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Using Interim Managers interims

by Abigail Vickers

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Is My Sector Ready For Interims?

Interims are more in demand than ever before, with a 93% increase in the use of interims since 2006, when it was still more of an emerging profession that grew during the recession.

Organisations have different reasons for working with interims, but many have moved away from that temporary, caretaker or rapid-response deployment of temporary leadership. From our own experience with clients, we know that’s still one reason to work with interims, but it’s far from the only one. It is more common that a temporary senior leader is a solution to a long-term problem, a way to make or manage change that isn’t possible with permanent staff.

There was a time when working with interims was a consequence of uncertainty in the external business environment. There was a time when those days were temporary, storms of uncertainty to weather. That’s no longer the case. Even as the economy improves, change is now a constant state of affairs. Businesses that don’t adapt and innovate ahead of change soon lose market share to others more comfortable with change.

Constant change affects everyone, from multi-national enterprises to public sector organisations to SME’s. This explains the uptick in the use of interims over the past few years. However, as our data and client questionnaires uncover, not every sector is as open to the idea of interims as others.

Which Sectors Work With Interims?

Three sectors lead others when it comes to using interims. Based on a collation of data from clients and conversations with business leaders across dozens of sectors, we have been able to collect the following information that sheds some light on the use of interims.

  • Over the next twelve months, these sectors will show the greatest demand for interims: Financial services (40%), Public (32%) and IT/software (31%).
  • At the same time, there are sectors that are far less likely to deploy or need interim managers: Agriculture (15%), Education (14%) and Police forces (13%).
  • From our research, we have also been able to highlight sector experience most in demand: Financial services (12.9%), Engineering (7%) and Healthcare (6%).
  • When it comes to functional expertise and skills, unsurprisingly, finance is the most popular (11%), followed by HR (9%), programme/project managers (8%) and CEO experience (5%).

Interestingly, the relatively low demand for CEO/Managing Director experience indicates that most organisations that use interims are more stable than just after the recession when demand was higher. Bringing on board finance and HR interims is a good indication that organisations are making long-term changes and transformations that they weren’t strong enough to undertake until recently.

These findings also indicate that private sector organisations using finance or HR interims are gearing up for growth, confident in the economic and market conditions that operate within, despite some lingering uncertainty.

IT and software companies are no surprise on this list. Most need programme or project managers, given the difficult and competitive talent market many are still forced to confront. Although the IT sector is growing faster than others, according to a recent Tech North/Tech City UK report, finance still contributes a significant amount to this countries GDP and GVA. Hence, financial firms hiring interims at an unprecedented rate.

Why Are Some Sectors Still Hesitant Over Using Interims?

Budget will always influence the use of interims. Despite this market maturing over the last 10 – 15 years, there is still a perception that interims are more expensive than permanent staff. That is rarely the case. Once the cost of hiring, bonuses, benefits, car allowances, tax/NI and other costs are piled on, senior staff cost considerably more over the equivalent timescale as an interims assignment (usually 6 to 9 months).

There is always the risk that, no matter how hard a recruiter or headhunter works, a permanent senior staffer won’t work out. Meaning, not only has an organisation incurred the cost of employing them but then there’s more expense associated with going through the hiring process all over again.

However, cost isn’t the only factor that makes some sectors more hesitant to employ interims. Software, for example, is much more accustomed to using temporary and even remote staff, whereas that isn’t possible in agriculture or engineering. In the same way, those sectors place a higher value on experience from within the sector, than without.

The Functional Skills Advantage

Sector-specific knowledge isn’t always an advantage. Business in every industry has its own cycles, which means it’s rare for companies to be completely out of sync with others delivering similar products/services to the same types of customers. When we look at that from the perspective of a company trying to understand why they aren’t growing, or why a transformation project didn’t work, or why they’re failing to innovate, we should consider the value of managers who are facing similar challenges working for competitors.

Assuming a competitor is struggling in a similar way, it is worth asking, where’s the value in employing someone who’s grasping for the same solutions as your own staff? True innovation isn’t going to be found where everyone else is already looking. There are times when a fresh perspective is vital to ensure an organisation stays lean, innovative and better prepared to cope with change.

Interims with the relevant functional skills, such as project management or financial leadership, HR or digital deployment can prove more valuable than those whose experience is limited to a particular industry. When an interim’s experience (in an organisation of a similar size, or facing a similar challenge) aligns with an organisation’s needs, then their background should take a back seat to functional skills. It is at times such as these when an outsider will have an advantage, more able to provide insights that serve business and interim assignment objectives.


If you would like to contribute a blog post on using interim managers, or being an interim, please get in touch. Contact Rod McInnes using the comments below or email Roderick.McInnes@aliumpartners.com







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About the Author

Abigail Vickers

Prior to joining the business, she worked as a Team Assistant for a Real Estate Private Equity firm in Mayfair. Abigail has nine years experience providing administrative support across a number of sectors including property, training and business services. In her current role as Operations Manager, Abigail provides crucial day to day administration support to the whole team from diary management to back office support and HR and health and safety. She also provides general administrative support to the private sector consultants too.



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