Making a comeback

15th of October 2010
Making a comeback

Lorraine Thomas managing director of Metzger Search & Selection explains the growing trend in the cleaning industry of using interim executives to fulfil short term company requirements in the face of transition or change.

If one thing’s for sure in these uncertain times, workplaces throughout the cleaning industry and beyond are looking for more interim staff to fulfil a shorter term business need. One reason for this is that some companies aren’t committing to long term financial decisions and would therefore rather see a position being filled on a shorter term basis. The most common reason, however, is that using interims forms part of a solution to dealing with a company transitional period.

Before we proceed it is worth defining the Interim Market, for those who may be none the wiser. What is an interim executive? It is a senior-level professional working on an independent basis for a limited period of time, with operational control over a project, team and/or budget. They range from project manager level to chief executive.

The requirement of an interim is often found during organisational change. The periods when an organisation may need an interim are normally during restructuring, acquisition or privatisation, during a start-up period, or even following the departure of a key executive. At these times an interim appointment can help a company set out on the right path.

Flexible approach

Typically interims adopt a flexible approach to the uncertain climate, and are prepared to have a varied career - putting their stamp on more than one business.  Most are career interims who like to move on when they feel they have helped a company to achieve their short term goals.

Our interims are executives who like the challenge of an interim project and the task they face to help solve organisational issues. Unlike consultants, interims are hands-on and don’t just advise a business on areas in which they may improve, they help to deliver a solution. You tend to find that executives filling these positions don’t tend to get caught up in company politics and can usually remain in an objective capacity.

Time periods can vary from three months to one-and-a-half years and occasionally the interim executive will move on to become a permanent member of staff – this is the exception, however.
Often an organisation won’t even be aware that an interim appointment may be the best recruitment/HR solution for them. To ensure we match the best candidate with the assignment we offer a consultative approach to our clients and gain an in-depth understanding of their needs. We find clients rarely ask for an interim. We will discuss their business objectives with them and address any areas where they are experiencing difficulties.

For example, they may have issues retaining contracts or their HR director may have just left on maternity leave. We will listen to their business scenario before responding with the appropriate recruitment solution.

Interim employment began in the UK in the 1980s when companies, experiencing recession, brought in high level staff to carry out specific project work. It is becoming popular in the cleaning and support services sectors as well as in security and waste. The types of roles you could expect to see Metzger looking for range from a general manager to an interim operations or HR director.

Start to finish

Companies now seek to use an interim for different reasons, such as change management or crisis management. As opposed to consultants, interim managers would see a project from conception to completion, getting their teeth into people/organisational performance issues, for example.

According to the Grapevine Online (.com), the Interim Management Association (IMA) has revealed that the industry performed strongly throughout 2009.

HR is another sector where directors are being enticed to businesses on short-term contracts. Until recently another growth area would have been the public sector, although that is expected to be arrested somewhat by the public spending cuts being imposed now.

According to Personnel Today (.com) 79 per cent of positions are at senior manager or board level; assignments can vary in length from four up to 12 months; 66 per cent of assignments are located in London or the South East.

Interim recruitment might not be the solution for every business looking for high level staff but we are finding that it is currently gaining in popularity. If your business is experiencing the loss of a senior executive or needing someone to step in and steer it temporarily in the right direction, it could be just what you require. Further information about interim recruitment can be found at

Case study: Nicki Hay of The Sales Training Company

Why interim? I fell into interim by default initially - having worked at a senior level in the corporate sector for many years I realised, after hostile company takeovers etc, that I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny. I set up my own company so that I could operate as an interim director.

What do you do? I am a sales director. I go into businesses and analyse their sales structure and implement induction and training programmes on their behalf. I re-invigorate sales teams who may have lost the basics of selling. The recession has been hard on sales teams – conversion rates from quotation to order have fallen, and many sales professionals have become order takers, selling mainly on price, and forgotten the key skills necessary to be pro active - which is particularly necessary when times are hard and everyone is focusing on cutting costs.

How long do your interim positions last? It can vary, typically it is six to nine months but it can last up to a year. Often companies may think they only need you for a month or two but it can be extended for several more after you have started working for them.

What is involved in an interim position? You assume a role in its entirety, so I will go into a company and take on the role lock, stock and barrel. For example in my last position I had three months to take the reins and do what I needed to do. Essentially, an interim position has all the responsibilities associated with the permanent role, without the settling in period.

How do you find roles? I have a reputation out there and know people in business a long time. I have found work through consultancies such as Metzger and I find work from my own contacts. I have worked in sectors varying from advertising and security to parcel distribution.

Deliver results quickly

How would you describe your interim roles to date? With interim work you walk in the door and there’s no induction period. You are contracted for a fairly short period of time and they want you to deliver results quickly. Companies are generally open to outsiders making changes so you are left to get on with the problem solving. I believe that sales teams cannot function without development and it is part of my remit to address poor performance in companies and reduce headcount if need be. My job is to make a company more profitable.

What are the benefits of employing an interim? A company hasn’t got to pay the fixed employee costs of holiday/sick pay, a pension, etc. An interim is not on the payroll so they don’t need to be inducted or trained – all the hidden costs accompanying a full-time role. By paying a daily rate (without the extras) a company is getting value for their money by getting an interim on board.

What are the critical success factors of employing an interim? The whole company needs to be informed you are interim and the reasons you are there in the first place. I would attend board meetings as a sales director and be part of the existing structure, but it’s important to be able to have channels of communication open with front-line staff. Some employees find it easier to talk freely with an interim. If an employee wants to talk about their experiences with me, it will be documented and they will be able to see what notes I have made.

Why does interim work for you?  Although I sometimes wonder about tomorrow, interim allows me to lead the lifestyle I want to. I can go into an organisation, work on a project and then have a break for a few months before embarking on the next one.


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