1st Executive Blog

15 Jun Is it the time for Interim Management in Australia?

It seems like yesterday that 1st Executive published his research study into Interim Management in Australia. It was actually eight years ago.

While there are a number of service firms who provide niche specialisation in this area it would be folly to say that Interim Management, in its true sense, is mainstream.

While it is a service that goes hand-in-hand with Executive Search, you only have to look at the service offerings of the major European executive search groups to see this. This is rarely the case here.

When we conducted the fieldwork, we felt that Australia was on the cusp of rapid growth in this discipline. The state of the market was very much as we expected it but by the end of the report we understood that significant shifts in the mindsets of Australian organisations needed to take place.

The major organisations that engage specialists such as ourselves in executive search understand how the discipline is very different from traditional recruitment services. The research is exhaustive, the amount of personal contact, interaction and peer-to-peer based career discussions far exceeds what we would expect to deliver through our standard recruitment division. These organisations also understand why executive search services are priced differently.

From there, it would not seem to be too much of a leap for a similar understanding of interim management to emerge.

In 2014, we were confronted with Australia having one of the lowest take-up rates of interim management as a percentage of total workforce population in the western world.

Even in the fieldwork we had to clarify the difference between an executive Interim Manager and the extended contractor arrangements that are often found in information technology, engineering and other technical disciplines.

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We established that the role of Interim Manager in Australia was not as well advanced as in other markets. This largely revolved around a reluctance to see an Interim Manager as anything other than a glorified project manager. We know that the best interim leaders will have a variety of capabilities and a level of situational awareness and experience that allows them to address issues around mergers and acquisitions, restructures, new strategic initiatives, market expansion and many more.

We identified too that despite a little sticker shock at daily rates, there were a number of financial benefits to hiring interim managers that went beyond avoiding executive payouts and redundancy costs . In short results could be delivered faster without the hindrance of political or corporate bureaucratic hindrances.

From a context point of view, our taxation system and our healthcare system were very favourable to interim management when compared to somewhere like the USA for example.

As we drilled down in our research we found that respondents had a good grasp of the range of situations that interim managers could be effective in. Perhaps most importantly, 81% reported that they had placed projects in the hands of internal teams that were not completed or implemented effectively because of limited resources and skills. The "day job" got in the way.

Despite this, a small majority indicated that they were either unlikely or very unlikely to hire an interim manager in the following year.

That was eight years ago. In some ways not much as changed.

However, the appetite for interim management roles amongst highly skilled and experienced executives is higher than it has ever been. We only have to scratch the surface and we reveal talented executives at various career stages, across diverse groups, who would actually prefer interim management as a way of working to full-time employment. Universally they say that they find the work substantially more satisfying because of its outcomes orientation.

The overriding big change that we are seeing now is a shift of power across the entire employment market.

By the time even middle managers progress to a second interview with a hiring company, it’s a two-way conversation. Labour is in short supply, the supply of talent even more so. Low unemployment, low immigration, a growth economy facing substantial systemic challenges in the future and the growing realisation that one’s own suite of talents is not geographically limited presents a systemic challenge that organisations need to respond to. Thoughts, decisions and actions need to be swift and concise

What better environment could there be to introduce vastly experienced, overqualified executive talent into your organisation for 3,6 or even 12 months to deliver transformational change.

Interim Managers are here to stay, they are not only here, they really now can be everywhere.

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