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Blurred Lines

20 November 2015

I thought it important to highlight a pertinent trend in the interim market currently and put to bed the “old school” interim providers arrogance of rejecting ‘permanent’ candidates.

Pre recession, there were two types of candidate that were relevant for interim providers; interim managers and permanent employees. Nobody who was sane would voluntarily leave a permanent job to enter the world of interim. There were permanent roles a plenty in the market, employees were moving every two to three years with big increments on their salary and even bigger job responsibility.

The candidates that were in the interim market had taken the “opportunity” of voluntary redundancy, company sale windfall, share options crystallizing etc to reject corporate life and become an interim manager, primarily because of the exciting and motivating aspect of effecting change in an organisation. However, many enthusiastic, potential interim candidates faced a major obstacle. The problem was that you couldn’t become an interim without a track record in change management and in particular a history of successful interim assignments! The key element here was that interim managers are change agents and before the latest recession hit the economy, any one in a senior management role was used to managing big teams in a business as usual capacity, in other words, lacked change management experience.

Interim providers, therefore, would not welcome an application from an individual that had been made redundant or that had no track record as an interim. It was near impossible to enter into the world of interim management, and many frustrated candidates turned their back on, potentially, a truly rewarding interim career.

One positive that has come out of the recent recession is that during the last three to four years the role of the senior manager within an organisation has dramatically changed. There are no longer business as usual jobs, nearly all senior management roles are about change management, whether that be positive change i.e. growth and investment, or negative change i.e. crisis management. The fact is that all businesses are going through some sort of change. Consequently senior managers are gaining change management experience under the guise of a permanent job. In fact, in a number of big corporates there has been the evolution of a new senior role; Permanent Head of Change!

Individuals are now entering the interim market with three to four years of change management experience and can no longer be sent on their way by an interim provider for ‘lack of change management’ experience.

The lines have become blurred between what an interim does and what a permanent employee is responsible for.

To twist this trend slightly, staunch interim managers, who would never take a permanent role when offered one, are now in permanent jobs. They are all, quite rightly, pointing to the fact that no job, at the senior manager and board level, is permanent. Statistics show that the average tenure of a CEO is 3-5 years. As previously mentioned, nearly all roles at this level are about change management, so the interims are declaring that if the role has enough change to keep them stimulated and the net remuneration is the equivalent to what they were earning as a limited company, then why wouldn’t they take the offer of permanent employment? It is just doing a change management role but being paid via a different vehicle.

So, in the market at the moment, our ‘clients’ are assessing each candidate as an individual and whether they have the right skill set to do the interim role required. No longer do they have to have a track record of being an interim manager, they just need a track record of change management.

In this market, a change agent should not be turned away from an interim provider because they don’t have an interim track record. Significantly more people are choosing to work with companies, as opposed to for companies, so that they can take control of their own careers and the liberation that this brings. The quality of interim managers in the market has increased and the lines between permanent and interim roles are becoming more and more blurred.

Paul Smith, Partner

Paul Smith is a Partner in the Financial Services practice, read Paul's profile

Categories: Financial Services


Matthew Lang at 18/12/2015 10:02 said:

As one of the new candidates, I have come to a similar conclusion. There is still a groundswell of opinion that the first assignment is the toughest nut to crack - as an outsider that is to be expected in any situation and it can be understood from a client's point of view. On the other hand, as you point out, there are many change agent/transformation managers with great experience after all of the corporate ups and downs of the last decade and a half. Any industry needs new blood!
It is also clear to me that the permanent market also offers an alternative route in to Interim Management - after a long monogamous corporate life, any executive re-entering the market today cannot expect his/her next role to last anything like the same amount of time, both from a management level perspective as much as the way corporates now work.
So I continue to push on two fronts - trying to break in to the IM inner circle whilst also looking for opportunities to work "with" a company.

Steve Rowan at 21/11/2015 07:25 said:

Paul, excellent, true and encouraging comments for all those contemplating a career path as an interim.