The Definitive Guide to RPO – Building a business case for RPO


Through our work with SMEs, we know that recruiting the best people into your business is crucial to ensuring success. But the talent management landscape extends far beyond the act of recruiting. It encompasses a complete approach to identifying, attracting, and nurturing individuals whose skills and values align with yours.

Your challenges

We know your challenges; we have them ourselves and help our clients with them daily. For the most part, it comes down to having access to the right talent and making hires in the most efficient way.

We’d put these challenges into three buckets.

1. People

A lack of staff resource is probably the biggest challenge for any business, particularly SMEs. When a business reaches that point where hiring becomes a critical part of its operations, and the associated costs are soaring, there comes a tipping point where having your own HR or recruitment team, whether directly or outsourced - can positively impact the business’s continued success.

When resources are stretched, training for talent managers, recruiters, and hiring managers isn’t always prioritised. Do your people have the right knowledge of the market? Do they know how to make the best of any technology to streamline the hiring process? Do they have the skills to create an amazing candidate experience that is both inclusive and engaging?

SMEs may also lack the structured frameworks and expertise needed to navigate complex DE&I issues. Most organisations know what a diverse workforce should look like, but as an SME, you might find it challenging to achieve the right level of representation within your talent pool. Naturally, you might lack the resources a large HR department would have, making it hard to develop comprehensive DE&I initiatives that foster innovation and create an inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive.

2. Business

While you might strive for a highly structured and data-driven approach to your workforce planning, many SMEs conduct this more informally, relying more on intuition, gut feelings, and informal assessments. With the best intentions, workforce planning, while not wholly ‘on the back of a beer mat’, can be somewhat reactionary and lack a structured process.

Your business growth naturally directly impacts your recruitment needs, whether the growth is local or within a new territory. You may experience seasonal peaks in business, steady organic growth, or extreme peaks because of a merger, takeover or investment. Riding these peaks and troughs is a rollercoaster.

Although SMEs quite often enjoy a lower cost of hire (lower overheads, more agile processes, leaner HR teams), this cost is still significant, particularly when relying on recruitment agencies. Many also find the cost of hiring hard to measure. A lack of structured processes or investment in technology can also have an adverse effect on the speed of hire. Retention is also a considerable challenge as it requires keeping your top employees happy and engaged while also hoping they withstand the temptations of any superior benefits, career progression or a funfair style office offered by your rivals.

3. Market

The talent market has evolved and become increasingly sophisticated. There has been huge tech innovation that allows us to work smarter. That’s great, right? But it comes with a high level of noise and confusion too. You need to decide what tools to take advantage of within your business. What is the right technology? Do you fully understand your market, its trends, and its pressures? Where can you find this information, and who in your business will become that expert? Do you need to use talent intelligence to find the right talent? Maybe you don’t, but if your competitors are doing so, where will that leave you? Likely on the back foot.

What is the market perception of your company? Is there a clearly defined employee value proposition? Does your business have any sort of footprint on Glassdoor or similar sites? And what control do you have over that?

Your Status Quo

An important place to start when looking at building a business case for RPO or any sort of external support with your recruitment is to fully understand where you are starting from. What are we doing now, what is it costing, and what does good look like?

To get under the hood of this, we suggest you do some basic analysis and commit it to paper. While it might seem known and obvious at first, pulling it formally together will give a better sense of where you are currently. Let’s use the same buckets as before.

1. People

Who is currently involved in recruitment, and which people are performing what roles? Think about admin staff, HR and hiring managers. What time does each of them spend on recruitment, either monthly or throughout one hire? Work out the approximate cost to the business for their time.

2. Business

What is the recruitment process, from defining a need to onboarding? Is it consistent each time, and is it easily repeatable? Is it documented? What is a hiring manager’s experience of the process? Ask them.

Try to work out the cost to the business of the empty seat (s). It can be tough to do this but consider; decreased productivity, overtime paid to other employees, impact on customer experience, project delays, and missed business opportunities, as well as the impact the additional workload has on the morale and well-being of other employees.

3. Market

Think about what you know about how you are perceived as an employer in the market. Also, for B2C businesses, consider how you are rated by customers (Google reviews, Trustpilot etc) and what effect this might have on a potential candidate. Does your company have a footprint on an online platform such as Glassdoor? Do you ask for candidate feedback, whether they were successful or not? Do you have other ways of capturing feedback from employees, such as exit interviews and employee surveys? What are people saying about you?

What do you know about your competitor’s recruitment process? Where are they advertising, and what benefits do they offer? Have any of your new recruits recently been through a hiring process with them? How do you think you can compare?

What does good look like?

One of the key areas in this self-reflection is to consider what good looks like. What do you hope a candidate or employee would say about you? Which of your competitors or partners would you like to emulate? When it comes to process, time to hire and cost of hire, consider working up some KPIs that you would aspire to.

Timescales and support

So, you know the challenges you are facing, and you’ve got a handle on where you are currently. Now you need to consider the urgency of your business case and who you are going to socialise for support. When considering your business case, try to clearly identify how time-sensitive it is. What are the implications of not doing anything or not moving quickly enough?

Who are the stakeholders, who will consider it business critical and who will think it’s a nice to have? Who must be involved in the decision, and who has the power to derail your proposition?

Build your case and capture the risks to the business. Populate and substantiate these as you go along. Understand all your stakeholders, the decision-makers, influencers, and gatekeepers.

Building Your Business Case

It’s now time to build your business case and present it. Remember you are trying to sell something here, so ensure it covers all the questions you might get asked and present your findings in an engaging and easy-to-digest way. A suggested layout might include:


Executive Summary   Why is it being proposed? And why now? What does it offer and what are the risks if we don’t? A high-level look at the costs and potential ROI.  
Benefits   Highlight the benefits and the key challenges it will solve. Showcase some similar examples and case studies that have been successful in the past. 
Risks  Acknowledge the risks associated with the solution and how you might mitigate these.  
Costs   Present the predicted costs and likely returns. 
Stakeholders  Outline the key business sponsors and other associated support for the proposition  


To get key stakeholders to buy into your proposition, it's important to identify who they are and employ a mix of communication channels.

These might include simple e-mail communication, face-to-face meetings, sweet-talking your way into a team's regular meeting or sharing information on your internal comms platform. Tailor your message so that it talks directly to the needs and concerns of that audience.

Encourage feedback and listen to objections. If needed, follow up with additional information and keep providing updates to show you are committed to the process. This will build trust and credibility.

Remember that effective communication is a continuous process. Being flexible, adaptable, and open to feedback will help win them over.

Opportunity Summary

Remember, not everyone will want to get into the weeds of RPO and your business plan, so prepare a visually engaging overview of the opportunity to share. People can always ask for additional information once you have reeled them in!

Want to understand more about RPO and its benefits? Then jump back to our first blog in this series, What is RPO?

Our next blog in the series will look at how to choose the right partner and run a kickass process. In the meantime, if you need some help building your case for RPO, call one of our team, and we'd be happy to guide you through what's involved.