Interim postings a win-win for firms, execs (Web sight)

Temporary managers provide cost savings and new insight

The sudden departure of a key employee can be damaging — even devastating — to an organization. That’s why an increasing number of firms choose to hire interim leaders who can fill pivotal roles within an organization quickly without having to commit to a permanent relationship. This gives the firm some breathing room while the search for a permanent replacement continues. Interim leaders can provide a cost-effective staffing solution and they often bring a fresh perspective to the organization. They can also provide the expertise that the firm needs for a short-term project, including investigating a merger or acquisition opportunity or managing a large project. These short-term assignments appeal to many executives since they combine a variety of assignments and new challenges with the ability to take time off in between, without the pressures that come with a full-time position.

Pros and cons of interim leaders

This article from PrideStaff, an American staffing organization, outlines the various reasons firms are turning to interim executives and the many advantages and disadvantages a temporary hire can provide. Advantages include continuity of governance and a lack of encumbrance by past history. As well, the interim person “can perform the role of change agent without leaving scar tissue that would impact future performance as a permanent member of the leadership team.” Disadvantages include a lack of historical perspective, possible confusion by co-workers over the role of the interim leader, as well as the fact that they may not be as vested in positive outcomes unless performance-based incentives are included. The author cautions organizations to clearly communicate the role of the interim leader, including duration, authority, general function and responsibilities. “Remember too that ‘interim’ assignments can, and have, sometimes lasted longer than ‘permanent,’” the author adds.

Interim execs deliver faster results

CIO magazine offers a strong argument for hiring interim leaders — “the people who fix sick companies” — in this feature titled “Strong Medicine.” The author claims a CEO’s tenure lasts only three years or so. “A new man at the top is now reckoned to have just 100 days to show what he is made of.” Unfortunately, once the CEO leaves, it can take nine to 12 months to find a replacement from outside the company. Enter the interim leader. “The oddity about the interim CEO is that although he or she is engaged to fight a fire, there is often far less pressure on them than if they were permanent hires. This enhances the chances of success,” the author argues. Nick Robeson, chairman of the U.K.’s Interim Management Association, is quoted as saying the interim person starts with greater latitude. “We reckon that an interim executive will deliver in five to 10 days what a permanent executive will normally deliver in 100.” He argues that new permanent leaders tend not to seek advice since they’re expected to have all the answers, but interim leaders ask questions constantly to learn about the organization.

Interim leaders at non-profit organizations

This PDF document, titled “Interim Executive Directors: The Power in the Middle,” covers the issues that non-profit organizations in transition should consider and outlines the benefits of using an interim executive director in a leadership transition. In the section “Who and How to Hire,” the document discusses what to look for in an interim leader, where to find the best candidates and typical terms of engagement, including tenure, work hours and compensation. The document also provides several concrete examples of non-profits that have used interim leaders and details what actions were taken and what results took place.

Outsiders offer more to organizations

This article gives a brief account of the author’s tenure as interim president of a prominent arts organization. He outlines his reasons why an inside interim leader is less effective than hiring from the outside — including issues stemming from the existing relationships the leader has with peers and co-workers — and argues that hiring an interim leader from the outside is the better solution. “Short-term leadership requires overcoming the trauma of the executive’s departure, picking up the pieces as quickly as possible and avoiding the creation of a culture that is ineffective as a bridge between the old and (as yet unknown) new. Challenging? You bet!”

Ann Macaulay is a freelance editor and regular contributor to Canadian HR Reporter. Her Web Sight column appears regularly in the CloseUp section.

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