I was recently invited by VMA Recruitment to one of their Interim Management Advisory Panel breakfast meetings. These are great networking events and a rare opportunity for corporate communication consultants to debate topical issues. The discussion was fast flowing and wide ranging and, invariably, touched on subjects outside the proposed agenda items. One such debate was on the benefits of hiring an interim.
From the attendee list it’s clear that people ‘choose’ interim for a number of different reasons:
- some decide fairly early on that the flexibility and variety of interim is what they want from their career
- some accept interim roles as a temporary option depending on the state of the job market
- a subset of the latter discover, fairly late in the day, that interim is a better fit for their experience, skill set and personality.
There are as many ‘types’ of interim as there are reasons for using them.
Apart from the temporary maternity cover, project assignment, gap filler requirements, businesses have increasingly turned to interims to get round the recruitment freeze barrier. As this has now been a recurrent feature in the work environment for the last several years, some companies have taken to moving their interims from one role to the next. The reasoning for this is that the interim’s knowledge of the business will enable them to be effective in post more quickly; ‘better the devil you know syndrome’.
However, one of the strengths of a good interim is the ability to call on their broad experience of working in different cultures and a multiplicity of different stakeholders and settle in to a role very quickly without the constraints of ‘too much’ prior knowledge and political baggage. Moving interims from post to post might seem like a smart solution but you may be sacrificing a lot of the value of fresh perspective, energy and enthusiasm that you would be getting from a new interim hire.
So, apart from the broad experience, fresh perspective etc, what are the other benefits you should expect from hiring a proficient interim?
Our discussion at the breakfast meeting covered all the usual suspects such as: quick to recognise the way things work and very delivery-focused; no (or at least very limited) vested interest, so not afraid to challenge; raising the functional bar by showcasing what good looks like.
As we shared these thoughts I realised that some of the greatest strengths of a good interim are resilience and pragmatism. Yes, we know what good looks like, and yes, we believe that what is being proposed is a good, fit-for-purpose solution, however we can also recognise, probably earlier that our permanent colleagues, when we are fighting an unequal battle and when we need to start looking for the next best option. In my experience, it’s rarely the solution that is at fault but the approach to selling it to the Executive that I will do differently next time around.
The discussion also touched briefly on the barriers that all interims face at some time. Interims can often be resented if they are being brought in at a time when permanent jobs are under threat. There is also a danger that they are taken less seriously as they are perceived to have no skin in the game. Obviously, from an interim’s perspective, our reputation as a deliverer of effective solutions is our most valuable asset so, arguably, we have more at risk than almost anyone. Commitment, focus, energy, positive attitude, cultural sensitivity, influencing skills, breadth of experience – the whole range of skills that are the stock-in-trade of a good interim should be enough to convince the doubters and nay-sayers.