Losing a key leader or subject matter expert unexpectedly is a major setback for most businesses. More often than not, there’s no immediate long-term solution available, and there’s a period of uncertainty that can have a significant ripple effect throughout the organisation. Likewise, in today’s highly volatile economy, change is inevitable and often the human resources required to navigate through the current period can be very different from those needed in the future.
As a business executive, project-based talent offers a compelling case for consideration in both these scenarios. Here, we analyse the benefits of Interim Managers, Executives and Project Consultants; why they may be right for your business and the considerations you should factor in when engaging them.
Whether engaging an interim management professional or a project consultant, the very nature of their profession means they are going to have experience that is relevant to your business challenge. These challenges can vary, however, the most common scenarios where we are asked to provide interim resources are:
To Relieve Unexpected Leadership or Skills Gaps
As an example, OnTalent recently assisted an organisation where the incumbent CEO had unexpectedly passed away. The potential impact of the unexpected nature of this scenario meant the business needed immediate leadership to reassure the employees and provide a sense of control. Securing the right long-term executive solution is never a quick process, so they elected to bring in interim cover, in the form of an experienced senior executive. He not only had previous experience in being engaged on a short-term basis in similar scenarios but was the right person for this specific circumstance as he was a strong communicator and leads with compassion – the exact traits needed to work with a team that was dealing with shock, grieving and of course carrying out business as usual activities.
This scenario isn’t limited to leadership gaps, unexpected gaps in subject expertise caused by departures, transfers or other reasons, all lend themselves exceptionally well to project consultants. In these situations, a common solution is for the business to hire in a short-term resource that is over-skilled for the role, to provide internal training, evaluate existing processes and ensure a safe pair of hands during an uncertain period.
To Lead Through Adversity or Change
Businesses today face more challenges from change than they have in the last 100 years. We’ve observed that this has led to an increase in demand for interim executives to lead businesses through specific business challenges an ultimately change as a result of renewed strategy. This could be to carry out an organisational review and to then take direct responsibility for the resulting business restructure, before handing over to a longer-term successor. In these scenarios the incumbent not only has the relevant expertise from previous experience, they are better positioned to make hard decisions without the added pressure of personal relationships and the knowledge they will be moving to another assignment once their objectives have been fulfilled.
To Contribute Specialist Expertise to Fixed Length or One-off Projects
Project Consultants are most commonly engaged to provide outside knowledge for specific business projects that require specialist expertise that is either in short supply or doesn’t exist within the business. As well as contributing additional expertise this resourcing option allows permanent employees to continue delivering business-as-usual activities. There is a perception that Project Consultants can be expensive, perhaps their skills are in demand, however if engaged effectively with the right scoping done prior, in most scenarios the benefits far outweigh the premium paid for a short-term engagement.
To Contribute or Fulfil Business-As-Usual Activity
The inverse of the above utilisation, is that a number of organisations prefer to utilise their existing staff on project related activity, giving them exposure to projects and working with other stakeholders and supporting their development. Therefore hiring contractors to carry out business-as-usual work in their absence with relevant ease.
To Upskill the Existing Workforce or Assist With Change
A by-product of bringing in interim managers or consultants is the contribution to the workforce of outside knowledge, often gleaned at firms operating in a similar industry or sector. In some situations, businesses elect to hire contractors with the sole objective of upskilling their internal workforce, or leading them, especially during change projects. To this extent we’ve observed a significant increase in organisations seeking to hire Change Managers who can help the business through a specific change, whether it be new technology or process.
Finding and engaging competent project-based resources is perceived to be easier than permanent talent acquisition. The reality is that whilst cultural fit is slightly less important for short-term assignments, most of the other attributes required are similar, and in fact there are additional elements that successful interim contractors need to possess to be successful. Most obviously, a proven ability to quickly adapt to new business environments, build important relationships and think on their feet.
At OnTalent we actively maintain a large network of trusted interim executives and project consultants, allowing us to quickly source the correct background, fit and personality required to solve your business challenge. If you’re interested in discussing whether project resources could assist your business or would like a specific interim manager or consultant, please get in touch with our professional contracting team.