Across the Asia-Pacific region, changing regulatory requirements, emerging technologies, and rapid leadership transitions have all increased the need for adaptable and agile leadership.

Enter the interim hire. No longer just a quick-fix crisis solution, interim professionals can be a strategic and safe pair of hands to handle growth or transformation strategies.

Our talent acquisition trends research suggests hiring interim professionals is an increasingly common practice in 2024. From filling short-term talent gaps, bringing specialist skills to help with growth strategies—such as mergers and acquisitions—and helping steer transformations, it’s a versatile hiring strategy with some unexpected upsides.

“Interim professionals bring a depth of proven experience and an extensive corporate pedigree,” says Lisa McAuliffe, who leads Korn Ferry’s Interim Executive team in Australia and New Zealand. “They are knowledge experts in their field and bring niche skills that often are not available in-house—specifically in areas where there are talent shortages, such as in AI, data, or cybersecurity.”

As organizations shift to a skills-based talent approach, interim executives bring a mix of technical and soft skills to fill business critical gaps.

Here are a few ways APAC HR and acquisition teams are using interim hires to their advantage.

Access Exceptional Talent

While demand for interim professionals is on the rise, so too is the supply of qualified talent. Although we’re seeing fatigued CEOs resigning—triggering unplanned executive gaps—many of them are turning to ‘portfolio careers’, a mix of multiple and often short-term income streams.

“Many leaders are re-evaluating their work-life balance, and are at the stage in their career where they can choose to work differently,” explains McAuliffe.

“The prospect of taking on a challenge for three, six or 12 months, where they can add value and make an immediate impact, is immensely satisfying, as is the variety and flexibility. They combine interim leadership roles with board positions, pro bono work, and other interests.”

Portfolio careers have undergone a perception shift in recent years, explains McAuliffe. “In the past, executives might have been more risk-averse, or companies would question why they were not in a permanent role.”

As tenure in permanent roles decreases and executives choose to work differently, interim opportunities are becoming a career choice. They offer challenging and purposeful work. And these professionals are not just there to “keep the seat warm,” but are often brought in specifically to drive change.

Best Practice Change Management

When looking for strategic advice, organizations now see interim executives as an alternative to traditional management consultants. In fact, many interim hires are ex-management consultants. 

They can bring frameworks and skills from different industries and—unlike a management consultant—can see that strategy through to implementation.

“It's certainly more cost-effective to bring in an interim hire than to engage a management consultant,” observes McAuliffe. “As well as bringing the same skillsets, they are embedded in the business and focused solely on the business goals and outcomes. Their leadership is also key to driving success as they build trust and collaboration from within.”

Fast to Hire

If you can’t wait the average 90 to 120 days it takes to place a permanent executive, your new interim CEO could be taking the lead in less than a week.

“When a client comes to us, the need is generally immediate,” says McAuliffe. “Once we take a brief, we can provide them with a shortlist of pre-qualified and immediately available candidates within three to five days.

Those candidates will have already completed our Korn Ferry Leadership Solution methodology, so that we can understand their style and motivators. That gives our clients another level of comfort when bringing someone into an organization or a team that might be experiencing instability.”

Quick to Make Impact

Interim hires are more focused on delivering goals than on performing roles. They hit the ground running, and are experienced at bringing people on the journey and building trust across the organization.

“They aren’t a threat to others, quite the opposite,” says McAuliffe. “They’re not seeking career progression, and they don't get involved with office politics. Instead, they focus on delivering specific goals within a finite period.”

Interim Executives & Professionals

Adapt and accelerate with interim talent

Agility from Within

When change is needed, interim executives can help make the process smoother and more successful. As well as bringing fresh perspectives from other industries, they are experienced at leading new initiatives or strategies.

“Interim leaders are agile and adaptable,” says McAuliffe. “Often, organizations will engage an interim to test new team structures or reporting lines—something they can't do with a permanent hire.”

She gives the example of an organization with long executive tenures and a leadership team that was resistant to change, lacking the skillsets required to shift in the current market.

“We see this frequently,” says McAuliffe. “With the pace of change and new technologies coming into play, a different type of leader is required.”

In this example, a group of interim executives across multiple functions was able to lead the transformation required.

“They could lead teams with a level of sensitivity and emotional intelligence, and position the organization for success.”

Fast-Tracking Succession Plans

McAuliffe says interim hires are also increasingly playing a role when succession planning has hit a hurdle. 

“We are seeing many situations where a leader has exited, and the internal candidate isn’t quite ready to step up,” she explains. To bridge the gap, McAuliffe explains that companies can “bring in someone who is highly qualified and experienced, who can drive projects forward and deal with operational priorities, while also mentoring a successor and bringing them up to speed. That’s invaluable.”

Right Leader, Right Time

Companies increasingly recognize the value of interim professionals to navigate the complexities of a transforming economy and a tight labor market.

With their ability to quickly assimilate into new cultures and focus on delivering results, interim workers are not just filling gaps: they can make vital contributions to organizational success. As part of the evolving gig economy, interim roles also provide both companies and professionals with opportunities to collaborate and innovate.

For more reasons to make interim hires part of your growth strategy, read the eBook