My next move – going down the interim path

by 29 May 2007

Q. I am a female HR manager in my mid-30s and I'm thinking of becoming an interim. I've noticed that interim management is becoming increasingly popular among younger professionals. I thought that interim managers had to be older, more experienced professionals?

A. Interim management is becoming increasingly popular in the global marketplace and particularly in the HR profession. In this talent-challenged environment, and in a world where workforce flexibility and work life balance are increasingly in demand, engaging interims at all levels has become popular.

In my experience, organisations are utilising HR interims to supplement their existing permanent teams in areas of specialisation, key projects and transition management (mergers and acquisitions). Interim work is held in a positive light by both organisations and talent. For organisations, it’s about flexing with commercial demands and providing vital support whilst ensuring maximum productivity in progressive businesses. From a talent perspective, it is about experiencing diverse projects and businesses, and for many, being able to manage their balance.

Becoming an interim is a personal and professional decision for an individual, however there are many success stories and, with the changing world of business and employment, it is definitely a growing and popular option at all levels.

The beauty of HR interim solutions is that organisations can utilise these qualified, experienced and committed professionals to cater at any level. You mentioned in your question that the perception is often that interims are at management level. We have found to the contrary. Certainly at the management level there is definitely a large demand, and management or executive interims have a wealth of expertise and depth to bring to a corporation.

However, many of our client organisations engage interims to cover leave appointments, to handle HR analyst or coordinator assignments in times of volume, or to carry out graduate/on-site recruitment. Specialisations such as remuneration and benefits, industrial relations and diversity projects are some other examples of where interims are often popular.

HR interims can be engaged on six-month, three-month, six-week, one-week or even one-day assignments. Obviously for the more complex assignments this can be 12 to 18 months in length.

I can hear you ask, “One day? How does that work?” A number of our clients who utilise our interim solutions, have compulsory panel interviewing, for example, and require additional members for their panel. Where their own employee’s time is limited, our clients engage HR interims for one, two, five, or ten days of interviewing on a panel to supplement their requirements.

Our overseas affiliates Digby Morgan in their recent newsletter indicated that the number of HR interim positions had doubled in the last financial year, over the previous year. HR interims – although a newer phrase in the Australian market – have been prevalent in the commercial business community for almost ten years.

One example of a success story is a very well regarded HR interim who, back in 1998, had been employed with the same organisation in many roles over an 11-year period. After a restructure, she took a voluntary redundancy and decided to travel, experience a variety of organisations and take control of her career.

As a result of this she became an ongoing interim for a period of about three years. This enabled her to gain exposure to approximately six different organisations, in six varied roles, while being able to finish assignments and travel overseas for four weeks in-between.

There can be peaks and troughs as an interim and that is something to be aware of, however in the current talent-short and opportunity-rich market it is certainly a growing solution.

By Sue Ritchie, regional manager, Victoria, Staff & Exec/HR Partners