Help Wanted: As Companies Search for Workers, Interim Solutions Gain a Foothold

Jobless claims continue to fall in the U.S., and many see a constricting market ahead for workers. That is turning interim talent solutions into an option of choice for many companies in the U.S. and around the globe. Here, we turn to The Registry and ZRG for their insights. For a global view, Caroline McAuliffe, a partner at Australian recruiting firm Watermark Search International, discusses the pandemic, hiring, and how her firm has adjusted to working with clients and candidates.

June 10, 2021 – The Labor Department reported that 376,000 Americans filed new claims for state unemployment benefits. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected 370,000 new jobless claims. This is the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020, when it was 256,000. The four-week moving average was 402,500, a decrease of 25,500 from the previous week’s unrevised average of 428,000. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020, when it was 225,500. Despite falling new jobless claims, almost 16 million Americans were still on some form of government assistance through all unemployment programs as of early May.

“Employers have lots of jobs; they can’t find people, so they’re holding very tight to the workers they have,” said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.

Employers added 559,000 jobs in May, falling short of many economists’ predictions and reflecting businesses’ difficulties filling open jobs as potential workers remain not unemployed.

During the week, 51 states reported 6,347,472 continued weekly claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits and 51 states reported 5,231,952 continued claims for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. The highest insured unemployment rates in the week were in Nevada (4.8), Rhode Island (4.5), Connecticut (4.2), Puerto Rico (4.1), California (4.0), Alaska (3.9), Pennsylvania (3.9), New York (3.7), Illinois (3.6), and District of Columbia (3.3). The largest increases in initial claims for the week were in Pennsylvania (+7,064), Illinois (+4,298), Kentucky (+3,454), Missouri (+2,744), and Michigan (+1,664), while the largest decreases were in Texas (-3,114), Oregon (-1,822), Virginia (-1,753), Florida (-1,625), and Washington (-1,577).

Interim: A Solution of Choice

What all this portends for the labor market is anyone’s guess. But according to experts in the executive search and interim talent space, emerging trends for temporary leaders mirror a bigger shift seen in the corporate world which favors the hiring of interim executives. Multiyear interim C-suite leaders, say the experts, can promote institutional continuity, implement cultural change, and give boards more time to search for and select permanent leaders.

While the popularity of longer-term interim executives is a relatively new development in the U.S., it is something that has been utilized in Europe for years and with great success. “We see this as a global megatrend in many major industry sectors all around the globe,” said Bryan Carlson, president of The Registry, an education-focused interim management recruitment business based outside of Boston. “Interims have become more and more of a solution of choice,” he noted.

ZRG Interim Solutions

Four months ago, ZRG tapped industry veteran, Mark Viner, to lead and grow the firm’s interim solutions division. Mr. Viner started his career with Deloitte and had progressive roles with Harris, Disney, Planet Hollywood and CFO Dreams, Inc. He most recently served as president of interim resources at StevenDouglas, where he helped build a profitable division for the firm over 14 years.

“The nature of the workforce is changing and having senior level resources for project work is often the right solution to address critical needs in accounting, finance, and HR,” said Larry Hartmann, CEO of ZRG. “Mark Viner has previously built a successful business from scratch,” he added, and said his firm is looking forward to investing into interim solutions to drive more synergy among ZRG’s expanding platforms in executive search, culture solutions and other areas. Mr. Hartmann said interim solutions dovetail with the firm’s growing work in the private equity sector, where the firm is doing CFO and CEO work for portfolio companies.

“PE-backed firms have to move fast to solve problems, improve results, and tackle projects,” added Rich Herman, global practice leader of ZRG’s private equity practice. “While we do a tremendous number of permanent financial executive searches for companies with capital sponsors, having strategic bandwidth to deal with short term and project needs for our PE-backed clients is critical.”

A View from Overseas

Caroline McAuliffe has been a partner in the Watermark Search International interim management practice since 2011, deploying senior level interim managers in both private and public sectors. She has a particular focus on CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CIOs, change & turnaround professionals, and senior finance, HR, operations, legal & IT executives. Ms. McAuliffe has completed interim management search assignments across a diverse range of industries and specializes in government, not-for-profit, healthcare, human services, infrastructure, transport, energy, utilities, industrial, manufacturing, property and construction with public and private sector clientele.

Related: Executive Search Firms Adapting to the New Normal

Ms. McAuliffe recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the pandemic, hiring, and how her firm has adjusted to working with clients and candidates during the post pandemic era. Following are excerpts from that discussion.

       Caroline McAuliffe

Caroline, with vaccine distribution underway and restrictions being lifted across the United States, what’s the view from Australia?

2021 in Australia started optimistically, with a vaccine roll out scheduled, falling infection rates, the strong management and tracing of outbreaks and borders re-opening. Organizations and their people hit the ground fast in January and started to operationalize the recovery and reinvention plans written in lockdown the previous year. Both our executive search practice and our executive interim practice have experienced huge demand from clients looking for both longer term search solutions, but we have seen a rise in the executive interim solution to bring about change, transformation, rightsizing, re-organization, restructuring, at speed. The uncertainty generated by the pandemic has encouraged organizations to establish a structure that can be quickly adjusted up or down to flex with uncertainty. Clients are utilizing the interim executive pool to get ahead of the curve. There is strong demand for HR executives in particular as their expertise is at the forefront of the people centric change that is required followed by a big demand for digital and data expertise, as well as strong leadership across the whole of the C-suite roles, CEO, CFO, etc. to backfill or caretake roles due to extended leave or to drive change.

How has your firm adjusted to working with clients during the pandemic?

The questions being asked are: How will the pandemic’s effects shape our future workforces, labor demand, our occupations and career paths, and skills and experience now required? Is hybrid work a temporary measure or is it here to stay? How can we keep our people engaged while working remotely but also entice them back to the office by demonstrating the benefits and value of them coming together again. The pandemic challenged the concept of how and where work is performed and certain assumptions with relation to the structure of work in general. A number of companies are resistant to any change in work practices whereas others have embraced the change and are busy putting in place new structures, processes and frameworks that will manage the new hybrid approach to work. We are working with clients to ensure that the new way of interviewing and onboarding of their new hires has been as smooth as possible. We offer our interim executive cohort value added webinars and masterclasses on how best to present yourself at interview in this new environment and we offer our clients masterclasses and webinars on topics such as the future of work, wellness strategies, the future of learning and development and digital, data and cyber security. We adjusted overnight to working remotely and we were in constant touch with our clients as they adapted to this new environment.

“The uncertainty generated by the pandemic has encouraged organizations to establish a structure that can be quickly adjusted up or down to flex with uncertainty.” 

Do you think some of these changes will be here to stay?

2020 disrupted the way that all of us work and none of us are certain of what will happen next, but it seems that the linear career pathway and working from one place are redundant concepts of career and work. There are changing models of work and hiring practices being developed globally. There is developing and changing career aspirations. As an example, only six percent of people in the U.K. work 9 – 5 and they expect to have five different types of careers. The World Economic Forum estimate that 50 percent of skills right now will not be relevant by 2025. Organizations need to adapt their working models to these new career aspirations and flexible working opportunities for their people or risk losing them. They need to lose the linear, career ladder model of the past 100 years and adapt to a continuous learning, flexible environment. The environment in 2021 requires us to redefine, reshape, strengthen and therefore create a sustainable working environment, by opening our minds to different modes and concepts of working and careers.

Related: Skills Gap Points to Why We Need to Invest in People

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

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