Tim Boote: The guide to interim managers – When to bring one in and hiring right first time

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There has been much talk about the ‘gig economy’ – an environment in which temporary positions are common and organisations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. However, ‘gig’ working is nothing new. Organisations have been hiring interim professionals on temporary contracts for years now, and as short-term deliverers of a service, they are well-placed to be part of the ‘gig economy’.
Interim managers are becoming increasingly sought-after as companies look externally for experienced leaders who have specialised skill-sets and proven track records to resolve issues or drive change.
But what exactly is an interim manager? When might you need one? What should you be expecting an interim manager to deliver and how do you ensure you hire right first time?

What are interim managers?

There is no fixed definition of an interim manager, however, they all have key qualities in common – experience in leadership positions, functional expertise, a proven track record of delivering transformational change and an ability to hold a team together.
Interims will be in the organisation for a limited period with contract durations typically of four to 18 months, but unlike permanent roles, there will be a specific leave date. Pay is on a ‘per day’ basis and managers can expect to be remunerated from £600 per day for functional leads up to £’000 per day for CEO positions.
Interims are not consultants. A slightly unkind definition of a consultant is that they steal your watch and tell you the time, indicating that they provide a plan but then leave the business to get on with it. It is this ‘getting on with it’ that interim managers specialise in.
Similarly, interim managers are not contractors. Both roles are for a fixed-term but contractors are often associated with a specific task and entry-level pay. It is rare for a contractor to be expected to make strategic decisions.

When might you need an interim manager?

There are several situations that may call for an interim manager. These include:

– M&A activity – when companies are sold or merge it often constitutes change in the C-suite with the new owners seeking improved results. They are likely to turn to interim managers who are well-placed to stabilise the ship and deliver improvements, quickly!

– Emergency situation – this is the classic distressed purchase that interims specialise in. Perhaps a Director has left suddenly or course correction is required for a project. An interim will be able to provide that strategic leadership to get things moving.

– Hand-holding – this normally occurs when the organisation has a temporary gap in its structure often caused by internal moves, maternity leave or sick cover. The interim will hold the team in place, keep projects on track and implement the strategic vision until the permanent role is filled.

– New skillset – When an organisation needs to undertake a project that is unlike anything they’ve done before, perhaps driven by legislation or the need for transformational change, a new set of skills may be required. In many organisations, these skills are unlikely to be present, requiring an interim.

What to expect from an interim

The interim will focus on leadership, transformation and action. They will deliver a fast start and will not require a honeymoon period before they begin to make an impact. They will be well-versed in stakeholder management and relationship building so that they can navigate the organisation with speed to make decisions. They also need to have a ‘laser beam focus’ on objectives so it is clear what has been achieved. Finally, a successful interim will have completed many assignments so you can expect a good leaving speech!

Finding and hiring

If the business intends to recruit via an agency, it is preferable to seek out a professional interim service provider (IPS) as they will have met and vetted individuals. An up-to-date list of the best providers can be obtained via the Interim Management Association (IMA), an independent regulatory body for the interim management industry. Businesses that use an agency typically pay a fee of 10 per cent of the day rate.

Other options are LinkedIn, which is now a fantastic resource for finding interim specialists. HR professionals should also ask around as many interims get assignments by word of mouth.

The recruitment process for interims is varied with some organisations moving lightning fast with others operating at a more glacial speed. It typically involves one-to-one meetings to understand how the interims have tackled similar organisational situations. There are likely to be a couple of candidates only, and once the hiring decision has been made, the interim will often start the following week.

It is important for the business to remember that they are not looking for a long-term fit but someone to get their team/project/organisation from where it is now to a better place.

‘Know the small print’

Before signing on the dotted line, it’s important for the company to be aware of:

• The importance of the interim being a limited company – This will go some way to protecting both parties from any potential tax liability.

• What the day rate covers – Professional interims charge a day rate for every day worked and if they are sick or on holiday, they do not get paid. Whatever rate agreed is the total money paid as any tax due will be taken care of by the interim

With interims starting at £600 per day, some organisations may feel this is an expensive option. It should be weighed against a salaried employee who typically costs the company double their salary due to benefits and tax.

With the interim only being as good as their last ‘gig’, they will do everything in their power to make a success of every assignment, and so business shouldn’t be afraid of turning to an interim in time of need, it could prove the smartest decision it makes!

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