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Mind the gap: The rise of the HR interim

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Reflections
The requirement to rapidly solve HR problems, plug gaps or react overnight to changing demands is placing an increasing strain on businesses of all sectors and with a war for talent raging across UK plc the need for professional HR interim management has never been more heartily felt.


In the five years since Digby Morgan, a specialist executive search, selection and human resources consultancy established its division: HR Interims the demand has rocketed, from businesses across the industry spectre and of all sizes.

Recent research conducted by Digby Morgan with 200 clients and candidates showed that in HR departments of more than six staff, 81% had made an interim appointment in the last three months. This figure rises to 89% when the department employs more than 20 people. In addition, 85% of department heads anticipate an increased use of interim HR professionals over the coming years.

The growth in the interim market is also reflected in the fact that 73% of HR professionals perceive the role of an interim HR manager in a more positive light than they did two years previously. Indeed, a period of interim work on a candidates CV is now seen as a positive addition by more than two-thirds of managers when reviewing CVs during the hiring process.

Change management, in its widest sense, has probably been the most significant driver behind the demand for interim expertise. In recent years there can’t be many businesses, in the UK or abroad, where corporate change management has not placed extraordinary demands on the HR function. And, by definition, this has necessitated the requirement to find its own HR solution.

More specifically, flexible interim resourcing offers businesses numerous benefits. As the commercial world becomes increasingly more complex and demanding, it’s a quick and easy way to access skills on demand, by the day, week or month – that are not currently available within your organisation. And, on some occasions it can be highly advantageous to bring in specialist ‘heads’ without adding to the overall headcount!

In addition, as a consequence of ‘change’, businesses will often require immediate access to specialists capable of running urgent, mission critical projects or, indeed, experienced personnel that can free up existing staff.

Interim professionals will also offer an expertise and experience as well as an impartial, objective and apolitical view that previously may have been deemed the costly preserve of the management consultant.

About 40% of the interim roles Digby Morgan is filling for clients are to cover a permanent position. Clients are looking for a short or mid term arrangement whilst they search for the right candidate on a permanent basis.

This means that they can afford to ‘over hire’ for the assignment with a more senior interim or, perhaps, capitalise on the skills of someone with greater experience from a different sector. As a general rule about a third of interims will be offered a permanent role as the client realises that in addition to those additional benefits these interims offer, they’ve also rapidly picked up the specific skills and experience they need to satisfy their original brief.

The raison d’etre for the quality provider of interim personnel should be to supply top quality candidates. Therefore, the success or otherwise of the interim assignment will depend on expertise and knowledge of both the client’s organisation and the interim candidate.

The most obvious solution is not always the best one. In periods of substantial change or transition it may appear desirable to make a permanent appointment when in fact the changing nature of the role might best suit an experienced interim. In these circumstances a short-term solution may resolve a long-term issue and create a stable platform from which to make the permanent hire. This is where pre-planning and working closely with clients is critical.

No one area has escaped the march of the interim. Whatever the discipline and specific expertise required: strategy, compensation and benefits, talent management, organisational development, employee relations, TUPE, training and learning, HRIS and E-HR, recruitment and selection – there is an expert available with the depth and breadth of experience that you need to achieve a lasting solution.

Alistair Cook is a Director at Digby Morgan with responsibility for the HR interims division.

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Annie Hayes

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