s ability to staff anywhere swayed the executive committee,” recalls Krueger.
Unisys signed an outsourcing contract in January 2006; the go-live date was in April.
Unisys’s employees are divided into five bands. Unisys outsourced its high-volume recruiting: Band 1–non-exempt or hourly employees, and Band 2–lower-level exempt positions, about 2,000 a year. However, it retained recruiting for sales positions and consultants. It also kept college recruiting in house; “We want to develop our own personal relationships on campus,” says Krueger.
Eleven Unisys recruiters joined The RightThing. “We felt comfortable sending over our employees with Unisys DNA who could help us achieve a joint best practice level,” says Krueger.
He says when he announced Unisys had hired an RPO, every member of his transitioning staff “was probably out on the street looking for work. There was a lot of trepidation and pain.” But Terhark brought them to The RightThing’s headquarters in Ohio and talked to everyone personally. One had been with Unisys 30 years and another over 20 years.
Eleven Unisys staff members joined The RightThing and all are still there, says Terhark. He reports this was the first time The RightThing had rebadged employees. “We did this because it was an essential part of the deal. And we saw the talent was there.”
The transition took 10 weeks. “We focus on process, change management, technology, and candidate care,” explains Jamie Minier, COO for The RightThing. “Our goal is to make the hiring process a better experience for everyone.”
Terhark says Unisys’s hiring volumes change “dramatically” from month to month. Last fall it had to hire 600 people in Texas in 6.5 weeks, then shortly after fill another 350 in just 21 days. He says The RightThing can handle the huge volume swings with aggressive deadlines because it can allocate any of its 300 recruiters to the Unisys account “on a moment’s notice.”
Outsourcing the recruitment process made it clear that Unisys needed to improve some of its processes. It wanted to cut time-to-sign to no more than three days. Unisys made a dramatic process-change decision that a new candidate didn’t need to physically meet a recruiter. In the past a candidate had to meet with a recruiter as well as the executive who was going to hire the candidate. That change took a day out of the process.
Since outsourcing, Unisys has a metric that responses to a candidate be sent out within 24 hours. The Unisys staff had tried to do that in the past, but it didn’t happen when someone was on vacation; in that case it was common for a week to go by before the candidate received a response. “We have much better coverage now,” says Krueger.
The RightThing is using new tools to find candidates. Minier says the RPO does candidate networking using blogs like LinkedIn and industry chat rooms. “We find candidates with appropriate skill-sets on these sites, then call and sell the Unisys job,” she explains.
Services metrics improved. The cost went down. “Recruiting today is more virtual,” says Krueger.
Most important, Krueger says recruiting is more closely aligned with Unisys’ business strategy. “Tactically, we can deliver to our clients the right people in the right time at the right place,” he says.
Was outsourcing a good decision? “The noise in the system has gone down dramatically,” says the Unisys executive. Krueger says knowing what he knows now, he would make the same decision all over again.
Unisys is so happy with The RightThing, Unisys is expanding the number of roles in scope and is also considering looking at global roles in the future.
Lessons from the Outsourcing Journal:
- Recruitment process outsourcers can handle big jobs in new towns on a short timeframe by moving their recruiters from account to account; in-house recruiting departments don’t have that capability.
- RPOs can help companies align their business goals with their recruiting practices by supplying the right talent at the right place at the right time.
- RPOs use new virtual online tools that help them find and sell candidates on the jobs available.
- Suppliers need to listen to buyer needs during the pursuit process.