RPO – smart-sourcing?

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BH: Suzanne, you are currently Director of HR at Chatham Hospital, but in your previous role, at Talecris Biotherapeutics, you were the account manager for RPO. Tell us a little bit about that.

Sure. When I was at Talecris, I was managing the recruiting team. I had nine recruiters reporting to me and they supported roughly 40 plasma centers around the United States. One of the challenges we were facing at the time was that we were opening new plasma centers around the country at a very high rate of speed. Each center meant recruiting approximately 20 new staff. The recruiters that I had on my team could not possibly manage their own centers and also staff the new centers at the same time –– every center required recruiting roughly 20 people. I reached out to Zachary [Zachary Misko, Global Director, RPO, KellyOCG] and his colleagues because they had helped us in the past, with temporary positions. And Zachary brought Recruitment Process Outsourcing to the table.

BH: So was this the first time you had encountered RPO? What was your reaction?

SE: Yes it was! And it was an interesting learning experience.

I was on this project with my Vice-President of Human Resources, who’s still at Talecris. Neither of us had ever been in RPO so we were, of course, sceptical of something "new"! Even though we constantly talk about what "change-agents" we are, in our environment, when something is brand new…that’s still a little frightening.

But Zachary is such a professional and he is such a subject-matter expert. He brought himself and two or three of his team members to the Raleigh-Durham area, and really laid it out for us – showed us how it would work. HR people are very visual; you can talk about it to us all day long…but you’ll only really capture our attention once you show it to us – data, statistics, reporting, etc. So that’s when we decided: "You know what? What do we have to lose? Let’s do this!"

BH: With regards to the RPO itself, what were your initial concerns, Suzanne? Was it perceived as risky?

SE: That’s a great question. I think what we felt was risky was bringing these KellyOCG individuals – and we hired three of them – onto our team. Even though they were temporary team members, as per our agreement, they weren’t "temporary" as in "through a temp agency." They were full-time employees with KellyOCG, so really sub-contractors. They had Talecris name-badges; they had Talecris email addresses; but I think what was the most concerning was that I knew they would not report to me. They obviously reported "dotted-line" to me, because it was my team, but they reported to someone in Wisconsin. [Deb Cooper, KellyOCG]. And I guess the challenge lay in wrapping our brains around how that was really going to work. The Kelly folks have been doing this for a long time, of course, so I just had to put trust in them that it was going to work. And it did. They interviewed all of the potential recruits on site, at Talecris, and I got to meet them. I wasn’t part of the interviewing process but I did have a little bit of input.

It turned out to be a really wonderful experience. What we were also concerned about, Barbara, was – at the end, when we finished opening up all these centers, what would happen to these people? We knew they would probably end up having to go away, one way or another. Personally, that was sad for us, but we knew it was going to happen. And it did eventually happen.

BH: Can you explain the process, for those not familiar with it. When you contracted for RPO with KellyOCG – their staff actually sat in your offices for the duration of the contract?

SE: Yes, that is how we wanted it. I’m sure other companies do it differently but we wanted them to be part of our team. We wanted them to be integrated so they could not only learn from our recruiters, but also feel like they were part of our environment. They attended my staff meetings, and we would travel together to these large national managers’ meetings, where we actually met the managers of the plasma centers that we were supporting and recruiting for.

BH: Did you stipulate a certain number of hires, Suzanne, for this contract? Or was it a time frame?

SE: Yes, we needed approximately 20 hires per plasma center. That means hired, trained, and ready to operate when the center opened. We were opening up 15-18 centers that year — an industry record, by the way! — so that meant 300 plus staff. It was like trying to build the airplane as it’s in the air. But it was so important. Just to give you a picture: Talecris is a bio-therapeutics company and we make IV medications from human plasma. So, when you hear about people donating plasma…we actually pay them for their time; we don’t pay them for their plasma. So we extracted the 6% protein that is in your plasma and sent it to a fractionation process in our major plant in North Carolina. That’s where they make our IV medications. Every plasma center is staffed by one center manager, responsible for the entire center; two assistant managers; a quality supervisor; maybe seven phlebotomists; three lab folks; etc. etc. It’s just like running a small business on behalf of a big corporation.

BH: How did Kelly get up to speed with your particular market niche? This is a very specific niche; it’s not like hiring an accountant.

SE: We had used Kelly for temp services in our plasma centers for years. If we needed three phlebotomists in Tuscaloosa because we were shorthanded and we needed them tomorrow, then we would call Kelly.

BH: Who was responsible for training your new recruits for the centers? Was it you [Talecris] or Kelly?

SE: That’s a great question. I thought Kelly did a really good job with this. What happened was when new staff were hired under Kelly, they actually went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for several days where KellyOCG’s headquarters were located at the time, for an orientation. I actually went, too, just so I could be a part of the team and get to know them. I was there for two days; I think they were there three or four. And they did their own Kelly orientation – the Kelly way of doing things. Then we brought them back to Talecris and we integrated them into our team. We actually had one fulltime Talecris employee who was responsible for recruiting for the new centers.

BH: You mean now the on-boarding element?

SE: Yes, she was responsible for on-boarding and training the new staff on how we did things at Talecris. So, there were three recruiters in total and one assistant, but only one of those three recruiters was originally from Talecris.

BH: And was the final decision made by these three? Or did they feed a shortlist of staff through to someone else at Talecris?

SE: Yes, they did. Because they were hiring for new centers, there wasn’t a center manager for them to send rêsumês to, so there were actually assistant directors who were responsible for opening the centers. They were part of the new center development team and those people would receive rêsumês of people that already been pre-screened by the Kelly folk.

BH: Now, the alternative to going down the RPO route with Kelly would have been for you to say, I’m going to hire two fulltime recruiters myself, train them up, etc. How did those two options compare, Suzanne? When an HR leader is faced with a number of hires they cannot fill with their current team, what do you think are the pros and cons of trying to staff-up their own recruitment team vs RPO?

SE: The reason we chose RPO, was, for one, that I knew the positions were temporary – a year or so. I knew that while at the end these folks would not have a job, they could still be wrapped under the Kelly blanket and Kelly would redeploy them. Whereas at Talecris, had we brought them on board full-time, given them benefits, paid them a nice salary, trained them, allowed them to invest in our stock…that would have been a more costly option. But one of the main reasons was that we knew we would have to reduce their position and we didn’t want to do that to a full-time employee. Also, who’s really going to take on a job that will only last a year? That was another consideration. RPO made perfect sense to us.

BH: Thank you, Suzanne.

About Suzanne Eller

Suzanne is currently the Director of Human Resources with Chatham Hospital. She began this role in April of 2010 and has been developing new job descriptions, policies/procedures, performance management systems, recruiting processes, on-boarding, and 2 major HR projects with her colleagues at UNC Health Care Systems. She reports to the President of the hospital and is part of the hospital’s administrative staff, which consists of the Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Nursing Officer.

She started her career at Laboratory Corporation of America (LabCorp) as a Staffing Assistant and was quickly promoted to a Recruiter. In her 11 years with LabCorp, Suzanne worked in the Corporate Division, which consisted of 1500 employees and in the Information Technology Division, which consisted of 800 employees. She was promoted to a Sr. HR Consultant and was challenged with many responsibilities including: employee relations, individual career planning and development, developing relationships with local colleges/universities, training, creating behavioral based interviewing questions, and the subject matter expert for the department on OFCCP and EEO.

Suzanne left LabCorp in 2007 to join Talecris Plasma Resources (TPR) as the Manager of Recruiting. Suzanne led a team of nine recruiters that were responsible for hiring 1900 employees within a 12 month span. She ensured compliance with all labor laws and was a true partner to the senior leadership team. Suzanne partnered with Kelly HR First to develop an HRO plan for an expanding division within Talecris. With the support of Kelly HR First, Suzanne increased her recruiting team by three and was able to staff all new centers in time for "go live." Suzanne was also instrumental in assuring herself and her team were trained through Development Dimensions International (DDI) in Targeted Selection. Through Targeted Selection, the turnover rate at TPR decreased by 25%.

Suzanne is a member of SHRM and the Human Resources Management Association of Greensboro (HRMAG). She was recognized as a 2010 HRO Superstar by HRO Magazine for her work with KellyOCG.