Every industry has a range of terminology to describe non-permanent resources: locum management resources, executive interim, interim managers, independent consultants, turnaround directors, management, company doctors, senior contingent labour, to name a few.
The following tips hopefully can provide some insight when advising line managers to consider their options before engaging your time and effort when going to market for an interim to deliver results for your organisation.
1. Can you help them decide what they really want or what they really need?
Many line managers particularly those involved in programme and project management or trying to turnaround loss making situations are time poor. Many of them are often not really sure about either what’s out there or the best way to select it. However, they all have a good idea of what they want to end up with in terms of results or mitigating risk. Trusted HR advisors are the best people to manage this relationship. I know lots of head hunters who try to cut HR out but the truth is, a partnership works best and it requires the time to listen to all parties involved to get the best results.
2. How brave do you want your line manager to be?
Your line manager should ask your advice on the benefits and risks in benchmarking industry best practice against new ways of doing things from outside your sector. This is most prevalent in emerging functions such as digital, payments, customer insight and knowledge management, where there are different ways to deliver competitive advantage.
Most executive interims (£1000+ per day) or interim managers (£500+ per day) will bring different perspectives. Line Directors are often more comfortable selecting from those who have worked for direct competitors. This process can lead to non-specific briefs and time being wasted on sub-standard candidates rather than a slick and informed process based on a candidate experience that will attract the best.
The best interims cost a premium, so understanding why permanent internal candidates are not necessarily right is important for two reasons. Firstly, it articulates the key skills that are missing. Secondly, it gives a clear agenda as to where the interim can add value to internals ensuring they can be developed to deliver the work next time round. The interims also become accountable for knowledge transfer and understanding how the business wants people to be developed.
3. How is this job different from a permanent requirement?
The sensible use of interims can add significant enterprise value, after all they’re paid to get things done. Part of the equation is that the interim is often more senior than the permanent equivalent, ensuring that they have plenty of bandwidth to deliver. When going to market this has to be built into your expectation setting with the manager, so that the chances of getting someone who looks and feels like the ideal permanent candidate and who will be right for the next four years is negligible when looking at people working independently on a few weeks’ notice. Luckily many firms now offer fully integrated solutions covering interim as part of an iterative retained search process ensuring the attractiveness of your role/brand improves throughout the process.
4. Help them hire the right person not the right CV.
The world is now full of self-certified experts. LinkedIn gives us access to thousands, so access is rarely the issue now; knowledge, relationships, time and separating the best from the rest face to face is often the issue. Volume recruitment/RPOs detract enterprise value at a senior level (with some notable exceptions). Taking a one size fits all approach driven purely by cost and a service level agreement based around volume hires brings a significant level of institutional bias. This is because of their 100% reliance on CVs and a general lack of detailed subject matter expertise, based on their economic model.
5. Does your line manager want delivery or advisory?
Many experienced independents position themselves as both interims and management consultants based on the client’s situation. There is an experienced group of independents who are ex LEK, Bain, BCG, Big 4 Alumni (and to a lesser extent, McKinsey) who work through a handful of interim providers and as the associates of consultancies. There is no doubt that their approach and proposition is often different from professional interims working in the PPM space. Understanding how you can help your client decide what they want and which approach will provide the most value is important. This is particularly important to organisations looking to reduce costs by using Interims instead of consultancies for the implementation of big change programmes.
6. Does the role warrant a comfortable culture fit or a change agent?
Unless a spectacularly poor selection is made or the outcomes and programme governance has been misunderstood by an inexperienced recruiter, most shortlisted candidates should be able to do the role. The approach of individuals and how they interact with your permanent/project team varies widely. Many interims, particularly those in the transformation space, are actually very fixed in their approach, effectively doing the same things, in the same order, in all of their assignments. If selected for exactly the right journey this approach can be fantastic, but if the cultural or people elements are not aligned with what you want, you can end up with one very frustrated internal stakeholder! Just to make things even more confusing it’s often the case that the right change agent may well be counter-cultural and need to shake things up. How your line manager wants that done is a big selection criteria that you are ideally placed to advise on.
7. Helping them select and consistently measure ROI.
Most professionals have not spent a high percentage of their professional lives interviewing high level independents who claim to be in the top 5% of what they do, available at short notice and well-practiced at selling their own services.
It’s very useful for HR professionals to give questions/ideas and generate consistent information from shortlisted candidates. When these line managers make a permanent hire they often have more rigour in their process even if the interim would cost the company twice as much. Your role as trusted advisor can support and play back the interviewer’s thoughts to ensure the candidate experience and hire is made in the best interest of the firm. As experience tells us the best sales person is not always the best at delivering value in assignment.