Recession is usually a time when employees' anxiety levels start to rise at the prospect of lay-offs. But however bad the current slowdown becomes, it needn't be too much of a concern for interim managers. By Rob McLuhan
If a recession does happen, interim agencies say opportunities are likely to change in character, as the business environment turns from hectic expansion to retrenchment. Instead of going into a newly-merged company to harmonise procedures, interims are as likely to find themselves handling redundancy programmes or helping find ways to weather the downturn.
But despite an inevitable slackening in the market, there has been little sign that companies will not continue to be as reliant on the expertise of senior managers on short-term contracts as they have been during the growth years.
"The market for interims is likely to flourish in this economic climate," predicts Caroline Battson, head of interim at Macmillan Davis Hodes. "When there is uncertainty regarding budgets, they offer a flexible solution for a company that can"t maintain a permanent headcount, but needs projects completing by certain date."
A straw poll at a recent meeting of the Interim Management Association, which represents 23 of the 30 mainstream providers, indicated little immediate cause for concern, according to Charles Russam, chairman of Russam GMS. "Clients are saying 'the work has got to get done, so let's do it'," he says. The Dunstable-based agency continues to receive enquiries from a broad cross-section of employers.
The prospect of a downturn, however, has naturally recalled memories of the last recession in the early 1990s. Then, Russam points out, the expectation was that permanent staff would be reduced in favour of those working short-term contracts.
"In the event the opposite happened and the temps were cleared out, so one naturally wonders if the same thing will happen again." He suspects it will be different this time - companies are much leaner than they were 10 years ago, so there is less scope for lay-offs, while over the past decade the value of interims as a resource option has become increasingly recognised.
Employers that do resort to slashing the payroll could fin