Although controversially associated with zero-hour contracts and low pay, not every gig economy worker fits this description.
Interim professionals have been around for decades and as deliverers of a service on a temporary, short-term basis, they are well-placed to be part of the gig economy.
But there is a considerable difference between a self-employed, poorly paid worker and an interim professional who is of managerial level.
So, what is an interim manager exactly? When might you need one? What criteria makes a successful interim and what do you need to be aware of before hiring one?
Knowing your interim
At odds with zero-hour workers and the gig economy, interim managers can demand anything from £600 per day and above. This is because they bring considerable experience and knowledge to their assignments, delivering fast starts with the ability to lead transformation.
The interim’s focus will be on project delivery, stakeholder management and relationship building and the assignments are for a fixed duration lasting from a few weeks to several months.
This is unlike contractors and freelancers who typically do tasks with little impact on the organisation’s strategic direction.
Reasons for hiring an interim
There are a few situations which warrant bringing in an interim manager. The first of these is when an emergency arises, such as when a manager leaves unexpectedly or a project has gone off course.
Secondly, when a “hand-holding” exercise is required, for instance to keep the business afloat whilst internal changes are implemented or to cover maternity or sick leave.
Finally, when a new set of skills is required which can’t be found internally, perhaps to lead a new transformation project.
Finding your interim
If you decide to go down the agency route to find an interim, using a specialist professional interim services provider (IPS) is preferable as they will have met and vetted all the interims on their books.
An up-to-date list of interim service providers can be acquired via the Interim Management Association (IMA), the independent body for the interim management industry. Using an IPS will typically incur a fee of 10 per cent of the day rate.
LinkedIn is also a key resource for finding suitable, hard-to-reach specialists, as well as word-of-mouth. Interims know they are only as good as their last assignments and rely heavily on recommendations from happy clients.
What makes a successful interim?
No business wants to make a rash decision when hiring an interim, which is why understanding what a ‘successful’ interim looks like is key. If they meet all the following criteria, then you know you’re onto a winner!
- A successful track record – An interim is different from a permanent employee and so requires a distinctive mind-set. Using someone who has made the conscious decision to deliver interim assignments, will help to ensure the right behaviours are used to deliver results.
- Immediate availability – You need to have someone who is immediately available and can commit their time for the length of the contract.
- Immediate results – You are not trying to build a long-term relationship with the interim, they need to be focused on delivering results from day one.
- A focus on action, not politics – They need to be able to cut through the politics and get the leadership team on board with the project objectives, and quickly!
- Relationship building skills – The most successful interims can read situations and people very well. They will have the confidence and skills to deal with people at all levels of the business and the credibility to make things happen.
- “Selling” skills – The ability to sell their ideas and vision to the organisation (and beyond) is vital to deliver the changes required.
Be aware that a big red flag when hiring an interim is someone who claims to be an interim but has no track record in an interim capacity. Some people suddenly move from permanent to interim roles out of necessity rather than choice and their lack of interim experience and skills are project inhibiting.
The fine print
Before signing on the dotted line, it’s important to be aware of a couple of key details specific to hiring interims.
Ensure the interim is a limited company and signs contracts as the limited company to maintain a legal distance and to avoid any potential tax liability.
Despite the recent Uber case which has raised questions about companies’ responsibilities over their self-employed workers and the gig economy, there needn’t be any concerns when hiring an interim.
As a limited company, the interim can be treated the same as any supplier and so the business is in no way responsible for their benefits or sick/holiday pay. The agreed day rate is the total money paid for every day worked.
During times of economic flux, the interim is in much demand and interim managers are no different, often being called upon to provide direction to ailing businesses, stability in times of uncertainty and support during periods of change.
With Brexit overshadowing the UK’s future and American politics generating anxiety on a global scale, this turmoil is likely to continue, creating the perform storm for the gig economy – and the interim – to flourish.
Tim Boote is the director of TRB Consultancy, a specialist interim consultancy.