From Second to Third Generation RPO at Essex County Council

The client's challenge:
Essex County Council is at the forefront of development in local government. It was one of the first authorities to set a clear agenda for becoming a commissioning based authority and this required a considerable shift in both ways of working and skills required to deliver future services for the people of Essex.

Capita had been providing Essex County Council with an outsourced recruitment solution for nine years. In preparation for contract renewal the on-site team and bid team wanted to explore what would be required to move from a second to a third generation RPO solution.

This would mean extending the service to include more evidence based proactive strategies allowing the organisation to engage, attract and retain the best talent. The third generation solution would involve building on a number of major projects including the initiative to fill all open vacancies in social work and assisting the council in recruiting skills in support of becoming a commissioning authority.

With this and other people related goals in mind, it was considered that a third generation RPO solution, focused on aligning all recruitment and talent management activity with the strategic objectives of the organisation, was the right approach for the authority moving forward.

Our solutions:


In order to develop and improve the current model, the Council required a clear articulation of a third generation RPO solution and a ‘road map’ for implementing the shift from second to third generation.

We began with a review of the current RPO service that would allow us to plot its position on the RPO maturity model and determine a plan for moving the service towards a third generation solution. This meant not just getting a single measure – but a detailed sense of the level of maturity of all aspects of the service by considering all stakeholders in the review and planning processes.

Senior service delivery personnel were asked to evaluate all aspects of the service from candidate pre-engagement through the management of the candidate journey to contract offer. They also considered wider aspects of the service including workforce planning and the design and delivery of blended workforce solutions.



Working with the delivery team it was possible to undertake a gap analysis between where the service was at the time of the review and the desired ‘third generation’ solution.


What was clear was that some elements of the service were already operating at a level that we would determine to be appropriate for a third generation solution while there were some aspects of the service that were arguably more akin to a first generation solution. This allowed us to focus our planning on developing aspects we deemed to be ‘behind the curve’ and make impact in the areas where development was most required. 

Business outcomes:
The exercise helped us to identify what needed to be done to move to the next stage in the maturity model. We already had experience of working closely with the Council on major resourcing initiatives such as the need to introduce new commissioning skills into the organisation to support the Council’s ambitious agenda for change. Our project to close all Children’s Social Work vacancies included a wide range of activities to re-brand and re-position social work at Essex County Council. We used the Council’s brand advocates and benefits such as total reward to engage with a new generation of candidates. The lessons learned demonstrated the benefit of co-operative working – particularly around initiatives that link directly with the strategic objectives of the Council.

To support further strategic alignment of resourcing with future business outcomes it became clear that we needed to develop new mechanisms for gathering evidence and using analytics to clarify the nature and scope of specific resourcing challenges. We therefore developed a jointly resourced solution for workforce planning and talent management.

Our analytical frameworks, being iterative, mean that we can continually ‘sense check’ the new solution against desired states of maturity. Our model maps the current state and desired state on a maturity model, supporting continuous improvement and positive change. We will re-evaluate the service in the next 18 months to ensure that we have reached the level of maturity that is desired.

This will include gathering the views and perspectives of different stakeholders to ensure that the new contract is delivering a more mature service for all involved.

An analysis of the current state, a vision of the future and a plan to get there means the service has matured over the years to the benefit of the Council. The RPO solution has evolved to match the authority’s changing appetite for talent management over recruitment in a way that is future-focused and cost-effective.