Outsourcing: A win-win situation situation

The HR director at global property and money management company Jones Lang LaSalle admits that her main aim when considering outsourcing the recruitment function was cutting costs. But despite all the complexities and people issues inherent in the planning of any outsourcing deal, the biggest challenge turned out to be convincing the senior executives of the commercial benefits.

Fortunately, working in a strong sales environment has given HR director Theresa Salter the persuasive powers to see through the changes. As a result, the company has not looked back.

“The concept was originally reviewed by my predecessor in early 2004,” says Salter. “However, the board at that time was not persuaded. I resurrected it again in July 2004 when I took over the role.

“One of the biggest challenges was explaining how the model would work on a day-to-day basis,” she adds. “Some leaders in the business saw it as an additional step in the recruitment process and the managing director took a lot of persuading over the principle of outsourcing and controlling costs.”

The fact that all recruitment costs would be in one place, instead of spread between individual departments across the business, was also a difficult concept for the business to accept. However, Salter managed to convince the board that the outsourcing deal would deliver better recruitment at a lower cost to the organisation.

Her faith in the initiative has been vindicated. Time to hire has been slashed from 42 to 28 days and recruitment costs are already falling significantly.

The whole project was essentially HR-led so the function was involved in planning from the outset. Once the initial idea was agreed in principle it took a further four months to decide on a partner and work out the right costing model.

Because the whole HR department was remodelled the change did not involve any redundancies for existing HR staff, and the department was central in designing and delivering the project.

Salter worked with the procurement department to agree the financial aspects of the deal with the outsource partner Capital Consulting. She admits that the main motivation was cost reduction.

“We wanted something that was cost-neutral with potential long-term savings,” she explains.

It was vital that HR took a strong role in developing and selling the concept, because Salter wanted the external team to be aligned with the organisation in terms of culture, values and building working relationships.

“HR led the case for change and presented it to the board in the UK, which I’m a member of,” she says. “I worked closely with a procurement colleague to draw up a costing model that met our needs and covered the Capital Consulting operating costs.”

Salter now believes the initiative has created a flexible, dedicated recruitment resource that meets the needs of the business and integrates well with the rest of the company.

“A cultural fit with our organisation was paramount as we wanted a full team on-site with us, embedded into the HR department,” she says. “The current team have integrated exceptionally well with our HR department and have developed strong relationships with the line managers.”

The company at a glance
Jones Lang LaSalle is a global property services and money management firm that was founded in 1999 after a merger. It has a portfolio of approximately 725 million square feet of managed property and is active in more than 100 of the world’s key markets. In the UK it employs more than 1,000 staff with offices in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Norwich, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Learning points for HR
Theresa Salter, HR director at property services firm Jones Lang LaSalle, offers her advice on managing an outsourcing project:

What would you do differently?
Luckily for us, it has been a real success, so there weren’t too many negative learning points. Perhaps we could have had better advanced communication with line managers once the decision was made, although we were working to tight timescales and this affected our ability to do this.

What are the key things to avoid?
Depending on your market, don’t try to eliminate recruitment agencies completely. We have worked hard to build strong relationships with our agencies and maintain a preferred supplier list. The aim was to build a database of candidates that we could recruit directly at a lower cost. We wanted to shift the balance of agency versus direct recruits, but we don’t foresee a situation where agencies aren’t used at all.

What advice would you give to other HR practitioners?
Don’t attempt to consult too broadly on it. Consult and get agreement only from the board. Recruitment is such a sensitive issue and the model we have now is different to what we had before – but with many additional benefits.

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