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Jamie Lawrence


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Top tips for recruiting interim managers


Charles Russam, chairman of interim manager provider Russam GMS, discusses how to ensure best practice when recruiting an HR interim manager and his top tips for successful recruitment.

Interim managers are board level independent business leaders or project managers who work in a range of disciplines and sectors. They are experts in their field; high-level performers with a track record of achievement. Many companies are attracted by the immediacy and low risk interims can offer. However, there are some important things to consider when hiring an interim manager.

HR is a key discipline where interim managers are used and increasingly, we are seeing HR specialists recruited for strategic projects. Our last snapshot survey of the 11,000 interim managers published at the end of December 2012, showed 55 percent were recruited to supply skills that were absent in their client’s business, 39 percent to implement new strategies and 36 percent to work on special projects. Often interims are recruited when companies are going through times of change and transition, such as a merger or restructuring situation or when the business is in distress.

Do you really need an interim manager?

Check if you really need an interim manager or whether the skills and knowledge you require already exist within your organisation. Increasingly we are finding that companies are using interims as a strategic resource for delivering specialist projects or change management programmes, rather than more traditional ‘gap-filling’ assignments.

Many businesses these days operate on a very lean basis so when a new challenge or project arises they can often find they don’t have the right people in-house to handle this. An interim manager can offer the skills and experience quickly and cost-effectively to get the job done, rather than taking time to train someone up.

Have an ideal candidate in mind

Have an ideal candidate in mind to ensure you pick the right person for the job. It’s important to fully scope out the project from the offset and have clear processes in place, so you and the interim manager fully understand the role and expectations.

Approach recruiting an interim manager the same as hiring a full-time employee

Firms need to approach the recruitment of an interim manager with the same rigour they would apply to hiring any senior business manager, and failure to have a robust recruitment process is a common pitfall for firms. As an interim manager is there to play a significant role in the business, getting it 'wrong’ is risky, expensive and could be a major setback to the business, particularly in such a competitive climate.

Use a reputable interim provider

Always use a reputable interim provider that can find managers with the right balance of management skills, technical know-how and market knowledge. They will also do the necessary checks on the Criminal Records Bureau, Protection of Vulnerable Adults list and the Protection of Children Act, which is essential for some businesses. The IMA is the industry body which sets out the ethical standards for the interim management industry, and its members adhere to a strict code of practice.

Don’t waste time when recruiting an interim manager

Don’t waste time as the best interim managers can get snapped up quickly. A good provider will have thousands of specialist professionals on their database and will only introduce candidates who have been briefed on the specific opportunity and have been referenced and met prior to placement.

Make sure the ‘fit’ is right

Even if the role is only for a six month assignment, firms not only need to ensure the interim has the right skills set and experience, but is the right corporate ‘fit’. We would recommend that an interim meets all the relevant teams and partners with whom they will be working as part of the interview process and be able to demonstrate they understand fully the firm’s ethos and business processes.

Ensure the interim operates through a limited company

Ensure that the interim manager is acting on a self-employed basis, trading through a limited company, to avoid any tax liability issues, and has adequate professional indemnity insurance cover in place. If using an interim provider they will do this for you, but it's always worth double checking for your own peace of mind.

Interims are not involved in ‘office politics’

Remember that interim managers can speak openly to clients about changes such as job losses because they don’t have emotional attachments to companies. This is one of the benefits of using an interim manager as they are not embroiled in company politics and are just there for a short period to get the job done. Interim managers are objective and won’t be side-tracked into office politics. They are not seeking an extended career with the organisation so they say what is required, rather than what the organisation wants to hear.

Set objectives

Setting objectives is as crucial as it is for any permanent employee to ensure targets are met within what can often be tight deadlines. Agree the aims and timescales of the assignment at the outset, so that both parties know their objectives, and review as the assignment progresses. This is important as the interim will only be there for a set period of time and there is no point checking on progress as the project is due to end and find out they were on the wrong track.

Make sure your business needs are fully understood

Ensure the interim manager understands your needs from the start; once a contract is signed; an interim has five working days to understand the role and requirements. Interims are used to ‘hitting the ground running’ but it is important management responsibilities are agreed from the outset.

Interims should have a clear scope of work and terms of reference for their assignment. They should not be given carte blanche to make key decisions that affect the corporate route without ratification and follow good business and corporate governance. However, they need responsibility to carry out their role without encumbrance but we recommend that a responsible Director (or equivalent) is in place to oversee and approve their activities.

Keep permanent staff in the loop

Clarify the role of the interim manager to permanent staff, so that they understand the person is being taken on for a defined period of time and can transfer skills to permanent employees. This is also crucial if the interim has to have a lot of direct involvement with existing staff in order to get the job done. If employees understand why the interim has been taken on they will be more likely to be supportive to them, which is important when an assignment has a fixed time.

Knowledge and skills transfer

Best practice dictates that the interim ensures a skills and knowledge transfer during the assignment which would be supported by the business. Make sure your full time employees understand what is expected and that they must also learn from the interim manager, and perhaps take on new ways of doing things. Ensure that a full and complete handover is done at the end of the assignment to ensure continuity.

Don’t make comparisons

Don’t make pay comparisons to permanent staff; it is misleading because the interim manager is chargeable at an inclusive rate and does not enjoy benefits such as pensions or holidays. The interim is only there on a temporary, short-term or project basis without the overheads of a full-time employee and offers the company the skills and experience of a senior level executive without the expense of recruiting someone of this calibre full time.

An employed executive on £100,000 actually costs an organisation much more. Once benefits like bonuses, holiday pay, NI contributions, pension, health and a company car are included the real cost is likely to be nearer to £175,000. These additional costs do not apply to interims.

How much to pay an interim

Remuneration for an interim depends on a range of variables, including their area of specialisation, the amount of experience they have and the nature of the assignment. Typically, an interim executive’s hourly rate is based on what would be paid to a permanent employee; however, there are no expensive overheads to pay such as pensions or holiday pay, so it can be cost effective.

An interim manager will typically charge a third less than a management consultant. Our snap shot survey revealed that the average pay for an HR interim manager was £548 per day at the end of 2012, which was slightly lower than earlier in the year (£577 up until June 2012).

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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