How to Write Effective SLAs for Your RPO

teambuildingService level agreements (SLAs) are not just key contract bargaining points. If you’re tasked with writing them, you need to consider why you choose the SLAs you do, and which specific behaviors will drive results.

Here are some things to consider as you write SLAs:

What defines success? Before you decide how to get somewhere, you need to know what your destination is. The purpose of SLAs is to help you and your RPO work from a common understanding of what success in the partnership looks like. Talk openly with your RPO about what your expectations are. Be sure you are both on the same page when it comes to defining success.

Action Steps

  • Discuss expectations with your RPO
  • Commit to a common definition of success
  • Be open and transparent

Where are you starting from? Before you can write SLAs, you need to identify where you’re starting from. You cannot gauge improvement without a baseline. This means you need to assess what your recruitment performance has been prior to working with your RPO.  That can prove challenging, especially as most internal recruitment processes do not operate with KPIs or SLAs. And, if your strategic talent goals have changed, past success may not be relevant to current performance. Now is the time to take a close look at your processes and determine where you can make improvements.

If you do not have benchmarks, your RPO provider should be able to provide a wealth of valuable experiential data to the process based on their work with other like and similar customers. Granted, “like and similar” doesn’t mean “same as you”, so this experiential data may or may not directly frame what your SLAs should be, but it can be valuable in providing another data point to then triangulate on what your specific SLAs should be.

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Action Steps

  • Benchmark what success has meant in the past
  • Know if changes in talent goals make baselines relevant
  • Talk with your RPO about what your past performance has been and what expectations stakeholders may still have based on that

Break it down into behaviors. Once you know where you’ve been, and how you define success, plot a course for how to achieve it. Look at the key factors that will help you reach your goals. What are the primary objectives? At the end of the day, the point of having SLAs is to drive the behaviors you want. When you know your desired outcomes, break them down into specific behaviors. For example, if your time-to-fill is 60 days, specific SLAs that would support achieving this would be: “Feedback must be provided within 48 hours” and “No more than three candidates may be submitted.” There are numerous behaviors you can identify that will support a desired outcome.

Be sure, however, that the behaviors and words you use are measurable. If you write “Three quality candidates” – how will you define and measure “quality”?

Action Steps

  • Choose behaviors that will create the desired outcome
  • Be sure the behaviors are measurable
  • Be realistic in your expectations

Should SLAs be flexible? A common assumption is that SLAs are written in stone. But should they be? You should review SLAs on a regular basis to determine if you need to update them. If your business strategy changes from nominal growth to aggressive growth, the focus of your talent strategy may change from maintaining a slate of succession candidates for pivotal roles to requiring fast time-to-fills with highly-skilled candidates in challenging geographical regions. That means the behaviors that will drive those result need to change.

Action Steps

  • Review SLAs on an annual basis, or anytime business strategy changes
  • Be aware of how changes in the business impact the relevance of your SLAs
  • Discuss SLA performance with your RPO every quarter and ask your RPO firm to explain gaps and recommend solutions to address them

Remember, recruitment and talent management are an art and a science. SLAs are science, and don’t always account for the “art” of the industry. Sometimes it’s okay to miss an SLA, especially if it reflects changes in your talent strategy or other uncontrollable circumstances that come up. Be open and honest with your RPO firm to make sure you’re on the same page and speak each other’s language. SLAs are great guidelines that help align everyone with your company’s talent needs. With care and purpose, SLAs will help you drive success.

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Emily Gordon

Emily Gordon
Emily Gordon is strategic director of Seven Step. She has built and implemented multiple national delivery centers while working with one of the largest global staffing and sourcing providers and has acquired a Six Sigma Green Belt Certification.

Emily Gordon

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One Response to “How to Write Effective SLAs for Your RPO”

  1. […] Service level agreements (SLAs) are not just key contract bargaining points. If you’re tasked with writing them, you need to consider why you choose the SLAs you do, and which specific behaviors will drive results.  […]

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