Are interim managers your next critical link?

The use of interim leaders is growing globally – but a lot of companies are yet to widely accept the method, says one HR expert

Are interim managers your next critical link?
The workplace of today has been “de-layered” extensively, with executives’ workloads preventing them from stretching sufficiently to absorb another full-time position.

According to Gary Taylor, an HR director and master HR practitioner with the South African Board for People Practice, the current workforce has to face rapid change, using staff that it customarily takes a long time to recruit or train – so companies should consider the flexibility of an interim position.

What is an interim manager?

“Interim managers can be well qualified and bring skills and experience to a role at short notice, without all the constraints of full-time employment,” Taylor explained.

“They arrive and remain free of company politics so can give you objectivity and honesty. While consultants just offer advice, interims can take decisions and deliver, and then leave you when you are ready.”

Crisis managers

Taylor also noted that it has been interesting to see how companies deal with crises: a downed plane, a big oil spill, a major recall exercise, or an attack causing significant loss of life.

“Their impact can cripple the balance sheet and/or the company’s reputation,” he said.

“Bringing in someone from the outside gives you the advantage of perceived objectivity, or added skills in dealing with the press of difficult external stakeholders.”

Taylor explained that you might need to take one of your top people out of their regular job, and want an available ‘safe pair of hands’ to free them up so they can dedicate themselves to the task.

“Alternatively, you might hire the interim person to handle the project – preparation, implementation and close-out – while leaving your permanent people in place to lead their respective units.

From short to long term

Because of the interim nature of the assignment, Taylor advised, it is helpful to free yourself from the mindset that the interim manager will need three months and an extensive induction to settle.

“‘How will they appreciate our business or our culture?’ you ask,” he said.

“In cases such as these, you should be willing to allow the interim to rely on their skills and general business sense to guide them.

“Although it should not be uppermost in your mind, an interim manager may well impress you enough to make you want to keep them, or call on them again in the future.

“Maintain the relationship well, and benefit from a situation that suits both parties.”
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