You know this if you have had to do it, but finding the right talent solution — and talent solution provider — can be a huge challenge, one that can give a company a huge headache if it doesn’t go right.

That’s why a new survey released today by Orion Talent, titled Making the Grade: Where Talent Solution Providers Succeed (and Fail), is an important one to dig into if your organization is thinking about finding a new talent solution provider anytime soon.

Here’s the key finding: More than two thirds (70 percent) of companies say that their business goals are aligned with talent solution providers at the start of their engagement, but that alignment plummets to a D grade (69 out of 100) over time.

When asked how this misalignment could be improved, three answers jump out:

  1. The need for better metrics to show business impact and success (31 percent);
  2. Better communication with executive leadership (24 percent); and,
  3. Recurring meetings with company leaders throughout the engagement (20 percent).

Companies find metrics are an issue

Better metrics are especially critical, and although metrics are viewed as a value add and strategy to improve alignment, only 37 percent of clients said are satisfied with the frequency of performance metrics from their talent solution provider — and only 45 percent are happy with the quality of those metrics.

Perhaps even more telling is this: Less than a third (29 percent) of companies use provider metrics to inform their business decisions, and more than half of those who don’t (55 percent) say it’s because the metrics aren’t relevant or useful.

“There is incredible opportunity for providers to elevate themselves as strategic business partners,” said Orion Talent CEO Mike Starich, in a press release about the research. “Our survey reveals the client-provider relationship declines significantly as the engagement progresses.”

He added: “It starts off great, with more than two thirds of companies saying alignment is good or excellent. But over time, lack of communication and metrics that work for both sides deteriorate the partnership. Providers and clients must both revisit program goals and SLAs to manage program changes, and better communication between providers, HR, and executive leadership is essential.”

The survey also found, not surprisingly, that quality of candidates is the most important and compelling quality that companies look for when choosing a talent solution provider. In fact, quality of candidates is ranked five times higher (53 percent to 10 percent) than the next most important factor — proven successes/metrics.

The No. 1 reason companies choose a provider

“Quality of candidates is the No. 1 reason companies choose a provider, and it’s also the number one way providers earn an overall A ranking and keep their engagements,” said Cory Kruse, President of Orion Novotus, an Orion Talent company. “Companies should be diligent in working with their providers upfront to agree on objectives and price structures so they can deliver the right quality candidates, and providers should recognize that securing quality candidates will ultimately have the biggest impact for their clients.”

There’s a lot of interesting information in this survey, and it is especially important for those who are considering or in the process of bringing on a new talent solution provider. For example, one section of the survey report titled “Why Relationships Fail,” pointed out that “demanding high quality and low costs, clients are quick to judge low-performing providers.”

It went on to say this:

Talent solution providers have a 35 percent failure rate. You read that right… in the last two years, end users report that more than a third of their relationships have failed. The rate is even higher for companies that primarily use permanent hire services: 40 percent.

Given the emphasis on quality of candidates during the selection process, you might surmise that’s where most providers fall short. But in fact, clients primarily attribute failure to an inability to reduce hiring costs.

Reducing hiring costs is the main failure factor across the board, even for companies who rank quality of candidates as their top selection factor; rate their providers highly; and say their stakeholders are well aligned.

Striking a balance between quality and cost frequently emerges as a source of friction between talent solution providers and clients, particularly when profits are under scrutiny. Delivering ‘good, fast, and cheap’ is an engineering challenge that points to the need for clear and constant communication between all parties around hiring expectations.”

Now, if I’m the point person for my company in finding a new talent solution provider, this is good stuff that I want to know BEFORE we get too deep into the selection process.

Good data, great insights

North Carolina-based Orion Talent says it “provides a total talent solution for businesses nationwide, including skilled talent acquisition, recruitment optimization and military hiring solutions. As a military recruiting leader for 25+ years, Orion Talent has a long history of supporting veterans in their search for meaningful careers and has found employment for more than 40,000 veterans. And Orion Novotus, an Orion Talent company, provides a full range of recruitment optimization and consulting solutions.”

I always find interesting information in surveys, stuff that doesn’t always get touted along with the key findings, and with the great volume of material in Making the Grade: Where Talent Solution Providers Succeed (and Fail), you will probably find that to be the case here, too.

It’s quick and easy to download the report, and it’s one I think you’ll find well worth your while whether you are looking for a talent solutions provider right now, or, perhaps if you just have been thinking about doing something down the road.

Either way, there’s a lot of good data and information here that might be able to help as both you and your organization look to get better talent and move your business ahead.

By John Hollon

John Hollon is managing editor at Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. You can download the research reports in their Global Talent Mobility Best Practice Research series at Fuel50.