Interim management is growing in popularity, but its use varies widely
across sectors. By Sally O’Reilly
The spread of interim management is dictated partly by the economy, and
partly by the extent of knowledge relating to IM. If firms are aware of its potential,
then an economic downturn can simply mean a change in the assignments on offer
to IMs, rather than a decrease in their number. But awareness is still patchy.
"The market is changing as we speak," says Susan Major, associate
director of HR recruitment, TMP. "In spite of the current economic and
global uncertainty, September has been a busy month for us, and we are doing a
lot of business in financial services, professional services, oil and gas. And
FMCG and the public sector are still buoyant."
Generally, one of the strengths of IM is its flexibility. When the economy
dips, firms take on fewer IMs for start-ups and recruitment drives, but hire
more staff with experience of handling redundancy or downsizing. And across all
sectors, demand for IMs will increase among companies who have cut staff too
"In a recession, firms will cut down on staff, lose average performers
and keep high performing staff – but usually they over-compensate and have
fewer staff than they need," says John Maxted, managing director of Digby
Morgan. "So bringing in an interim can be a solution then."
Finance firms are still the most likely to use IMs from all backgrounds.
Firms like Norwich Union, which is currently using interims supplied by Penna
Interim to work on a performance management programme for over 10,000 staff,
following its merger with CGU, are likely to see the merits of drawing on this
short term, specialised resource in leaner times.
But firms who don’t use IMs during boom periods aren’t likely to bring them
in when the economy cools down, even though this might make financial sense.
Manufacturing has been bitten more deeply than other sectors by the recession,
but is still relatively unlikely to use interims. It’s still only the large
blue-chip firms who are likely to see this as an obvious solution.
Tim Way, director of HR and customer satisfaction at Computacenter, agrees:
"Manufacturing firms tend to be big cumbersome organisations, which are
pretty rigid and have entrenched attitudes to any problems that they face. In
order to use interims, you need to understand how they can help," he says.
"HR departments in finance and retail have to be slicker and faster. They
have had to change and initiate change. IMs are a useful resource when bringing
However, some smaller niche manufacturers do see the point of IM. Food
importer and distributor Whitworths brought in IMs from supplier BIE/Board
Level Interim Executive last year to help with a £15m management buy-out. Chief
executive David Pratt says interim managers are useful because they can deliver
results in a short time, and have broad industry knowledge. "They tend to
have a wide experience of other companies, and can quickly bring new ideas and
concepts to the business, which are tried and tested elsewhere," he says.
Meanwhile, continuing corporate change is driving IM recruitment in the
retail sector. "Business has picked up in retail, partly because of the
need for change in the middle market," says Chris Behan, MD of IM
recruitment at Odgers Ray & Berndtson. "Companies like Gap and Marks
& Spencer are struggling to cope with competition from budget operations
Professional services firms are also increasingly open to using senior,
specialised interims, according to TMP. This is a sector which is characterised
by being extremely selective, and which looks for candidates with a
professional services background – legal knowledge is particularly sought
after. "A really corporate personality is important for candidates here,"
says Susan Major of TMP. "It’s also a sector in which we are seeing more
and more senior interims being used."
For HR interims, the public sector is still the most developed market.
Demand is strong for staff at HR officer and manager level, rather than for
senior professionals and, as in the private sector, change and restructuring is
driving the market
BIE/Boardroom Interim Executive – 020-7222 1010
Digby Morgan – 020-7907 2828
Odgers Ray & Berndtson – 020-7499 8811
Penna Interim – 01132 307 003
TMP Worldwide Executive Resourcing 0121-633 0010