Why Companies are Increasingly Turning to Interim Executives

Bringing in short-term leadership is winning greater acceptance across the business world. Many believe that these individuals provide a competitive edge. A new report from SpenglerFox breaks down when companies should call on interim leaders and why it can be beneficial to turn to these executives for help.

September 29, 2023 – 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.

Turning Turbulence into Opportunity

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.

“This means that an executive interim manager needs a specific skill-set to lead the way,” the report said. “Strong leadership skills are crucial, along with excellent communication, efficiency, thoroughness, resilience, and perseverance. Coupled with a strategic and creative approach, these traits come from years of experience in dealing with market challenges.”

The Crucial Role of External Expertise

When a company faces exceptional challenges, external expertise becomes essential to finding a way forward. SpenglerFox notes that executive interim managers are often hired in situations such as:

• Restructuring or downsizing due to drastic market shifts.

  Handling crises related to scandals, public relations, or severe accidents.

  Navigating geopolitical uncertainties.

  Revising supply chains for efficiency, cost optimization, and improved cash flow.

“Executive interim management is a business model that thrives in the face of market uncertainty,” the SpenglerFox report said. “It provides companies with the resources they need to meet their challenges head-on. Interim managers are chosen for their ability to work under pressure and turn around seemingly impossible situations. They are well-prepared to help businesses survive the profound changes in the market landscape and prepare them for the future.”

Related: The Interim Executive Model Has Become Mainstream

The impact of market turbulence on a company cannot be underestimated, and its ramifications often linger. “Concerns among employees, a damaged reputation, and uncertainty about the future can have a profound impact on the company’s survival long after the initial market crisis has been overcome,” the SpenglerFox report said. “To prevent insecurity from taking over and causing further losses, companies must address these issues head-on. A period of rebuilding is vital to the company’s interests. Once stability is restored, it’s the right time to bring in an external executive interim manager to analyze the situation and develop new business, marketing, and financial strategies.”

Managing Unexpected Leadership Challenges

The past few years have placed tremendous strain on leadership, with companies fighting for survival while protecting their business and employees. This strain has not only led to gaps in key leadership roles due to illness, fatigue, business uncertainties, and risks associated with career changes during this period, but also skills gaps as businesses need to navigate new frontiers where skills are either limited or do not exist at all, according to the SpenglerFox report. “Executive interim managers play a significant role in business continuity by temporarily filling these key roles in the leadership structure,” the report said. “Their extensive professional track records allow them to step into caretaker roles without disrupting the business.”

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.

Why Search Firms, and Their Clients, are Embracing Interim Talent
Business trend studies come and go, but you can be certain that executive search firm leaders everywhere sat up a bit straighter when they came upon the findings of this spring’s Business Talent Group (BTG) report on “high-end independent talent,” also known as on-demand or interim talent.

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…”.

Related: The Pros and Cons of Hiring Interim Executives

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.”

Debunking the Myth about Interim Management Compensation

SpenglerFox often hears from clients, especially those located in Central and Eastern Europe, that they consider the fees charged by interim managers too high compared to the salaries they pay their employees. The firms says to consider the following scenario: You hire a new senior executive into a critical role in the organization. Apart from the base salary, there are many other additional costs to consider such as managerial benefits, company cars, office space allocation costs, IT equipment, bonuses etc. In addition, when a new employee starts, regardless of the level, there is an onboarding period that takes a minimum of three months at best before that person becomes fully productive and tangible results are seen.

“Interim managers, however, work at a fixed and pre-determined rate that is only incurred when work is actually performed, without the need for normal employee-related costs,” the SpenglerFox report said. “Vacation and sick leave days are not payable, unlike for permanent employees. Their fees are all inclusive (with exceptions such as extraordinary travel expenses or other reimbursable expenses not covered by their fees and based on the specific needs of the project). More importantly, interim managers are expected to add value from day one, meaning that there is no lengthy onboarding period as is the case with an employee. This makes the concept of interim management so appealing for companies who need external experts to run critical transformation /change management projects and results within a short period.”

Are interim managers expensive? “Not necessarily,” the SpenglerFox report said. “But without a doubt the return on investment far outweighs the costs.”

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: Why Interim HR Leaders Are in Growing Demand

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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