Interim managers have never had it so good; with demand soaring, record earnings are being achieved. Annie Hayes finds out whether interims are worth the expense and effort.
Head renting or executive leasing – better known as interim management – is big business. According to professional body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), people involved with interim management estimate that there are currently between 1,000 and 5,000 interim managers active in the UK and, according to a recent survey by interim management providers Russam GMS, interims can make an average of £585 a day; a figure that is up 5.4 per cent from 2006.
Manufacturing and engineering (13 per cent of all interims) and central and local government (13 per cent), which includes charities, top the sectors demanding the services of interim managers, according to its research.
Charles Russam, chairman of Russam GMS, says: “For the first time ever, we are seeing demand for interim managers putting serious pressure on supply, which no doubt accounts for the daily rate increases.”
So how can businesses ensure value for money is being had?Graham Bird, head of interim management at Chiumento, a multi-disciplinary HR consultancy, remarks that the key is getting the brief right from the outset: “To ensure you get value for money from your interim, you need to prepare a brief with key deliverables to be achieved by the manager. Only when clients themselves fully understand what their needs are, can they set clear objectives in the brief. The next stage is to focus on their delivery by the interim.”
Raj Tulsani, chief executive officer, Green Park
According to Raj Tulsani, chief executive officer of interim management provider Green Park, the key to extracting best value for money is making sure that candidates with the right mentality are selected in the first place: “In my opinion, the quality of the candidates is getting worse. We’re not talking about skills and experience, but finding interims with the ability to be open and flexible to meet the client objectives.”
Tulsani believes there are many HR business partners muddying the waters by trying to build up their portfolios with interim work and not making a very good job of it. Agents play their part in placing ‘bad eggs’ into the interim market. “A lot of agencies just place strangers off a database word search, and they have no relationship in place with them,” says Tulsani, who adds that placements such as these often don’t work out.
Being on red alert to side-step the cowboys is clearly a good tip, and Tulsani adds that money is wasted where the client isn’t prepared to put the ground work in, to set the objectives for the interim placement: “The best interims are not interested in jobs specs written on the back of fag packets. Time has got to be put into working out what the interim can provide above and beyond the assignment. There has to be a legacy value.”
Bird says that mistakes can be avoided by ensuring the interim provider is a member of the Interim Management Association, and has a track record in delivering high-quality interim managers in the discipline the client is interested in. “It is prudent to ascertain how the providers are recruiting managers to their database, how they check their quality, match them with companies and monitor their performance when on assignment.”
Assignments, according to Bird, usually arise from two scenarios; either as gap cover for maternity leave or the sudden departure of an employee, or to plug a skills gap when a company undertakes a new project.
Tulsani says interims should never be taken on simply as an extra pair of hands, but Matthew Jennings, an HR Zone member and recruitment expert, warns that too often an interim is brought in just for this reason, often as the result of a panic decision: “I worked in recruitment for a number of years and specialised in recruiting medical sales managers at UK management level.
“I found that if a highly valued regional or national sales manager left a team, then the team would often enter a period of flux, appearing to be rudderless and sometimes disintergrating. This often resulted in a panic recruitment of a new manager – who may not have been the right person in the long term. An interim manager would shore things up, provide a fresh perspective for the team and company, and allow a carefully thought out recruitment drive to occur. If an interim manager has relevant experience and can concentrate on the job of management, then they are a sound investment.”
Karen Drury, a seasoned interim, says that interims are often used to do the dirty work: “I’ve just completed an eight-month stint as interim head of communications while an organisation was going through change. Using interims to be the “bad guys” through change is a traditional role, I understand. Thus, I was responsible for restructuring the department, for the communication while the restructure was going on, and I took part in the recruitment of my successor.”
Preparing existing staff for the arrival of the interim is a key part in getting things right. Too often, staff are ill-informed and the interim is made to feel like an unwelcome stranger.
Bird advises: “Before the interim’s arrival, the specific objectives for the project should be discussed and communicated to the interim’s key stakeholders. All involved must be clear on why the interim manager has been brought in.
“Even though an interim manager is highly skilled and experienced, some level of induction will still be needed. Clients need to think about creating a short but highly effective induction programme into a company’s culture and practices for mutual benefit.”
Graham Bird, head of interim management, Chiumento
Tulsani comments that providers need to go one step further: “In reality very few providers have the infrastructure, experience or appetite to get involved with performance management for the interim.” And according to Tulsani, the problem lies with the market becoming increasingly transactional, with providers breaking relations and leaving the client to it at the point the job is filled.
Clearly interim management can be much more than a stop gap, especially where an interim assignment is well planned, prepared for and inducted carefully, resulting in a lasting legacy that provides ample value for money.
Understanding why an interim is needed is half way to success, and ensuring a good relationship with the provider is in place neatly sets the scene to ensure failure isn’t an option.
With over half of organisations turning to recruitment providers, according to the Russam survey, building relations with the third party and picking the right one is becoming more crucial than ever.