Before we explore how to make interim management work for your business, it is important that we understand what ‘interim management’ actually is.

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What is interim management?

An interim manager is someone appointed by a business on a temporary basis to cover a specific resourcing need for a specific period of time. Reasons to appoint an interim manager could include the need to bring in specific expertise which isn’t available in-house to complete a project.

Alternatively, the business could use an interim appointment to cover a long-term absence, e.g. maternity leave. An interim manager could also be brought in to offer an independent review of the organisation, bring fresh eyes to the operation and provide recommendations for change, particularly where restructuring may be required to maximise business success.

Interim managers tend to be experts in their particular field, usually having operated at senior management and/or executive level in previous roles.

Why should I consider using interim management in my business?

Using an interim resource can give you greater flexibility, whether for the delivery of a specific project or to provide cover for the absence of a permanent employee.

One advantage is that you retain the capacity to deliver against your business objectives without the ongoing costs associated with a permanent recruit. Bringing in an interim manager also enables you to benefit from someone with significant experience in a wide range of organisations who can apply a fresh pair of eyes to your business and identify improved ways of working.

Isn’t an interim just someone looking to wind down at the end of their career?

While interim roles can be attractive to someone in the later stages of their career, the type of person attracted to an interim role is also likely to enjoy the challenge of quickly adapting to new settings and workplace cultures.

Those attracted to interim roles are likely to have a wide variety of experience from their previous interim assignments and will be keen to continue learning, bringing an attitude of continuous improvement to each new business they support. They tend to be attracted to interim work for several reasons: variety, freedom and personal challenge.

What are the key skills to look for when appointing someone on an interim basis?

An effective interim manager needs to be able to hit the ground running. To improve the chances of success each of the following should be considered an essential skill:

The ideal interim manager will focus on outcomes

Due to the temporary, and sometimes short-notice nature of any interim assignment, the interim manager needs the ability to grasp the requirements of the assignment very quickly. They must remain focussed on the outcomes, sifting all the information and initial impressions, drawing out the key issues that will lead to success against the client’s required outcome.

Good at establishing effective relationships

They must also establish effective working relationships very fast with those in the organisation who are key to delivering the required results. They must operate with integrity and respect, demonstrating credibility and winning the trust of those with whom they interact.

An interim manager who can deliver results is often skilled in effective communication

A good interim manager needs the ability to ask the right questions of the right people, as well as the communication skills to clearly explain the purpose of the interim project and any proposed outcomes in a way which brings people along. This is especially important when the assignment requires proposing changes to well-established processes or staffing structures.

Emotional intelligence

The appointment of an interim manager can be challenging to existing permanent employees. Depending on the nature of the assignment, the successful interim manager may need to ask challenging questions and suggest changes to existing processes or team structures. They need the confidence to do so appropriately and the empathy to take people along with the revised vision. They also need the ability to rise above internal politics and not allow these to obscure the best outcome for the business.

Being adaptable to change

Each interim assignment will be unique, so a good interim manager is someone who can recognise and adapt to the specific company culture and priorities of each client.

How do I find a good interim manager?

The Institute of Interim Management has a list of reputable Interim Service Providers (ISPs) who can match you with an appropriate person in terms of skills, knowledge and a strong track record of delivery.

The ISP will charge a placement fee, usually calculated in a similar way to a recruitment agency. While this service carries an additional cost, the benefit is in finding an interim manager who is the best fit for your organisation and the goals for the interim project.

How to make it work for you

Be clear about the purpose of hiring an interim manager – why is this a better route for the business than giving an internal employee the opportunity to manage a particular project?

Have clearly defined outcome(s) ready at the start of the interim project, with stated milestones if appropriate. Clear goals need to be identified at the start of an appointment and reviewed throughout the assignment to ensure they remain relevant and achievable.

Be open to suggestions from the interim manager. While stating clear outcomes and milestones at the start is important, it may be that a fresh pair of eyes can identify different ways to achieve the required goal.

A successful interim management arrangement relies, above all, on good communication between the company and the interim manager and a shared desire to make the arrangement work.

If you need help finding an interim manager or would benefit from an interim HR expert, contact us today so that we can help find the right solution for you.