To be interim or not

Temporary executives present benefits, challenges

Over the past few years, more organizations have been looking for interim executives and managers, either on their own or through executive search firms, to fill vacancies. Interim executives can be a cost efficient way to fill an immediate need and can bring additional experience and a point of view that might not exist in the organization. Interim managers are usually called into play for one of four reasons.

1. Maternity or sick leave coverage: The replacement is often offered the job, on a full-time basis, during the standard one-year maternity leave.

2. Special or single project supervision: Usually one-of-a-kind projects with a defined timeline, or to supervise correction of a clearly defined problem.

3. Coverage while a search for a new full-time replacement is conducted: This is usually done to fill a critical assignment in finance or HR where supervision is required every day.

4. Extra “horsepower” to make a quantum leap: Bringing in a lot more expertise or experience than the company could hope to afford or sustain on a long-term basis.

If the organization is looking for anything else, then it should hire a full-time employee.

Calculating cost

Interim employees and managers are sometimes thought to be expensive, but generally worth the cost. Interim contractor rates are often calculated by determining the rate for the job on a full-time basis, doubling that and then dividing by 243 working days (a full year) to come up with a daily rate.

Using that calculation, it would cost about $823 a day to replace a manager making $100,000 per year.

The rate is balanced to some degree by the fact that, generally, interim managers don’t incur expenses for holiday pay, health care, pension or other costs.

The interim profile

The most effective interim managers are people who are committed to the lifestyle — not those who are between full-time jobs or retired individuals looking to keep their hand in. Experienced and independent managers who enjoy the challenge of taking charge of a situation and getting the required results quickly and efficiently will be the most successful interim managers. They also bring with them a willingness to speak plainly, directly and truthfully, because they have no fear of being let go and no reason to become embroiled in corporate politics.

An executive search firm with a practice that specializes in interim executive recruiting can help ensure an interim manager will fit into an organization and complement the management team instead of disrupting it. To ensure a proper fit, several steps should be followed, including:

•the creation of a detailed positioning letter, specifically outlining the scope of the assignment;

•interviews with the organization’s decision-maker, the interim manager’s direct supervisor and, if possible, subordinates; and

•an analysis of the organization’s culture and public persona to develop a clear understanding of the kind of personality that will be readily accepted by in-house staff.

The interim manager often possesses a wide range of experience gleaned from a variety of assignments, which can quickly bring proven solutions to problems for the organization. However, an interim manager presents the following disadvantages when compared to a full-time employee:

•it can take a while for an interim manager to fully understand the organization’s culture;

•an interim manager will leave when an organization runs out of money or time;

•an outside experience level, likely greater than that of current staff, can be intimidating; and

•an interim manager’s sense of loyalty and ownership is reserved for his own practice, not a succession of interim employers.

Peter Shrive is a partner with executive search firm Cambridge Management Planning in Toronto. He can be reached at (416) 484-8408, [email protected] or visit for more information.

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