The Critical Role of Interim Executives

Many changes in the workplace today are making it hard for companies to find and retain top senior-level talent. This has caused more organizations to look to interim leaders to fill talent gaps. A new report from SpenglerFox explains the pivotal role that interim management plays in times of crisis and in transforming businesses.

March 26, 2024 – In the dynamic landscape of today’s business world, companies often face unexpected challenges that demand swift and effective solutions. One such solution gaining prominence is interim management, according to a recent report from SpenglerFox. The global search firm delves into the pivotal role that interim management plays in times of crisis in transforming businesses, especially when organizations are in search of permanent senior leadership.

In times of crisis or business transformation, the need for decisive and immediate action is crucial, the SpenglerFox report explains. “Organizations cannot afford to leave key positions vacant for extended periods. Interim management steps in as the ideal solution, providing experienced executives who can hit the ground running,” the search firm said.

SpenglerFox points to one example at a manufacturing company turnaround. Consider a manufacturing company facing a sudden downturn in market demand. Hiring a permanent executive could take months, potentially worsening the situation. Interim managers bring industry-specific expertise, enabling them to swiftly implement strategic changes, streamline operations, and navigate the organization through turbulent times, according to the SpenglerFox report.

Many organizations fill temporary leadership gaps during ongoing searches with interim executives. “Organizations often find themselves in a bind when searching for the right candidate to fill a senior vacancy permanently,” the SpenglerFox report said. “Interim management offers a strategic alternative, allowing companies to bridge crucial leadership gaps while the search for a permanent executive continues.”

The report next points to the example of a technology sector leadership gap. “Imagine a technology company that loses its CTO unexpectedly,” the report said. “The search for a permanent replacement could be lengthy due to the specialized skill set required. Interim management provides an immediate solution, ensuring continuity in technology development, innovation, and project execution.”

Cost-Effective and Flexible Solutions Offered by Interim Management

SpenglerFox also notes that interim managers offer a cost-effective alternative to hiring permanent executives. “Companies can leverage their expertise without committing to long-term contracts,” the firm says. “This flexibility allows organizations to adapt to changing circumstances and adjust their leadership strategy as needed.”

Related: Why Search Firms, and Their Clients, are Embracing Interim Talent

The next example SpenglerFox points to is financial sector restructuring. “In the financial sector, interim executives can be instrumental in leading restructuring initiatives,” the report explains. “Their short-term commitment ensures that the organization can navigate complex financial challenges without incurring the long-term financial commitment associated with permanent hires.”

Building a Talent Pipeline

Engaging interim managers not only addresses immediate challenges but also presents an opportunity to assess potential candidates for permanent roles, according to the SpenglerFox report. “Organizations can observe the interim manager’s performance, ensuring a more informed decision when making a permanent hire,” it says.

Why Companies are Increasingly Turning to Interim Executives
Market turbulence can bring both risks and opportunities for businesses. How companies emerge on the other side depends on various factors, but one thing is clear: Experienced executive interim managers can work wonders for companies navigating through these stormy waters and driving transformation.

So when exactly should companies call on interim managers? And at what point is it wise to turn to an executive interim manager for help? In a recent report, SpenglerFox provided some answers, and valuable insights. An effective executive interim manager understands how to mitigate the impact of market turbulence and even turn it into an opportunity for the company, according to SpenglerFox. If market disruptions are managed swiftly and intelligently, the search firm says, these leaders can oftentimes deliver meaningful and productive change.

Within the healthcare sector, interim executives often step in to manage leadership transitions seamlessly. SpenglerFox notes that this not only maintains stability but also allows the organization to identify individuals who align with the company’s culture and strategic goals.

“In conclusion, interim management has evolved into a strategic tool for organizations navigating crises, transformations, and leadership gaps,” the report said. “By providing swift, flexible, and cost-effective solutions, interim managers play a critical role in ensuring business continuity and long-term success.”

Related: The Interim Executive Model Has Become Mainstream

“Interim management enables organizations to respond swiftly to crises and transformations, ensuring business continuity,” SpenglerFox explains. “Leveraging interim managers offers a cost-effective and flexible approach to filling key leadership gaps. Interim management also provides a unique opportunity to evaluate potential candidates for permanent senior roles. By embracing interim management, organizations can transform challenges into triumphs, securing a path to sustained success.

The Rise of Executive Interim Management

While executive interim management has been a familiar and increasingly popular concept in Western Europe, it is experiencing a renaissance across North America, Central and Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. More and more, SpenglerFox says, companies are turning to interim managers to provide them with the external resources they need to navigate through one of the most difficult periods in recent memory.

In a recent article published by Hunt Scanlon Media, the most widely referenced, single source for information in the human capital sector, “…the need for interim leadership rose 116 percent year over year at all levels throughout organizations, with the demand for such help in the C-suite rising by 78 percent. Calls for interim CEOs surged 220 percent year over year and climbed 100 percent for CHROs and chief transformation officers. Most wanted were CFOs, which represented nearly half of all interim C-suite leadership request…”

Rico Kaczmarek, who heads the interim management practice at SpenglerFox, said he agrees with those findings. “From a functional perspective,” he said, “we see the greatest demand for interim managers currently and continuing to rise in the areas of management consulting, HR and IT.”

A recent Business Talent Group (BTG) report on interim talent found that the need for interim leadership rose 116 percent year over year at all levels throughout organizations, with the demand for such help in the C-suite rising by 78 percent since 2022. Calls for interim CEOs surged 220 percent year over year and climbed 100 percent for CHROs and chief transformation officers. Most wanted were CFOs, which represented nearly half of all interim C-suite leadership requests, said BTG, a company that Heidrick & Struggles acquired two years ago.

Businesses asking for interim finance chiefs rose 103 percent year over year, while the demand for interim controllers skyrocketed 233 percent and rose 71 percent for all interim finance talent. Also up, by 20 percent, were interim talent requests for IT and tech transformation projects and skilled workers in tech and systems implementation, as organizations invested heavily to capitalize on rapid tech advancements.

Founded in 2003, SpenglerFox is a global search and HR services firm working across multiple territories serving both the mature and emerging markets. The firm provides interim management, payrolling, and recruitment process outsourcing in both mature and emerging markets. SpenglerFox also has a dedicated focus on board work for small to mid-sized companies and a research team that provides talent mapping and pipelining solutions.

Related: The Pros and Cons of Hiring Interim Executives

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Executive Editor; Lily Fauver, Senior Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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