HRO Déjà Vu

Linda Merritt, HRO Research Analyst, NelsonHall

Linda Merritt, HRO Research Analyst, NelsonHall

Each quarter, we publish the NelsonHall HR Outsourcing Confidence Index (HROCI) for our clients and the participating service providers. I like to share some of the highlights in my blog, but it can be hard to make fresh insights during times when the results are stable from quarter to quarter. When the confidence ratings are generally strong, as they are, then stability is pretty good news for HRO service providers.

Overall Confidence Remains Stable

The most recent HROCI shows a vendor confidence level of 157 for Q1 2013, where 100 represents unchanged confidence and higher scores indicate increased confidence. That is in line with the 156 from Q4 2012 and a bit up from the 153 one year ago. Confidence dipped mid-2012 with Q2 at 138 and Q3 at 140, which was not too surprising given the political and economic uncertainty we saw last year:

  • While the overall confidence score at 157 remains stable, those suppliers reporting slightly more or much more confidence increased 13% quarter over quarter
  • Increased confidence is reflective of solid pipelines of potential new sales and expectations for growth.

Growth Expectations Vary

Service lines: HR business process outsourcing service lines do not grow at the same rate. Some services like RPO and payroll remain steady performers, followed closely by benefits administration. The pipeline for benefits administration is looking especially strong. Expectations for multi-process HRO and learning remain about the same, which indicates continued slow growth.

Geography: Location matters in HRO and the patterns of growth also vary by region. The economic recovery is uneven in pace, readiness for HRO is uneven, and multi-country deals are a smaller part of the mix than in the recent past.

Overall, vendor confidence by geography has weakened with many regions showing some decline in confidence. North America, Asia Pacific, and Latin America show the strongest numbers, but there can be significant variation country by country. As we have seen for some time, growth expectations for Europe and the Middle East remain dampened.

Industry: High-tech and retail look to be the optimistic growth industries with most sectors remaining within prior modest expectations for growth. Expectations remain low for federal government and defense.

Mostly Steady and Stable Ahead

It is good to see the balancing of demand for cost savings and process standardization continuing. Client pricing expectations may still be unrealistic as there are always those who want a quick 50% off along with some freebies thrown in at the same time.

One area to watch is the growing client interest in and adoption of platform-based services. Some buyers are specifying SaaS and cloud-based services in proposals. We need to help educate buyers on leaving some room for discovering the best solution fit for each client situation.

To end on a positive note, 79% of HRO suppliers believe that a net up-turn in decision-making is taking place. Let’s get out there and get those deals signed!

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