Storimans has visited the UK many times and is always struck by the level of maturity of RPO he finds there compared to his home country, the Netherlands. “In the UK you see organisations that have twenty recruiters working for a single client. In the Netherlands you’re happy when you have four people working for one account. Occasionally we see bigger ones, but these are very volatile, going up and down which is very difficult from a business perspective.”
“In the US it’s pretty common to stay just fourteen months in a job. But in Europe there are still a lot of people for whom it’s normal to stay at one employer for four or five years.”
There is a number of reasons for this. First, the volume in vacancies in mainland Europe is smaller because of the makeup of the labour market. European employees have longer tenures than their US or UK counterparts. This means there will be less mobility and therefore less vacancies. “In the US it’s pretty common to stay just fourteen months in a job. That’s changing in Europe, and increasingly we see shorter tenures, but there are still a lot of people for whom it’s normal to stay at one employer for four or five years”, Storimans says.
Moreover, European businesses are less inclined to embrace a single business process and force the whole organisation to adopt it. This results in there always being hiring managers who refuse to work with the centralised recruitment process making the position of talent acquisition as well as an RPO tenuous and complex.
Patchwork of different countries
Another important consideration is that though Europe is often seen as one market, it is a patchwork of different countries with their own rules and regulations as well as their own languages, Storimans adds. “Take for example Germany, the Netherlands, and France, these countries all have different job marketing channels.” That makes it very difficult to take a single approach and apply it everywhere. The result is that reaching a certain level of scale that is needed to run an efficient operation is difficult.
“Europe is often seen as one market, it is a patchwork of different countries with their own rules and regulations as well as their own languages.”
Nonetheless, RPO players are giving it their best shot, he sees. The major American and British companies are growing their presence. “Take AMS in the Netherlands. While they maybe had a handful of people seven years ago, nowadays they have a serious number of recruiters. Typically these companies ride along with their existing client base. When those clients open new locations, they follow suit.”
“As long as you get high quality candidates through job marketing, it works out. But when it doesn’t work and you don’t have enough quality applicants, it becomes difficult.”
In order to be able to reach a stable and efficiently run their business, they try to work across borders. “You see examples of them servicing the Dutch market with an English speaking team from Belgium. However the inside knowledge they have of the local labour market will be much less detailed. As long as you get high quality candidates through job marketing, it works out. But when it doesn’t work and you don’t have enough quality applicants, it becomes difficult.”
Need for direct sourcing
Ultimately local expertise is critical for talent acquisition to be successful. “To be able to fill niche roles, you need to do direct sourcing. To do that, you need experienced recruiters who are able to find interesting candidates based on things like what university someone visited, what projects they worked on for whom, or who their peers are. That’s knowledge that you’re going to miss when working across borders and that’s something that’s being underestimated.”
“For me it’s about three different dimensions: lower volumes, differences in service model, and differences across borders.”
It adds up to a number of fundamental, or structural issues impairing the development of the RPO market in mainland Europe Storimans, concludes. “For me it’s about three different dimensions: lower volumes, differences in service model, and differences across borders. That combination results in a much smaller capability to work at scale.”
Bio: Paul Storimans
Paul Storimans has almost two decades of experience as an entrepreneur and executive in recruitment and HR. Currently his focus is on investing in and supporting the growth ambition of HR & Recruitment Technology companies. Earlier he was general manager at Dutch RPO Sterksen.
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This interview is part of a series of interviews our reporter Djaja Ottenhof has recently conducted about the value of the RPO market in Europe in 2021. Sign up for the ToTalent Newsletter to receive the full white paper The Value of RPO in Europe 2021: How RPO expands in an emerging market upon release.