Amanda Johnston: What are the advantages of hiring an interim HR Director?

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The big debate in the world of HR currently is the importance of the strategic roles HR Directors (HRDs) can play in the growth and development of an organisation. This factor is as relevant whether you are hiring for a permanent HRD or an interim. If you chose the interim recruitment route when establishing or supporting your HR function, it is important to understand the reasons why you want an interim HRD and the benefits it can bring to your business and its strategy:

1) Continuity

Whether your business is having to cope with sudden departure, cost efficiencies or exponential growth, the hiring of an interim HRD will provide crucial continuity. This is not just for your HR team, but also for the whole staff as they adjust to the change that is required. This kind of stability and assurance is a huge advantage.

2) Objective

One of the key skills of any interim, especially HRDs, is the ability to provide an objective viewpoint to the current situation. Reviewing current structures, organisational design and specific staff challenges from an independent perspective can really make the difference when trying to move a business forward.

3) Overskilled

A further element of hiring an interim HRD is that they are (or should be) overskilled for the role. This is not something for existing staff to feel threatened about. A seasoned interim HRD will have the senior experience and skillset necessary to achieve what is required. As a result of this, they are often “stepping down” into a role, but professional interims are not phased by this – they expect it.

4) Coaches

One of the hidden advantages of hiring an interim HR professional is their ability to act as a coach and mentor to the senior management team. Using their insight and experience, they can help guide leaders through specific organisational challenges, while being able to avoid the usual politics that can influence decision making.

5) Delivery

I have often been asked by hiring managers the difference between interims and management consultants. This distinction is absolutely crucial. Although both disciplines have their place in today’s business world, the important difference here is delivery. Typically, management consultants will advise you around solving organisational issues, but interims will advise and implement – they are the doers.

6) Commercial aspect

Although not typically thought of as commercial, interim HRDs have now had to step up their game and input into “big picture” commercial decisions. The impact that this element can have on staff and morale must be considered and interim HRDs can use their business know how in order to ensure that the HR and team viewpoints are also in the frame.

7) Client-focussed

By their very nature, interim HRDs are there to deliver for their client, not themselves. With an established career already behind them, the interim is not career ladder orientated. They are there to get the job done.

8) Low maintenance

One of the key benefits of hiring an interim HRD is the fact that they are self-sufficient. Unlike permanent hires, once you have given them a clear brief with a robust set of objectives, there is no handholding needed, allowing the client to get on with their job and leave the interim to deliver.

9) Speed of hiring

As a result of their flexible contract terms, most interim HRDs can be available for hire immediately, assuming they are not already on assignment! However, this fast track method is also an advantage in regards to the reduced amount of paperwork and procedure that comes with an interim who has no holiday or benefits costs associated with permanent hiring.

10) Leaving a legacy

The mark of a true interim, HRD or otherwise, is their ability to execute a smooth capability transfer, enabling them to leave their legacy inside the organisation. This is so that the work they have done is sustainable for the business and will still be in place long after they have departed.

As a final point, it is important to remember that HRDs are no longer hired just for sudden departure or crisis. Alongside a recovering economy, interim HR professionals are finding that they are being hired as part of business growth. From talent acquisition and management to learning & development and training, HR interims are helping to drive success and up skilling teams. Their ability to support stronger leadership, provide focus and act as the conscience of a business has become increasingly apparent. Whether they are hired for gap-fill, organisational redevelopment or M&A, interim HRDs ultimately give the organisation the breathing space they need through a process of transformation, and improvements before peeling away and on to their next challenge.

Amanda Johnston is HR director at Alium Partners

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  1. Good article but it almost suggests that all Interim HRDs are good at what they do and/or suited to a role. I think its just as important to make sure either the company or their 3rd party recruitment consultant knows how to qualify and measure the skills of an interim against business needs. At CNA International executive search we have a tried and tested methodology that our clients find comfort in because its a repeatable process for all hires.

    So if you are a business thinking of engaging an interim via a third party recruiter, make sure you ask about their process which enables them to ‘recommend’ candidates for your need. You may be surprised to find what you hear!

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