My next move – interim HR

I would like to achieve a better work-life balance and I am considering giving up my permanent role as a senior HR manager within the financial services sector to work as an interim HR manager. What advice can you give me to ensure I secure regular interim assignments, and are there any areas that I should focus on?

Interim work is a lifestyle choice; you’ll either love it or hate it. Yes, you will find you can manage your time, increase/decrease your workload (and stress levels), and cherry-pick opportunities that you will enjoy. But there will be times of uncertainty when you will have to network hard and this in itself can be hard graft.

It can take time to establish the work-life balance you desire. Once you’ve identified the areas within HR where you have expertise – and, crucially, that you enjoy – you need to establish an effective network. This can be a lonely time, especially if you’ve been used to working within a busy office environment. The financial uncertainty can also be unsettling, but once you’ve done the groundwork, the opportunities should flood in.

  • If you are the kind of person who needs to ‘root’ yourself in a business, then interim work might not be the right option. Consider a move to a different industry sector, one that can offer the balance you are looking for. Interim work is not necessarily a cure-all for current work-related stress issues.
  • That said, established interim managers love the work they do. They enjoy the flexibility, variety and satisfaction that comes from seeing projects through to an effective conclusion. Many develop new skills, are exposed to a wider range of challenges, and broaden their experience more quickly than in a permanent role.
  • The type of interim opportunities include: strategic HR project managers to conduct an HR departmental audit, to align the function to the commercial objectives of the organisation; reward projects in public sector organisations, which can last 12 to 18 months; change management specialists to handle organisational restructure and culture-change projects across a wide range of industry sectors, including financial services.
  • Interim roles can be as simple as covering maternity absence, or as challenging as heading an international HR function. Success in the interim marketplace comes from an understanding of what distinguishes you as a candidate and your ability to ‘market’ yourself to the broadest audience.

Lynne Hardman
Managing director, Hays Human Resources

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