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Next Generation RPO: Good Things Really Do Come in Small Packages


The RPO market has traditionally been dominated by vendors who were established in the U.S., the U.K., or Australia, the first countries to embrace the concept of RPO. The majority of their clients were large organizations headquartered in those regions, who typically had high-volume permanent hiring requirements, and as those organizations expanded internationally, the RPO vendors also grew their headcount and expanded across the globe.

However, in ‘next generation’ RPO, smaller vendors have emerged with significant capability, allowing them to take on the traditional players. Here I look at three such vendors: PeopleStrong, Accolo, and Singular.

Indian RPO market: PeopleStrong

Significant investment in IT by the Indian government over the past twenty years (coinciding with many global organizations expanding into India to reduce labor costs) has led to the IT sector growing its contribution to India’s GDP from 1.2% in 1998 to ~ 8% in 2017, creating a generation of tech-savvy entrepreneurs. 

It was the desire to be an entrepreneur, a background in HR, a stint in sales, and the recognition that there was a lack of recruitment technology in India, that enabled PeopleStrong’s CEO to secure investment to develop the recruitment software PeopleStrong Alt. 

And while there is now an established population of home-grown millennial talent in technical roles, this group only makes up a small proportion of the workforce needed, making the war for talent as strong in India as it is in the U.S., U.K. and elsewhere. Hence, PeopleStrong has leveraged the opportunity to support organizations in the sourcing of scarce talent.    

However, PeopleStrong finds itself in two opposing worlds: one where the concept of RPO is still relatively new in India, and the evolution of RPO services lags behind that of the mature RPO regions; the other being a world of RPA/AI-driven platforms, disrupting the talent acquisition space.  PeopleStrong’s mobile-enabled and consumerized Alt technology suite comprises a range of HR modules, underpinned by strong analytics/messaging capability, but its Alt Recruit talent acquisition platform offers something distinctive compared to other platforms from more established vendors.  

Currently at least 90% automated, using process bots and chatbots, Alt Recruit should be fully automated in 2018, becoming the first fully-automated recruitment platform available in the market. PeopleStrong has just acquired GrownOut to add a referral platform to its ecosystem, to develop its AI and machine learning capability, which will help it reach its goal of being a fully DIY recruitment platform.

PeopleStrong’s evolving technology and India’s growing demand for RPO services has enabled PeopleStrong to grow exponentially. Whilst it is currently a small vendor compared to the well-established global RPO vendors, it is confident that exponential growth will continue for a few years yet, as long as it continues to innovate. PeopleStong’s Alt technology has made a market impact, with it being sold independently as well as Alt Recruit being used by about 90% of its RPO clients.

The rise of mid-market & niche RPO vendors: Accolo & Singular

As the global skills shortage intensifies, the well-established RPO vendors have increasingly focused on offering their services to the mid-market space in addition to supporting large organizations, with just a handful focusing on smaller clients too. However, it has also enabled other recruitment providers to create a new RPO division or re-invent themselves as niche RPO vendors to make an impact in this market. Two such vendors are Accolo and Singular.

U.S.-centric Accolo has carved out a niche by focusing specifically on the SMB space. Its Elevated RPO service is a complete RPO solution comprising a fully outsourced RPO service underpinned by an unbranded proprietary recruitment platform. It has automated processes for initial sourcing, screening and ranking of candidates, and AI built in to improve automation after every recruiting instance. With many of Accolo’s clients not having a dedicated in-house talent acquisition team or IT team, leveraging a platform which enables visibility of talent data with analytics can be transformational for those clients. This enables organizations who would not otherwise have the capacity to engage with larger RPO providers to access an end-to-end RPO solution.

Singular, established in 2016, is the new managed solutions division of Airswift. Singular focuses on very specific industries: energy (especially oil and gas), process manufacturing, and infrastructure. Working in industry sectors often deemed by potential candidates as unattractive (being dominated by a work culture of long-term projects typically 3 to 10 years in duration), while demanding internationally mobile permanent and contingent workers, Singular is well-positioned to source highly- or niche-skilled workers from across the globe to work on very specific projects. It is adding a different RPO offering to the mix, suited for clients with more transient workforces.

This is just a quick overview of how small RPO vendors are making an impact on the big stage, and the signs are that this will be a continuing trend, with smaller players challenging the big established RPO vendors on several fronts, including geographically, technically, by market size, and by industry sector.


NelsonHall’s HR Services clients can find out more in my latest market analysis report, Next Generation RPO, published in January 2018 – or contact Guy Saunders for further details.

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