Guest Interview with Geoff Tompsett, Head of Human Resources at Daiichi Sankyo Development Ltd
Geoff, thanks for agreeing to take part in the interview. To give readers of Perspective some background, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
I’ve worked in the pharmaceutical and medical devices industries for over 20 years and I’m currently head of HR at Daiichi Sankyo Development Ltd, which is the European clinical development arm of the firm. I’m also a member of the Leadership Team and my role covers all aspects of HR across the business. No two days are ever the same which makes for an interesting working environment. I actually started here on a four month interim project last year which then became a permanent position.
You’re apparently a bit of an advocate around the benefits of employing interims. Why is that?
I am in indeed. As I said, I’ve worked an interim myself so I know the value they can bring. The key benefits as I see them are all about having flexibility and the ability to respond quickly to a very specific need. Interims usually come with a targeted and high skill set and that talent – along with a breadth of experience – means they can add value by matching supply to the demand a business might have. Also, an interim’s career isn’t coupled to the firm so they can take an independent stand point and offer best advice.
When did you first bring on board an interim and what was the specific brief?
I really can’t remember when I contracted my very first interim as it was way back in the mists of time. However, one of the first was a backfilling assignment for a major change project. I was looking for a safe pair of hands to oversee the day to day running of a finance function. I needed someone who could look after that side of things which then allowed me, and my colleagues, the freedom to push forward the changes that needed to happen.
How many interims have you instructed over the years?
I haven’t got a clue but it would run into the many 10s and those roles have spanned across the whole business structure from finance and HR to IT and sales.
Are there any specific roles that you think interims are most suited for?
In my opinion, interims are most applicable - and really come into their own - when around major operational transitions and projects. These kinds of scenarios usually demand a specific skill set to which you don’t really need to retain internally on an ongoing basis. Interims are able to come in, deliver and add value at a fixed cost.
It can’t all be plain sailing so do interims pose any challenges?
In theory, they can leave with very short notice but this is rarely an issue. I’ve always found that interims provide proper commitment as they recognise the need to protect their own brand and reputation. Word of mouth is king, so most realise that leaving a client in the lurch would be a bad idea. Another potential issue is around legacy as that might be less important to someone working on a project basis as they know they will move on pretty quickly. But again I’ve never seen that, as an interim’s success is built squarely on his or hers reputation.
On the client side, it’s essential to ensure the induction process is tailored to the interim; it needs to be shorter but still cover all main issues so the interim can hit the ground running with as much of an understanding as possible. Also, you must manage the potential risk of internal resentment from staff towards the interim but that’s usually down to a lack of understanding of why they’re there and the benefits they can bring.
How do you overcome them?
Effective internal communication is vital and it’s essential to foster good working relationships between the interim and the wider team. Understanding how a company and its people tick will also aid the interim as they’ll feel more relaxed and – at the same time – have more determination to do a great job.
As an employer, do you have any tips for interims who are in an interview situation?
The single most important thing is to be clear about your availability but also communicate your flexibility. Our ideal interim is someone – regardless of their seniority - who will just get things done and muck in. Other tips include; being transparent about your skill set, researching the role thoroughly, listening to the requirements and tailoring your responses to them. Also, be prepared to hit the ground running and make sure you look like a self starter who understands what is expected of you!
Having the right skills and experience is of course vital, but what other qualities do you look for when recruiting an interim?
Technical ability is central but so is possessing soft skills such as listening and understanding an organisation’s values. An effective interim is one who will immerse themselves in a business and that can only be done if you have empathy and care.
To finish... any tips you can give or what can an interim do to really capture an employer’s attention?
Absolutely, firstly... demonstrate a keenness to really understand the objectives and how you would deliver the right solution. Also, don’t give generic answers, try and have a rapport and communicate your own energy as a ‘sit back consultancy’ approach is never good.