Organizations Face Heightened Need for Interim Leadership

With economic concerns rising, a new report from Business Talent Group says that companies are seeking to remain flexible amid uncertainty while still aiming to unlock the promise of advanced technologies, build more resilient and efficient operations, and strategize paths to sustainable, long-term growth. Let’s take a closer look at the report’s findings!

April 11, 2023 – Despite slow, sometimes halted, hiring and frequent budget tightening amid global economic uncertainty, an acute need remains for high-end independent talent—also known as on-demand talent with skills to pivot adeptly in today’s increasingly competitive business environment. In its sixth annual High-End Independent Talent Report, Business Talent Group (BTG), a Heidrick & Struggles company and talent marketplace for independent management consultants, interim executives, subject matter experts, and project managers, reported a strong rise in demand for interim leadership. This urgency for on-demand talent reflects the desire of companies to leverage more flexibility and bring in new skills to navigate economic uncertainty and rapidly changing markets.

Underscoring that finding, the 2023 report registered a 116 percent increase year-over-year in the need for interim leadership at all levels throughout organizations, with the demand for such help in the C-suite rising by 78 percent. The most acute interim need was in the office of the chief financial officer, which represented nearly half of all interim C-suite leadership requests. Additionally, requests for CEOs surged 220 percent year over year and climbed 100 percent for chief human resources officers and chief transformation officers. Other key finance roles are also highly in demand with controller taking the spot as the fastest-growing interim C-suite role (+233 percent year-over-year) and 43 percent of interim requests at all levels originating from needs within finance (+71 percent year-over-year).

“The dramatic increase in demand for interim leadership underscores the significant challenges companies are experiencing in today’s turbulent market,” said Amelia Warren Tyagi, CEO of Business Talent Group. “The uncertainty that organizations are facing emphasizes the importance of effective leaders to drive critical transformations and position companies for resilience in a world of constant change. As business leaders are challenged to do more with less, they are acknowledging the full benefits offered by on-demand talent—in both interim leadership roles and project-based work—to deliver the expertise needed to fill skills gaps and navigate uncertainty while remaining flexible with capacity and cost.”

Related: The Pros and Cons of Hiring Interim Executives

While on-demand talent are a key source of in-demand skills and expertise across industries and business functions, the Business Talent Group report notes that the strongest demand has been coming from the life sciences, professional services, technology, private equity, and financial services industries. “This year, leaders in strategy, human resources, marketing, and operations—as well as chief executives and presidents—are among the top business functions seeking the help of highly skilled on-demand talent,” the report said. Here are the annual ranking of the top users of on-demand talent.

Top 10 Industries

1. Life Science

2. Professional Services

3. Technology

4. Private Equity

5. Financial Services

6. Consumer Goods

7. Industrial Goods and Services

8. Healthcare

9. Non-profit and Government

10. Energy, Sustainability, and Clean Tech

Top 10 Business Functions

1. Strategy and Internal Consulting Groups

2. Human Resources

3. Marketing

4. Operations

5. CEOs and Presidents

6. Digital, Data, and IT

7. Business and Corporate Development

8. Finance

9. PMO and Transformation

10. Innovation and R&D

Trending Projects and Skills

Companies are seeking interim executives at all levels—with requests for interim leadership more than doubling from BTG’s 2022 report (+116 percent year-over-year), driven in large part by a demand for interim CFOs skilled in financial controls, accounting, and audit (+76 percent year-over-year). Another notable trend is the entry of IT and tech transformation (+21 percent year-over-year) and technology and systems implementation (+20 percent year-over-year) to BTG’s rankings amid rapid tech adoption, security concerns, and competing urgent tech priorities.

Inside The Rapidly Growing High-End Independent Talent Economy
The world of work is undeniably different today than it was just a few years ago. During one of the most turbulent periods for business in decades, companies have undergone significant changes to rise to the challenges—from increased adoption of remote working to transforming their very business models and product offerings to meet the ever-increasing demand for digital solutions, according to the 2022 Talent Trends report from the Business Talent Group.

Leaders are also focusing on improving business processes in all functions (No. 2 project) to streamline operations and increase resilience with help from talent skilled in process optimization and transformation (No. 4 skill). To bring it all together, project management remains BTG’s No. 1 skill for the fifth year in a row, as leaders look for expert help.

Most In-Demand Projects

1. Interim Leadership

2. Business Processes

3. Marketing and Sales

4. IT and Tech Transformation

5. Product Strategy and Launch

6. Business Intelligence and Analytics

7. Planning

8. Human Capital

9. Innovation and R&D

10. Growth Strategy

10. Supply Chain

Most In-Demand Skills

1. Project Management

2. Financial Controls, Accounting, and Audit

3. Organizational Design and Workforce Planning

4. Process Optimization and Transformation

5. Financial Planning, Analysis, and Modeling

6. Technology and Systems Implementation

7. Growth Strategy

8. Market Access and Value

9. Advanced Analytics

10. Market Landscape and Research

10. Supply Chain

IT and Tech Transformation

Across industries and business functions, the BTG report found that leaders are investing heavily in IT and tech transformations to drive efficiencies in business processes, add new layers of security, deliver new digital offerings, and capitalize on rapid advancements in technology.

Answering the Growing Call for Interim Executive Talent
Private equity’s influence and an uncertain economy are two key factors in the surge of companies looking for interim leaders, not to mention shifting demographics and the rising call by top professionals to work when, where, and how they prefer. Nat Schiffer, of The Christopher Group, discusses the shift toward fractional talent and how his firm is responding.

With demand for IT and tech transformation projects and tech and systems implementation skills rising the BTG report found that 20 percent and 21 percent year-over-year, respectively, on-demand talent are stepping in to lead important systems implementations, develop and execute data science and data management strategies, and manage critical technical projects to completion.

Interim Leaders in Europe

Executives across Europe are increasingly recognizing the benefits that on-demand talent can offer given the fast, flexible, and cost-effective nature of project-based work, according to the BTG report. “From interim financial leadership, organizational realignment, marketing and sales, ERP transformation, planning, business intelligence and analysis, and more, on-demand talent is transforming the way European companies get critical work done,” the report said.

The BTG report found that the top nine industries looking for interim leaders in Europe are : life sciences, industrial goods and services, financial services, professional services, technology, consumer goods, private equity, healthcare, and non-profit and government. Meanwhile, BTG laid out these top nine interim business functions in demand for organizations in Europe: human resources; CEOs and presidents; procurement; marketing; strategy and internal consulting groups; operations; digital, data, and IT; general managers and P&L leaders; and finance.

To read the full report from Business Talent Group click here.

Related: Interim Leaders: Proven Experts at a Time of Crisis

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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