How can you ensure interim managers deliver value?

Written by
Changeboard Team

12 Jul 2010

12 Jul 2010 • by Changeboard Team

How has the recession affected interim management?

With expenditure on permanent recruitment and management consultancy under close scrutiny, and workforce flexibility at a premium, the top echelon of interim managers are still in demand. However, the landscape for interim management has changed in the aftermath of the recession: the focus on value for money is more acute, and service evaluators and internal sponsors need to ensure they create a structure - and a measurement mechanism - that demonstrates their interim managers deliver return on investment.

While some organisations are willing to compromise on the quality of their interim managers by radically reducing their day rates, the more progressive are ensuring the interims they do hire are realising their potential, and delivering an increased level of value.

In fact, ensuring you get value from your interims isnt rocket science. These simple rules will help you ensure you can draw a direct line between the interim you employ and the Results they achieve.

Where to start when recruiting interim managers

Sounds obvious, but too often clients arent actually sure what they want from an interim - in tight financial times, there isnt room for a false start. Take the time to clearly define the outcomes you require, so that you can clearly ascertain the sort of person you need.

  • What skills and experience shortfalls exist and need to be addressed?
  • Where can additional value be added, and how can it be measured?

Even when youre just interviewing and meeting the very best interim executives, they are likely to be able to help you shape the role or point to areas where value could be added by an interim manager (even if you dont select them). In fact, youre actually getting free consultancy, so make sure you make the most of it.

Taking some time to define the role at the start saves time and money in the long run. Ive heard too many horror stories about interims thatve been hired in a panic - and failed.

Ensure to choose your recruitment partner wisely

You pay a lot for the expertise of your interim partner, so make them work. If you need them to, they can be involved in developing the role brief and assignment outcomes – they should be experienced in creating terms of reference that can help you find and attract the right type of candidate.

Once you’ve found the right candidate, you need to know you can trust your recruitment partner to drive the interim’s performance once they’re actually in the assignment. They shouldn’t just find the person and step away with the money; they need to be proactively involved in the assignment and continually help to ensure the interim is delivering in line with assignment objectives.

If you're going direct to the market, make sure that you're covering all the due diligence, referencing and assessment elements you’d get from a specialist provider. Far too many interims are hired because someone knows someone who knows them – a recipe for disaster (and a potential public relations nightmare if you’re operating in the public sector).

Outline key deliverables for your interim managers

Interim management is widespread, but there are still many misconceptions about them. You will have to inform some of your own workforce as to what the interim is expected to achieve, and what a positive result will look like. You will certainly have to ensure that the interim’s key performance indicators and stakeholder management expectations align with your own.

It’s important that the interim also understands what are the desired outcomes, and how you will be measuring success, which may go beyond the bottom line result – perhaps you want them to train up the incumbent team to take on more strategic positions, for example.

Take responsibility for 'selling' the Results to line, and making sure they are delivered – and share the credit when it works. Interims can make HR departments look very good. Obviously, the reverse can also be true.

Importance of knowledge transfer & cultural fit

One of the key elements you should look for in an interim executive is their ability to create a knowledge sharing environment – you can use them to build the skills of your incumbent team.

Knowledge transfer relies on the interim having the right attitude and expectation, and it's also crucial that they are a close cultural fit with team they are joining. When you interview, don’t just focus on technical skills - look for an individual with the right blend of soft skills and the track record to upskill your existing team.

Because interims tend to go into assignments one or two levels below their natural station, they should be able to blend delivery against objectives with coaching and knowledge transfer.

Define success, and the way youll be measuring it

What does good look like? Make sure you (or your resourcing partner) create an assessment process, and outline the key deliverables. At the end of 6 or 9 months - or however long the assignment lasts - you dont want to be in a position where youre struggling to articulate what the interim has achieved. If your KPIs and outcomes are clearly defined at the start, measuring success against them shouldnt be too difficult.

The interims I work with actually enjoy this mechanism - they want to be measured, and enjoy achieving Results and exceeding expectations. Quite often, they complain that they dont get feedback.

Measure how your interims add value

Create a case study to help educate other parts of the business, to help them understand the pros or cons of using interim executives to create value. Focus on the outcomes achieved against KPIs, and the return on investment. This is also an opportunity to demonstrate the strategic value HR has delivered in bringing the interim in, and managing them effectively.

Put simply, interim managers can make you look good if you manage them correctly - and you shouldnt be shy about publicizing the Results.

Replicate interim success across the business

Once youve been successful in ensuring your interim delivers value in their assignment, you need to put a framework and set of resources in place that will allow you to repeat that process across every area of the business. If necessary, you can revise and refine the process to ensure you drive as much value as possible from the process in each department that uses it.

In my experience, most HR directors do actually know how to get the best out of their interims, but the enormous time pressures they face make it difficult to keep a close eye on the assignment. Thats where a proactive interim management provider should be able to help, even post-placement, to ensure the organisation gets what it wants from the interim.

Professional interims are mindful of the fact that they are only as good as their last assignment, and the overwhelming majority are delighted to be set concrete targets, be held accountable for achieving them, and to receive constructive feedback on their strengths and weaknesses. They want to improve and achieve, just as the rest of us do.