Interim executives are playing critical roles across all sectors in public and private organisations and across all job functions. A combination of skills shortages, rapid disruption, transformation and ongoing uncertainty due to the pandemic and Brexit has seen demand for interim leaders rise in recent years with this trend set to continue.
In this guide we explore more about what interim management is, what makes for a good interim manager, how to evaluate and partner with an interim management provider and how to get the most from your investment in interim.
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What is interim management?
The Institute of Interim Management defines interim management as “the provision of effective business solutions by an independent, board or near-board level manager or executive, over a finite time span”. In other words, an interim manager is an experienced specialist executive who you can employ for a defined period of time to solve a business problem.
Your business may wish to hire an interim manager to fill a skills gap, manage change or run a business turnaround programme. For example, an interim marketing director could prove vital for a new product launch or an interim HR director could help run a restructuring programme. On a more strategic level, an interim managing director could be brought in to manage a crisis and help turnaround an underperforming business.
As an interim management agency, it’s our job to match you with that professional.
When are interims typically used?
Interims are deployed across organisations in a myriad of ways, typically during periods of change and transformation. They’re often hired when:
- Specialist skills are needed. Interims can bring specific skills, knowledge and expertise not sufficiently present in your organisation to a specific project or to solve a business problem.
- Change management is key. Interims are experts at making change happen at pace in the best interests of the business.
- Turnarounds are required. Interims can act fast to refocus and re-energise underperforming organisations.
- Risk and crisis are on the cards. Interims can mitigate and manage risk and help organisations respond to the unexpected.
- Markets are regulated. Interims can help organisations to navigate a complex and changing regulatory landscape.
- There are temporary gaps at the leadership level. Interim managers can fill gaps caused by executive absences and departures. Proving a safe pair of hands, they ensure BAU is delivered whilst also providing a fresh eye perspective.
- Consultancy and implementation are needed. As well as assessing the business and providing guidance and advice, interims can also implement their recommendations
What are the benefits of using an interim manager?
The benefits from using an interim manager are as many and varied as the business problems they address. Key ones include:
- Speed. Interim managers can be hired in days rather than months. For an organisation with business-critical skills gaps undergoing change and transformation, this speed is often essential to keep the business on track. As well as being able to start quickly, experienced interim managers can also get to grips with business challenges quickly often without a formal brief or induction and start adding value from day one.
- Flexibility. Often organisations need a leader to plug a specific skills gap for a period or to boost management and leadership resources during a period of transformation. Interims can be used for this purpose without requiring any long-term commitment. Interim managers charge only for the days worked with no additional NI payments, employee tax, holidays or pension payments and can also be on a recruited part-time or on a project basis if required.
- Accountability. Interim managers take responsibility for delivering agreed results. They are not there purely to advise but are accountable for implementing a change or project and delivering results that make a real difference.
- ROI. During times of change, organisations may find themselves with knowledge, skills and expertise gaps. Without plugging these gaps, the organisations will struggle to adapt to the change and deliver on their goals and in even some situations struggle to survive. The cost of failure to deliver change far outweighs the cost of hiring an interim manager.
- Independent fresh thinking. As an independent external resource, an interim manager can bring fresh thinking to an organisation and give an objective view of the situation at hand. Unencumbered by organisational politics and groupthink and not looking to further their career in the business they can address specific challenges from a neutral position and operate in a way that they think best for the business. This can be incredibly useful when hard and unpopular decisions need to be made.
- Commitment and focus. Interim managers are typically brought in at board level or at the request of the board to solve a specific business issue. They are committed and focused on the task at hand and therefore have a great ability to make change rapidly and deliver results. Interims rely on a strong track record and referrals and recommendations and so are driven and committed to delivering results for their clients.
How to select the best interim for your organisation
HOW TO FIND AN INTERIM MANAGER?
Using a reputable interim management agency is typically the most cost and time efficient way of securing an interim. Engaging with a provider, such as New Street Consulting Group, enables businesses to tap into a vast network of expert interim managers who have been vetted by and are backed by the agency. Having a clear view on your requirements including the details of the project and the urgency of delivery will help the agency match-make your business with a selection of candidates with the right skills and experience to deliver the requirements.
WHAT DOES A GOOD INTERIM MANAGEMENT PROVIDER LOOK LIKE?
The Institute of Interim Management (IIM) is the industry’s professional body for independent professionals operating at board or near-board level as interim managers and executives in the UK. Their ‘Leading Interim Service Providers’ list offers a comprehensive list of reputable providers. We’re proud to be listed as a Platinum provider ranking third in their annual survey in 2021.
Read our article "Seven questions to ask when choosing an interim provider" to find out more.
The terms interims and contractors are often used interchangeably, with interim managers often wrongly being used to describe middle management short-term contract roles. However, there are several key differences between the two types of work:
- Interim managers typically operate at or near board level. Contract positions tend to be for professionals with a niche skillset whilst temping roles span from junior to manager level.
- Interims are required to make an immediate impact on the business. Usually overqualified for the role they are usually brought in to manage a project and/or a team to deliver a specific outcome.
- Interim management is not a trial for a permanent role. Contract positions can sometimes be used in this way.
There are some similarities in the responsibilities of interims and management consultants as well as overlap in some of the skillsets. However, there are clear differences between the two:
Implementation. Management consultants tend to consultant and provide guidance and recommendations where an interim will do that and then go on to deliver the proposed solution.
Motivation. It is in the interest of the management consultants to try to offer additional services or extend the length of the project. Interims rely on referrals and having a track record of delivering results quickly, so it is in their interest to do the job needed as efficiently as possible.
Skillset. Management consultants are often selected for project based on their availability. Interims are chosen purely for their specific skillset, reputation, experience and expertise. They will not swap in and out depending on other client work but stay focussed and committed to the assignment from beginning to end.
Control and accountability. Interims report directly to the client working with the internal team to deliver results. Management consultants report to their consultancy house and use the team at their consultancy for resource and support.
It is hard to define a typical interim assignment. However, research by the IMA shows that an average assignment lasts circa 170 billable days. Typically, eight out of ten assignments are extended.
Case study: Building the management team in a private equity-backed business
Our client wished to replace an MD immediately, but also take the time to find the right permanent hire. NSCG created a joined-up interim-perm solution to achieve both goals through a stronger, more cost-effective overall process.
Interim MD stepped in successfully to ensure customer centricity and provide stability. Permanent hire took over to accelerate profit improvement plan.
It’s the right move for PE houses to replace an underperforming MD/CEO quickly when a portfolio company fails to meet expected goals and milestones. Portfolio Chairman, Chris Clegg, whose portfolio has included BGF, Palatine, LDC, Foresight and Nimbus investments explains it can be even smarter to choose a combined Interim and Permanent recruitment solution to speed up value creation, streamline the recruitment process and reduce hiring costs.
Finding the right interim leader is only the start. Good outcomes are not enough. Great outcomes are what you need.
Our unique ROI methodology® and accompanying app helps you to determine what great looks like and lets you monitor and quantify the value the interim leader delivers throughout their assignment.