For an increasing number of HR professionals, working as an interim provides a great mix of lifestyle flexibility combined with a rewarding and challenging career. Being able to combine professional fulfilment with personal freedom is a key goal for many professionals and interim management can be a vehicle to achieve such utopia for HR professionals.
Recent figures published by the Interim Management Association (IMA) suggests that the number of interim HR assignments has almost doubled over the past two years. The research shows that HR is now the third most common job function for interim managers, behind Special Projects and Finance. The niche sub-sector of HR which is most sought after by clients is Change Management.
IMA’s research shows that, the market for HR interims is divided into three tiers: lower-tier interim (up to £500 per day), mid-tier interim (£500 to £999) and executive interim (£1,000+). This research was based on information gathered from 23 leading interim management businesses.
Interim HR Professionals Perspective
The number of HR professionals looking to move into Interim management has increased for a number of reasons, including: better work life balance, the opportunity to specialise within a HR vertical, the satisfaction of being able to deliver a project without the day-to-day HR issues to contend with, the opportunity to help companies put policies in place that will increase diversity.
When HR director Sharon Willis was offered voluntary redundancy by her previous employer, she decided to make the switch to working as an Interim HR consultant. "I'd always said that at some point I was going to move out of permanent corporate life to give myself the flexibility to have more of a portfolio.”
with Human Resources practitioners increasingly being expected to take the lead in organisational development activities, Mark Edwards has made a successful interim career out of supporting HR functions with the provision of organisational development and executive coaching. "I wanted to focus on the things I'm very good at and can add value on rather than being a jack of all trades," he says. "I have a greater sense of achievement when I'm given a huge level of responsibility, with a clear budget and a clear set of deliverables within a finite period of time. I find it rewarding to go in, make a big change, and then go on to the next project."
Before retirement, Stephen Huard spent 15 years as a professional HR Interim working for a varied collection of organisations including: Ainscough Group, News International, Reckitt Benckiser, Victor Chandler (Betvictor.com). He warns on the pitfalls of interim management, "Being an interim is not for the faint-hearted," he says. "At certain times there can be a surplus of interims, and for every job you face a negotiation over your rate."
Becoming an Interim HR professional is not a decision to be taken likely. Once made, it is usually for keeps and it’s unusual for an interim HR professional to go back to permanent employment. Once an interim has completed a few assignments, to then be offered a permanent role could be difficult, as the potential employer will be thinking, “Is this individual coming to work for us for the short term?” or “Are they only coming to us as they can’t find another interim assignment?”
Interim Managers within HR acknowledge there are professional and personal characteristics needed to build a successful career as an interim. “The ability to hit the ground running is vital, says Carole Harden. "I'm used to arriving and performing on the day," she says. "You don't go in there on a learning curve. You've got to have the experience and confidence to move in and advise some very senior people." Carole is a Director level Interim HR Executive with experience of working for a diverse range of organisations both private and public such as: The Church of England, WPP, GrainCorp, Laura Ashley, HMRC, Transport for London, and Thales Aerospace.
Interim HR professionals generally have more commercial acumen than HR professionals in permanent roles as they have more experience working in different industries, understand complexities and often working closely with C-Suite Executives and are responsible for managing business transformation and other strategic projects. Interim HR professionals can therefore coach permanent HR leaders in how to make HR more visible and central to the business.
What most clients need is an independent interim HR professional with no axe to grind who can go in and give a quick but comprehensive view of what the organisation needs, and then deliver the solution. An experienced Interim HR professional will implement the solution with minimum histrionics and disruption.
It is often the case that clients are seeking a specific skill-set that the existing HR team do not have, so interim management is ideal for bringing in that specific skill for a short-term or fixed-term period. If the interim is bringing a skill-set that doesn’t exist, clients expect them to work closely with the existing team, almost in a mentoring capacity and transfer some of the skills and knowledge they have onto the existing team to leave a legacy once they exit the assignment.
Client’s also report they are more likely to use an interim HR professional during times of significant upheaval and popular activities for HR interims to undertake include: organisational development, change management, transition, talent management, TUPE transfer and redundancy. There is also strong demand for HR interims to get involved with projects around gender equality, diversity, inclusion, executive pay and reward, employee relations, succession planning, talent acquisition and retention.
An example of such an assignment is a role with a large Technology firm in London who recently recruited an Interim Chief Feminism Officer, after realising they were performing poorly on gender equality. The role paid £1000 per day and the interims main responsibilities include managing female talent, including ensuring that more female talent is hired, and supporting, coaching and mentoring existing female staff.
Clients expect HR interims to be delivery and outcome focused, change-oriented, highly motivated, able to deliver against the brief, motivated and able to work at pace. Due to the nature of the work, Interim HR professionals may not necessarily be at the company to see the benefits of the work they have instigated. For example, a HR Interim may assist an organisation to implement a Diversity Policy, but it may be 2+ years before the Policy delivers the expected outcomes. Therefore, HR professionals new to Interim Management may miss the satisfaction that comes from seeing the fruits of their labour. Clients therefore need to engage with HR Interims who are able wholly focused on delivery without the need for emotional satisfaction.
Wednesday Nov 21, 2018