Interim HR – Pioneer spirit

Interim management remains a mystery to many businesses but those that have discovered, understood and applied the skills and expertise of an interim manager to their organisation are pioneering a management solution that is enormously effective and can even, at times, appear too good to be true.

It is the shock of impact. An interim – correctly assessed, assigned, deployed and supported – will deliver with a speed and purpose that will surprise, especially when the benchmark pace of a new permanent arrival might more often be described as “measured”.

There are three factors to consider when deciding whether to employ an interim manager. First, if you are running a business, where can you find your interim manager? How do you deploy one and is there a right time to bring an interim into play?

If you are considering going into interim management as a career, do you really understand what you are about to walk into or are you expecting an easy, temporary, part-time working life fuelled by the income derived from simply advising would-be employers?

If you are an interim service provider, are you genuinely expert, experienced and capable of marrying client, assignment, brief and interim?
Then you must consider the overall business environment: barely a day goes by without an organisation announcing change – takeover, disposal, closure, growth, axe-wielding or brand re-positioning. Sectors rise and fall, everyone is in a race – some do not know why, they have simply been drawn in. But there is no option but to compete.

A strong economy, a skills shortage, an undoubtedly active merger and acquisition programme – and the new-ish ethic of “work-life balance” have encouraged experienced and expert people to forage for themselves, instead of relying on the corporate trough.

So, there are many businesses involved in a great deal of change, and rafts of senior adventurer business people ready, willing and able to sail to the rescue of businesses that want to stem their decline or uprate their advance. It sounds simple. Cue reality.

Let’s start with a definition. I am always intrigued to hear other people’s early definitions of an interim. Interims are usually seen as “temps”. That is unhelpful. In your mind’s eye you see a picture of someone who awkwardly enters the office under curious stares, is plonked at a desk, given a cup of tea and waits for someone half-senior to wander over with a pile of end-of-financial-year paperwork that no one else really wants to deal with.

The Interim Management Association (IMA) definition describes a highly qualified professional, expert in his or her field, who can be brought in at short notice to take control of a major crisis, disposal, acquisition, merger, turnaround or opportunity. They perform against set objectives over a defined timescale, are dispassionate – and they deliver.

You will be in no doubt as to who is in control when a proper interim arrives. Your office will be upturned, your staff upended and your pace upscaled. Things will happen.

This definition can help the would-be interim to decide whether he or she should travel the interim highway or choose the consultant cul-de-sac. Interim is not a slip-road off business life’s motorway but a slip-road straight into the fast lane.

So, who is hiring? The answer is many FTSE 250 and major privately owned organisations, not necessarily in any specific sectors, but departments involved in change – whether in response to a problem or an opportunity.

There are about 7,000 active interim managers in the UK. Those are the registered, assessed and highly capable interims who the top interim service providers are happy to recommend for assignment. There are many more purporting to be interims. But tread carefully, if you want to hire an interim, make sure the one you get is supplied through an IMA member.

When an assignment is assessed, offered, contracted, managed and reviewed by an IMA member – and fewer than 30 out of more than 200 interim management providers are IMA accredited – clients can be assured that they are dealing with a provider who will guarantee a high level of service.

There are few elements of a business that want or need senior people with experience, expertise and proven ability more than the HR function. If you are good at HR management, you will be in demand.

From that perspective it is crucial that you find yourself in the right place and the right role, and that is where the IMA can help. An IMA interim service provider will carefully identify and vet its clients, the roles and assignments offered and how realistic the expectations of the client organisation may be.

The IMA website should be your first point of call. Choose a member organisation and they will be able to advise.

As well as having the potential to launch you into a fulfilling career they have the experience and ability to tell you whether becoming an interim manager is the right move for you.

As a potential client – a user of interim resource in the HR team – it is crucial that you understand precisely where an interim should sit in the grand scheme of things, and what you can expect of him or her.

Your interim manager will arrive with gusto, will have researched your industry, your organisation, your people, your reputation, your market, your competition and your potential.

They will assume a senior posture, they will take control of the environment. They will get under the skin and into the roots of your business very quickly, and make an assessment as to what, precisely, is the task at hand. They will discuss and agree timescales and objectives with people in the business and they will launch themselves into the assignment with energy, agility and massive enthusiasm.

They will then deliver.

Nick Robeson is chairman of the Interim Management Association and chief executive of Boyden Interim Management.

 Interim prospects
Of the legitimate interims currently in play, the most recent research (2003) indicates about 88% are in the private sector, the busiest sub-sector being accounting, banking and finance (18%), with 17% involved in manufacturing. It is not all about closing jobs. The tasks in hand include:

  • About 20% dealing with internal change
  • 18% are engaged to deal with a crisis
  • 12% are in business development
  • 9% are involved in acquisition or merger projects
  • 8% are in major new projects
  • 2% are brought in to manage a closure or disposal.

Interim pay

About half are seeing their assignments increase year-on-year, and about a quarter are seeing a fall.

  • 30% of interims were on assignment for between 76% and 100% of their available time in 2003
  • 42% of all interims charge between £500 and £750 a day
  • 17% charge between £750 and £1,000 a day
  • 7% make between £1,000 and £1,250 a day
  • 3% earn more than £1,250

The best paid interims earned between £250,000 and £350,000 a year in 2003.

The trend in terms of pay is probably just in decline, but the number of assignments available is gently but relentlessly on the up.

Source: The Interim Management Association

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