Can you benefit from an RPO and still retain some services in-house?

Can you benefit from an RPO and still retain some services in-house?

In my recent conversations, I’ve noticed a growing trend towards companies looking to outsource their permanent (and temporary) recruitment, but still retain ownership and delivery of some recruitment services in-house. At Lorien, we have many partnerships where we work alongside our clients’ internal teams and with other external providers to create bespoke hybrid (partial) outsourced solutions, but this set-up is still one that some companies aren’t familiar with.

With so many questions bouncing around – how would this affect the target operating model? Would this impact the level of support, or the quality of the service provided? How would we effectively manage this type of relationship and ensure the hand-offs are clearly defined? – I wanted to lend my voice to this trend and give my advice to companies considering a different route for resourcing talent.

What’s the difference between an RPO and in-house recruitment?

In-house recruitment is where a company’s end-to-end talent acquisition is managed by a dedicated internal team. 

Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) means completely or partially outsourcing your internal permanent recruitment services to an external recruitment service provider. This can span everything from workforce planning and talent mapping, through to support with talent attraction and employer branding. 

But some businesses will choose to combine these models; siphoning off elements of the service for outsourcing (e.g. talent community curation, CV Sourcing, CV shortlisting, recruitment administration), whilst retaining specific activities within the recruitment lifecycle (e.g. Hiring Manager briefings, and ongoing engagement) in-house.  We are also seeing greater consideration to appointing multiple specialist suppliers for certain skillsets and/or locations.

What are the benefits of a hybrid RPO?

Partially outsourcing your recruitment will give you many of the traditional benefits of an RPO – scalability, cost savings, specialist market knowledge and process visibility – while still retaining some ownership of key processes. This means you can carve up which functions would benefit from a specialist recruitment outsourcer, and which aspects would benefit from being managed internally.

For example, if as a business you easily attract talent within your head office-type roles (e.g. sales & marketing, HR, admin/clerical etc) but you struggle to source and engage niche technology and digital candidates, you may choose to outsource recruitment for your technology division. The same is true for experienced hire recruitment vs early careers programmes – often the latter is retained in-house, particularly where volumes are low or the programmes is well-established and already successful. Or, you might ask multiple providers to support with talent pooling and shortlisting talent due to their knowledge of the market but manage everything from the interview stage onwards internally to maintain consistency. 

Hybrid models also improve expertise by pooling different resources into a single solution. Internal recruitment teams, for example, will have the best understanding of your brand and culture. By combining this with the expertise from a specialist like Lorien of the wider market, and how other comparable businesses attract and retain top talent– such as insight and information on competitors, talent pools, and candidate sentiments and activity – together we can further strengthen your EVP development and improve talent attraction. Likewise, aligning different specialist suppliers to different specialisms in your process will help to elevate the overall service.

Partial RPOs are also a great way to safeguard against spikes in demand, by giving your internal team additional support for scaling requirements. This stops you from overstretching your internal team during busy periods and investing in unnecessary headcount during quiet periods. 

What are the risks of a hybrid RPO?

There are three critical risks to consider with partial outsourcing: clarity, consistency, and communication. Miscommunication or a lack of clarity on different touchpoints can cause confusion and a poor experience for hiring managers and candidates. 

To counteract this, it’s important that all parties understand where they fit into processes, responsibilities and handoffs are clearly defined at the outset of the service modelling to ensure that there are no gaps in your recruitment journey or in candidate care., Take regular formal and informal feedback from your stakeholders to gauge the satisfaction of the service;  and as with all outsourced solutions, a formal service evolution and continuous improvement approach also plays a key part in ensuring that the hybrid structure can flex and evolve in line with the customer’s needs. During implementation, maximum effort should be taken to share best practices and ensure cultural alignment and understanding. An ‘us and them’ divide is the biggest risk in any partnership. 

How would a hybrid operating model affect the recruitment service?

Choosing a hybrid operating model – where some services are retained in-house or perhaps partially awarded to other service providers – should not affect the quality, governance, or executive sponsorship of the service. There could be some changes to the overall operational model, but commitment and core services should remain the same.

We currently support a number of clients already working this way, and we commit the same values in terms of flexibility, dedication, and quality, irrespective of the service we deliver. A hybrid RPO does not mean compromising or accepting a disjointed recruitment experience, it’s simply about layering and adding flex to your recruitment function in a different way.

However, it’s also important to note that many established recruitment providers today (including Lorien) have the expertise to manage the full recruitment lifecycle, including managing different specialist suppliers. So if you’re concerned by the idea of splitting up your recruitment process, a simpler (and just as effective) route may be going with a single specialist partner. 

What are the best ways to work together?

As with any supplier-partner relationship, the key to success is clear, honest communication. It’s important to keep lines of communication open and frequent to keep everyone on the same page; we like to schedule in regular meetings between different stakeholder groups and business units, as well as encouraging ad hoc catch-ups to ensure there’s a level of trust and consistency across different parties. Strategic conversations should always include senior-level sponsors from each party. It’s a good idea to outline clear rules of engagement and ways of working during implementation too, to clarify accountability and ensure a seamless join up for candidate and hiring manager experience.

At Lorien, we believe in putting the client and their candidates first, and the reality is that if everyone is doing the same, there should be very little conflict. Starting from a place of transparency and accessibility will open up communication and keep everyone pulling in the same direction. 


The resourcing landscape is incredibly versatile. In theory, you should be able to achieve any talent acquisition combination that works for you. There is nothing that prevents you from only outsourcing part of your resourcing service, appointing different specialists to manage different elements of the lifecycle, or having a core internal team with an outsourced engine for volume needs. That’s why it’s important to select a provider that will create a tailored solution that wraps around your unique needs – and not try to make your bespoke needs fit their preferred model!

At Lorien, we believe in creating a bespoke service for each customer. Our solutions are always tailored to each client’s specific needs and objectives, and we always build flexibility into our models so we can quickly adapt to different market demands. If you’re considering outsourcing your recruitment – whether partially or in full – please reach out to me for a confidential, no-obligation conversation on how we can help you achieve your goals. 
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