Outsourcing the brand
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Working with any type of outsourcing company will mean relaxing the control you exercise over your brand image to some extent. But how far should an organisation allow this to happen and are there any real dangers inherent in it?
Outsourcing the recruitment process has the potential to cut both ways when it comes to brand values. Give candidates a good, well-managed experience and, even if they don’t get a job out of it, they can come away with a positive view of the client company. Give them a bad one and they may never buy that organisation’s products or services again. Telecoms giant Nokia seems acutely aware of this. Greg Allen, its EMEA recruitment manager recently told a conference that, “Our product brand is a very expensive thing and we are not going to give it to people who go out to the market with the wrong message. A terrible candidate experience falls back on Nokia and that is one thing we won’t tolerate. We won’t let anyone mess with our product brand.”
The potential for brand hubris or nemesis is bigger than ever today because of power of the internet. Online platforms such as LinkedIn and the seemingly ubiquitous Facebook are not just lightening fast communicators of information, they have also become vital sourcing tools for both internal and external recruiters, allowing them to target very specific groups based on their demographics and profile. However could this apparently legitimate use of publicly available data lead to accusations of covert or overt discrimination? For example, while no organisation would dream of advertising for ‘experienced’ people any more, why is it OK to post an advert on Facebook whose key demographic is 18 to 23 year olds. Taking it further, what is to stop recruiters using this same data, consciously or sub consciously, in their evaluation and selection of potential candidates? Does the fact that the individual has chosen to put this information ‘in the public domain’ (and believe me people - it really is public!) make the information any less sacrosanct?
It’s obvious that handing over stewardship of a brand in the HR and, very specifically, the recruitment space is to enter a veritable minefield. And, as a consequence, many HR directors and other potential commissioners of outsourcing services remain hesitant, like swimmers dithering around the side of an under-heated pool. But little was ever achieved through inaction. The key seems to be a truly rigorous tendering process when selecting an outsourcing firm and an insistence on a business relationship that is not just about client and provider but real partners. Because, as Ian Ruddy, Head of HR Operations at Telefónica O2, puts it, “The day you have to get the agreement out of the drawer is the day you don’t have an agreement.”
Chris Hornsby is business solutions manager at recruitment outsourcing and talent management specialist, Ochre House – http://www.ochrehouse.com