Exciting opportunities are ahead for the future of interim management. Traditionally it has been viewed as a short-term fix, involving assigning an experienced interim executive to manage a period of transition within an organisation.
However, interim management can be a powerful tool for business growth – bringing in expertise, not in response to a resignation or redundancy, but as part of a proactive decision to transform the business. Is now the moment where ‘interim’ shifts its position from goalkeeper to game changer?
Shift over last decade
A decade ago interim management was suffering somewhat of a reputational crisis. At the time of the 2008 recession publications such as Personnel Today published guides to interim management, focusing on ‘cost-cutting, restructuring, redundancies, supply chain management, margin maintenance, working capital management, and finding the short-term funding [needed] to bring about these changes’.
The interim manager gained a reputation for being a firefighter, brought in to solve problems caused by the financial crash – in other words, someone that didn’t mind doing the dirty work.
Yet perceptions of the job did not set interim back. With a 93% increase in use of interim managers since pre-recession levels of 2006, and an 8% growth in this market in 2017/18 – the Interim Management Association (IMA) believes that there are now more than 16,000 senior UK interims at work right now.
With this scale of interim managers out in the workplace, organisations have a chance to use expertise to bring fresh insights and to deliver new projects. Interim management can viewed as a very positive moment for an organisation, if it is seen as a key part of transformation. The idea of interim management as ‘seat warming’ can be a thing of the past.
According to September 2018 research released by The Recruitment and Employability Confederation, employers’ confidence in the prospects for the UK economy has declined yet further – the lowest confidence in the prospects for the economy for six months. Whilst employers’ hiring and investment decisions in their own businesses remained in positive territory, 50% of UK employers who hire permanent staff expressed their concern over the sufficient availability of candidates for permanent jobs.
Is now the time for a new approach to hiring, building interim into the workforce by aiming for a 80-90% full-time employees (FTE), and a 10-20% flexible workforce that drives change, brings a fresh perspective, and makes things happen? By creating space for this kind of interim management, they are able to identify and address needs in a changing marketplace or organisation. Interim managers can deliver the right skills at the right time, working hand-in-hand with FTEs, but working at a different level and pace.
Critical skills are the key
According to Worldwide Interim Leadership, more than one-fifth (21.5%) of 2017/18 interim assignments were focused on growth, business and digital transformation. This was followed by 19% for project and programme management.
Within the retail sector 37% of retailers reported a preference for turning to independent consultants over traditional, generalist management consultancy firms for the specific expertise they can offer. Indeed, according to new research by Odgers Connect, the consulting arm of executive search firm Odgers Berndtson, a survey of 250 board-level executives across large enterprises in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, found that only 19% of retailers would rely on a general management consultancy firm for specific expertise, while the majority of the sector would seek out critical skills from independent consultants.
Critical skills are the key. Over the last decade, interim management has become less about sweeping in or, indeed, about plugging a gap whilst an organisations recruits the next Chief Marketing Officer – and more about recognising and responding to critical skills. Interim management has become a byword for professionals brought in to support organisations through change, transformation and turnaround management, as well as business improvement and strategy development. High-impact, independent, senior professionals bringing relevant experience and an ability to deliver on the implementation of projects, as well as advising at a planning level.
Interim management has morphed into a valuable tool employed by the most successful brands, drawing in and integrating specialist critical skills within the organisation. Interim management is no longer about consultancy advice or temporary contract cover, more about helping to identify and address needs in a changing marketplace or organisation. It is about delivering skills that are essential to future growth and success.