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When To Use An Interim Manager, And Why?

When To Use An Interim Manager, And Why?

01 Jul by Kevan Sangster

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Interim Management – it’s a concept that is well established in both the United States and UK markets, but only just starting to gain mainstream consideration here in Australia. So, what does it involve, and when are the optimal times for companies to consider this new-age solution?     

In simple terms, the concept of hiring interim management is where middle or senior level management roles are filled on a temporary basis via external resources. These resources are typically highly experienced business leaders, often with a specific skillset that is closely aligned to the particular business challenge that has arisen. Interim Managers can be used to quickly fill gaps resulting from sudden exits or need-based projects.

So, isn’t that just a contractor? Or a consultant? It’s important to differentiate between these terms, as true Interim Managers carry a strong implementation orientation that sets them apart from consultants who are primarily there to advise. In addition, they are not a traditional contractor either, given their rich background and depth of experience. In essence, given Interim Managers effectively take temporary ownership of an operational division or program of work until a longer-term solution can be found, they deserve a category of their own.

Now that we’ve established the definition of the concept, let’s look at when companies would be best utilising such a resource, and why that may reap benefits in both the short and long term. Typically, an organisation will engage an Interim Manager for one of the following five reasons:

  • Gap Management – usually in the case of an exit of a previous leader
  • A specific program of work that requires specialist skills not found internally
  • Turnaround / Crisis Management during transformation
  • Rapid growth such as a start-up scaling up
  • Merger / Acquisition-related requirements

Although all the above scenarios differ slightly from each other, on average the typical Interim Management role will be between three to nine months in length – long enough to make a difference but short enough to allow a smooth transition to a longer-term option if required.  As a result, the need for such a resource is often urgent, and therefore having a pool of external resources who can be available at short notice (or an external supplier who has access to such talent pools) is critical to the success of interim assignments.

Finally, what are the benefits for the organisation as a whole?  Initially, having someone who is experienced in delivering interim management engagements means a higher level of confidence in them “hitting the ground running”, meaning quicker results than a typical permanent hire, who often has a grace period to settle into their role. 

Secondly, Interim Managers are typically overqualified for the role, meaning they can operate fully autonomously if necessary, with little guidance. The wealth of experience they possess also brings benefits in terms of skills, contacts and knowledge that the organisation has not previously had access to. This knowledge can be transferred to the team and remain long after they have left. 

Finally, Interim Managers are not there to play politics and will often give a level of objectivity that is sometime lacking in permanent employees prone to telling senior management what they think you want to hear. An additional benefit of this objectivity could mean they act as counsel to the Board in certain circumstances, possibly advising on strategy from an operational yet unbiased viewpoint.

In summary, there is a lot to be said for hiring proven, experienced leaders on an interim basis – a concept that the local market is starting to wake up to. In a competitive trading environment where a few weeks or months in limbo can result in loss of market share or opportunity, perhaps the question for corporate Australia should be: Can you really afford NOT to consider this option?

Kevan Sangster is an Executive Contracting and Interim Management specialist at OnTalent. He has over 15 years’ experience within the Executive Recruitment market, and specialises in interim and executive contracting assignments across private and public sector clients with a particular emphasis on roles within the IT, Finance and HR disciplines.

Connect with Kevan on LinkedIn or for more information about how OnTalent can assist your organisation in hiring interim executives, get in touch with him here.