Demand Soars for Interim Executives to Help Side Step Talent Gaps

Organizations are quickly increasing their use of interim workers. Interim specialist Jacinta Whelan of Watermark Interim discusses why companies are turning to these top flight temporary professionals and how they can benefit organizations looking to side step talent gaps.

August 17, 2018 – Strong demand for “solutions-savvy” interim executives and managers being hired within as little as 48 hours – and deployed to manage change and disruption – is the key trend in the interim sector according to the latest annual Watermark Interim Executive Survey.

In the past 12 months, demand has spiked for interim leaders who can help steer the way forward in an evolving workplace. “With change occurring at an unprecedented pace – and as the workplace is disrupted – our clients want transformation skills,” said Jacinta Whelan, a partner at the long-established Australian search firm. “This is reflected in the demand trends in our latest 2018 survey of the interim sector. Companies are asking us to help ‘future proof’ their operations – by utilizing interims.”

In addition to finding interim leaders for companies, Watermark also recruits full time leaders, CEOs and board directors – boasting a 94 percent completion rate of the searches it undertakes. According to the firm, 76 percent of its new assignments are with previous clients, and 91 percent of its placements remain in position two years after commencing their new role. Nearly half, 43 percent, of its placements over the past three years are considered either gender or culturally diverse.

Ms. Whelan confirmed that demand has been strong over the past 12 months for the “solutions-savvy” interim, an executive or manager who can come into an organization with the know-how needed to deal with rapid change, innovation and disruption. “They are deployed and on the tools within as little as one to two days,” she said. “They are being deployed to assist with vital change projects, manage disruption and innovation change, and they are being deployed to work in the technology, change management and IT area as workplaces rapidly transform.”

Director of HR, International Wanted at SeatGeek
As the Director of HR for its international offices, you’ll play a key role in supporting the growth of the EMEA and APAC business as well as contributing to a number of strategic functions under the HR umbrella. Apply on Ezayo!

She also said that more than half were on assignment for between six and 12 months plus. In support of this trend, Watermark Interim survey respondents said the top three reasons they were being hired was to manage restructuring, redesign or merge projects, projects where the business was scaling for growth, and in response to difficulties in hiring permanent staff.

“Nearly 40 percent of our survey respondents also said they believed there would be steady growth in the deployment of interim executives, and indeed teams of interims, into organizations in the next 12 months and that’s significant,” Ms. Whelan said. “The finding supports the broader trend we are seeing in both the Australian and global economies where resourcing an interim is now considered a mainstream business strategy.”

Related: Human Capital Leaders Turning to Flexible Workforce in Record Numbers

In addition to the rapid and often lengthier deployment times to achieve “future-proofing” outcomes, the industry is also seeing soaring demand in four key sectors. “In particular, interims have been helping organizations increase their resilience and manage change in these hot sectors,” said Ms. Whelan. “We only see that continuing.”

Hot Sectors

The following sectors, based on percentage of respondents, have seen the highest demand for interims in the past 12 months:

  • Government – 27 percent.
  • Health and services – 17 percent.
  • Education – 14 percent.
  • Infrastructure/transport; construction – 13 percent.

Talent Shortage Leads to Growing Contingent Workforce
Seventy-six percent of companies use contingent labor to enhance their workforce and close talent gaps, according to the ‘Definitive Guide to Building a Better Workforce’ report released by Adecco. The report found that “best-in-class” companies are 44 percent more likely to increase the size of their temporary workforce in the next 12 to 24 months.

“It’s an exciting time to be an interim in Australia, particularly for those executives and managers with the skills that can help achieve transformation,” said Ms. Whelan. “We would also highlight the finding from the Watermark Report that 54 percent of all respondents see the biggest change in the workplace is the need to understand and leverage digital and technological change. That’s why the ‘solutions-savvy’ interim is here to stay.”

Related: U.S. Economy Continues Expansion With Hourly Employees

Interim Thought Leader

Ms. Whelan is a thought leader and popular speaker about interim management, portfolio careers and future ways of working. She has more than 20 years’ experience starting and leading interim businesses in Hong Kong, New York and Australia. Ms. Whelan leads the Melbourne business of Watermark Interim Management, which focuses on interim appointments in both public and private sectors with a particular emphasis on CEOs and COOs, senior executives in IT&T, human resources specialists, project and program management experts, and business turnaround and change consultants.

Ms. Whelan recently spoke with Hunt Scanlon Media about why companies are turning to interim executives and how they benefit organizations looking to side step talent gaps. Here are some excerpts from that discussion.

  Jacinta Whelan

Jacinta, why do you think we have seen such an increased demand for interim executives?

Supply and demand is at an interesting intersection – on the demand side we have companies running lean structures and therefore looking to borrow talent that they once might have engaged full time. Businesses can confidently work this lean structure knowing that a strong supply of candidates will be available as and when they are needed to supplement their model. On the supply side we have a growing pool of people who now choose a portfolio career. They no longer want or need to work full time in traditional roles but choose to combine exec level projects with board roles and/or other revenue streams. This new gig economy is increasingly serving both sides of the demand and supply equation globally.

“Supply and demand is at an interesting intersection. On the demand side we have companies running lean structures and therefore looking to borrow talent that they once might have engaged full time. On the supply side we have a growing pool of people who now choose a portfolio career. They no longer want or need to work full time in traditional roles.”

What sectors have been using interim talent the most? 

In Australia, the sectors that we are busiest serving are government, healthcare, education and infrastructure.

Massive Shift to Contract Employment Underway
By 2025, most workers (70 percent) and employers (68 percent) agree that a majority of the workforce will be employed in an “agile capacity” (i.e. contractor, consultant, temp worker or freelancer), according to a study released by Randstad US.

What types of interim leaders have been in the most demand?

Watermark Interim executives in most demand are CEO, CFO, marketing & communication, PMO, procurement & facilities, IT which includes both chief technology officer and chief digital officer.

How often do you find an interim candidate placed ending up in a permanent, full-time role with the company?

Related: Gig Jobs Continue to Gain Traction

Our statistics on this are that eight to 10 percent of the time an interim candidate will end up in the full-time employment of the company. This is less than most people expect (or sometimes hope) but it is important to note that our business model is the supply of interims and not people who are between jobs and really hoping for a permanent job. There are occasions where it all lines up and our interim and the company needs all align but for the most part our people over-hit the mark and are there for a specific point in time to deliver a specific outcome.

Can you share some recent or current interim searches that you or the firm is working on?

Currently, Watermark Interim is conducting searches for the following positions: interim CIO of a government department, interim head of marketing & communications for a membership association, interim CEO for a media/digital company, interim organizational development for NFP specializing in mental health, interim head of policy for a federal government authority, interim COO of an educational institution, interim head of procurement for a university, interim head of facilities & property for infrastructure services and an interim head of corporate services for a state government department.

Related: A Look Into Who is Driving the Gig Economy

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

Share This Article


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments