Interim managers increasingly in demand: survey

Interim managers increasingly in demand: survey

Interim managers – executives who join a company’s C-suite on a short-term basis – are spending less downtime between assignments as the sector continues to grow in Australia, a new survey has found.

The second annual survey of interim managers by executive recruitment firm Watermark Search International interviewed 250 Australian interim managers about their work.

LeadingCompany covered the first survey in detail in our stories: Guns for hire: The rise of the interim executive; A how-to guide on getting the most out of your interim executive earlier this year.

Two thirds of those interviewed, or 67.1%, spend less than five months between assignments. In last year’s survey the figure was 33.6%.

“Organisations are hiring interims for the specialist skills they bring and the flexibility they offer,” says Nick Waterworth, the managing partner of Watermark Search International. “This is a dynamic area at the moment: over half of the interims we surveyed expect to see their market grow in the next 12 months.”

The interim recruitment field in Australia is relatively new, whereas it’s an established industry in Europe and America. Interim managers are typically older, experienced managers who have spent decades in industries (more than half of all those surveyed were in the 50-59 age bracket). According to the Watermark report, two thirds (68.9%) of assignments were less than one year in length.

“One reason for the growth in the sector is that baby boomers are approaching retirement, clearly don’t want to fade away completely and are seeking more flexible ways of working,” says Waterworth. “Most work three or four days per week and offer an ideal solution for companies looking for special skills and flexibility.”

Close to half (49.2%) of those surveyed said working with different businesses was among their top three reasons for working as an interim.

However, soberingly for the industry, a significant number of interims reported organisations not entirely understanding how to use their skills.

“Awareness is the key – not all employers truly understand the concept of interim, and think you are simply a contractor or agency worker,” one survey participant is quoted as saying. More than a third (39.6%) said clients need to be convinced about the value of interims but are open to the concept, while 8.6% said clients generally did not understand interims.

Another aspect highlighted in the report is that companies are increasingly asking for industry-specific experience when requesting an interim.

The growth in interim management assignments was especially pronounced in the supply chain, human resources and project management fields. An unexpected area of growth was interims working in charity and not-for-profits. There was a slight decrease in interims working in the public sector. 


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