Beyond a stopgap
Four reasons to make interim an integral part of your hiring strategy
Beyond a stopgap
Outside of the business world, interim is a word that has certain connotations. Sports teams appoint an interim coach after letting the incumbent go mid-season. Political parties select an interim leader following an unexpected resignation. To many people, the words caretaker and interim are synonymous. The interim is seen as a stopgap solution when a safe pair of hands is needed until a permanent choice takes over.
Until recently, interims were viewed similarly by boardrooms, hiring managers, HR departments and recruiters. The interim’s role was to take the reins temporarily if a leader exited in a hurry, or to provide cover for illness or maternity leave. Even in these circumstances, many organizations preferred to hire on a fixed-term employment contract rather than engage talent on an interim basis.
Mindsets started to shift in the decade leading up to the pandemic, in part thanks to the rise of what has become known as the gig economy. Technology made it quick, convenient, and cost-effective for employers to engage workers to complete specific tasks on a short-term basis. Workers such as delivery drivers and graphic designers are typically associated with the gig economy. But, in essence, interim leaders and professionals are gig workers too – the tasks are just more complex.
The concept of the gig economy undoubtedly made employers more open to hiring “goal-delivering” interims, rather than “role-performing” employees and contractors. The rush to digital transformation made tech-savvy talent especially attractive. At the same time, the pool of high-caliber interim talent was growing, attracted by the flexibility, fresh challenges and financial rewards of interim assignments. Some commentators dismissed this corporate gig economy as a trendy fad. Then the pandemic struck, and the advantages of interims became more prevalent.
Interims proved their value not only by covering for seriously ill and hospitalized employees. They also provided the agility and expertise that enabled organizations to react quickly and keep key services running, making key contributions to rapid transformation projects. They delivered specific outcomes to ensure longer-term business continuity – and to help organizations emerge from the pandemic with a competitive advantage and positive outlook on the future.
The pandemic was an unprecedented crisis. What it showcased was the ability of interims to step up, effectively and fast, in any time-critical situation – both to limit disruption and to make a proactive, positive impact.
We could fill a whole book with a list of crisis situations that can disrupt growth or business strategy. At the macro level, whole continents, regions, countries or market sectors can be affected by events such as natural disasters, political upheaval and high energy and commodity prices. At the micro level, an individual business may face a critical issue - for example a major product recall, a failed acquisition or a CEO resigning for a breach of ethics.
Every minute matters in times of crisis. Below are three situations where interims can provide stability, minimize disruption and accelerate organizations on the right path forward.
4 reasons to make interim an integral part of your hiring strategy
For key projects to succeed, you need the best people on the job. Otherwise, they may run over time and budget, or even fail to deliver on the desired outcomes and ROI. Goal-oriented interims are ideally suited to the delivery-focused nature of project roles – and bring capabilities that may be missing from the existing workforce. If projects are stalling or at risk or failing, an experienced interim can come in to kick start progress and accelerate towards project goals.
Interims also add far greater agility. The experts you need may only be required for the duration of the project lifecycle, or potentially only key stages. The flexibility of interim talent allows you to scale your team according to your timeline – even if deadlines and milestones are subject to change.
Why choose interim talent for projects:
Your organization may have capability gaps that call for impactful leaders or highly specialized expertise. But that doesn’t mean you have to create, and hire to, a brand-new permanent position.
By engaging interims, you can create an agile, hybrid workforce with a greater depth of expertise than would ever be possible to grow within an in-house only team. Interims bring you the rare, specialist capabilities that you need on a time-limited basis. Without the wider responsibilities of a permanent employee, interims have far more bandwidth to focus on specific goals. It is also easier for interims to take on cross-functional roles, free of silos, structural restrictions and internal politics.
The interim option makes even more sense given the difficulty of trying to hire true experts on a permanent basis. Many of the more seasoned specialists prefer the variety of experiences that come from interim work, allowing them to continue building their expertise. If you can offer the right challenges, they will give you their all – both as a matter of pride and to add to their track record.
The cost of using interims is also lower than bringing in external partners to address expertise gaps – and interims provide a service focused solely on your desired outcomes.
Average time to hire for permanent executives: 90-120 days.
Typical time to place an interim: under a week.
When backfilling positions, it is common for organizations to have roles open for three months, six months or longer – your own organization may have unfilled vacancies right now.
In some instances, open roles may cause little immediate disruption to performance or business continuity. Perhaps an existing team member is performing the job in an acting capacity, or a number of colleagues may be sharing different duties.
But, if the open role has business critical responsibilities, it is both risky and unfair to settle for this kind of solution. The position should be covered by someone with the right skills and experience – and by one person who is dedicated to delivering specific outcomes, and not doing multiple jobs at once.
In other cases, there may not be any current employees with the skills to cover the key duties. This is where it is even more important to think about cover. Why risk day-to-day operations or business continuity when you could fill the role with a specialist interim?
An experienced interim executive or professional will quickly grasp the execution and challenges of the role. It is important to remember that a specialist interim will be primed to do more than keep things from bubbling over. They can get to work on solving issues and making improvements before supporting a smooth handover to the new starter.
The other advantage of interim is the chance to try before you buy. Some interims are willing to switch back to permanent employment if the right opportunity comes along.
Korn Ferry is ready to unlock the strategic value in interim talent for your organization – while providing rapid access to top executives and professionals whenever speed is of the essence.
We have a global network of the highest caliber executive and professional talent. Our interims tackle crisis situations. They deliver key projects to deadlines and achieve business transformation. They strengthen in-house teams through hard-to-find skills and unique expertise. They keep businesses moving forward, despite talent gaps.
There is no time to waste. Incorporate outcome focused interims into your talent strategy today.
Please get in touch whether your need is short-term, or you are considering interim-to-hire. If you are interested in interim work, reach out to our Interim Executives and Professionals team to learn more.