A flexible working culture means demand for interim training and learning and development professionals is on the up and up. It can also be a very rewarding way to earn a healthy living.
Good news for training professionals: the interim jobs market is booming.
This means that people development specialists with niche skills are being snapped up for short-term contracts as organisations speed up their high performance initiatives.
“We are seeing more demand for interim positions in organisational development, talent management, leadership, and management development,” says David Young, managing consultant at interims recruitment specialists Hudson.
“Very large organisations are going through or have come through significant change since 2001, and now they are looking for fine tuning, not mass development,” he says.
Jerry Arnott worked as a learning and development interim last year, after previous careers as a consultant and in in-house senior HR roles at major companies such as Cable & Wireless. He agrees that the market is burgeoning, but also diverging as organisations opt for a strategic use of the temporary resources.
“Some companies simply use interims as a spare pair of hands,” he says. “The more enlightened ones deliberately target someone who has more experience than the job requires to help them drive the business.”
There is a surge in demand for specialists who can fulfil the role of business partner, according to Rachel Venner, a senior consultant at recruitment agency Interim Performers. She says she is seeing a clamour for such candidates compared to a steady requirement for what she terms “traditional maintenance type roles that are hands-on and there to deliver learning and development.”
This shift in the market has expanded the salary range. Interims now attract salaries from £35k to £90k pro rata. Assignments can last for a week – if the organisation needs someone to come into to deliver a piece of training – to 12 to 18 months, if a strategic or change programme is required.
Recently, a telecoms organisation advertised for an interim learning and development adviser for its London office. It wanted an interim to focus on sales training but also to support the deployment of its organisation-wide learning and development strategy.
Candidates had to have at least five years’ experience, be able to undertake product training and have immediate availability – often key to getting interim jobs. The post carried a pro rata salary of £35,000.
But it is the business partner model that commands higher salaries and that is common in large organisations with a shared service centre according to Interim Performers’ Venner. Regional variations in pay are diminishing, she says, driven by a levelling out in the domestic and commercial property markets.
So, if this peripatetic way of life sounds appealing, how does a potential interim find that first assignment?
The answer is to approach one of the specialist consultancies. The Interim Management Association (an organisation that vets and approves members) is a good source of contacts (www.interimmanagement.uk.com).
There are pitfalls
Potential interims need to demonstrate they are business-savvy, says Venner, “a results-focused CV is a must”. In keeping with the need for learning and development to be business focused, applicants are expected to see concepts such as return on investment as second nature and understand “how to justify their salary”, she says.
Interims also need to be able to drive their own self-development and contacts. “We’ve found that interims get 50% of work through their own networks,” says Venner.
Interims must also be aware that they may have to do unchallenging work.
“Working as an interim means working in a job for which the interim is often over-qualified in terms of experience,” says Venner. “The learning curve comes from the new dynamics in the team and looking at how different organisations react.”
Rapid personal development and the opportunity to gain a broader view of business are some of the benefits of an interim career but, as Venner points out, there are pitfalls.
“We’d advise people that they need to be financially and emotionally secure,” she says. “A potential interim has to be able to plan for gaps between assignments.”
by Stephanie Sparrow
A successful interim is
- Proficient at self-marketing and self-development.
- Credible with niche skills or knowledge.
- Financially astute.
- Able to make an instant impact and leave a worthwhile legacy.
- More experienced than the job in hand demands.
- In possession of project management qualifications such as Six Sigma or Prince 2.
- Able to cope with periods without work.
- Good at building contacts.