Jason Atkinson, managing director, Russam Interim and chairman of the Interim Management Association, discusses why more manufacturing organisations will turn to interim managers in 2014 and how firms can best manage and support these new recruits.
A new report in January from manufacturers’ organisation EEF predicts that Britain’s manufacturers will enjoy faster growth this year than other western European economy and found that 70% of firms forecast an improvement in the economy in 2014.
Think tank Oxford Economics has also forecast that Britain’s manufacturing sector will grow by 2.7% this year. By contrast, Austria and Belgium’s manufacturing sectors are expected to grow by 2.4%, Germany 1.6% and France 0.7%.
To support this growth many companies will turn to interim managers who can provide a flexible, strategic and temporary, high level resource that is both cost effective and low risk.
We run a twice-yearly snap shot survey of 12,000 interims to find out what is going on in the market. Our latest survey published in January revealed the UK’s manufacturing and engineering sectors to be one of the most buoyant in terms of their use of interim managers. They account for around 10% of all assignments.
Hiring an interim manager is a popular choice for many manufacturing companies as a short term recruitment solution. Interims can provide a flexible and strategic, high level resource that is cost-effective and low risk – it can be switched on and off in line with business demands and market conditions. It proved a particularly popular resourcing solution during the economic downturn when many employers were reluctant to hire full time senior level employees.
One growing trend we are seeing is for interims to be used very strategically in businesses. They are often parachuted into companies during periods of change – to lead business restructuring projects or turnaround organisations that are in crisis.
They are in demand because they can supply specialist skills that tend not to exist within the business. This was highlighted by our research which showed that just over half of all interims are recruited to provide a specialist skill that is absent in a business – 41% of interims were brought in to design or implement new strategies and 38% to deliver specialist projects.
It is important however, for organisations to understand how to get the most out of their interim recruits and how to support them. Interims are often parachuted into companies at a time of change and due to the often sensitive nature of such roles, they can face resistance, suspicion or even antagonism from employees. To ensure assignment success, companies need to manage the recruitment process carefully so they recruit people with the right skills, experience and cultural fit.
Interims leading change programmes will need a good mix of leadership and interpersonal skills – the ability to drive change and make tough decisions – plus the ability to communicate effectively and build rapport with colleagues is essential.
Robust recruitment process essential
Companies must apply the same rigorous recruitment procedures as they would when hiring any senior business manager. Making the wrong hiring decision could prove risky, expensive or mean a major setback to the business.
A clear business case needs to be created from the outset, outlining the kind of person wanted, the job brief and the clear objectives. It’s important that the interim is also the right corporate ‘fit’ so new recruits should be introduced to relevant team members and the board as part of the recruitment process.
Once objectives and targets are set companies need to consider the support they will provide for the interim during their assignment. Regular programme reviews should be undertaken to ensure the project is going to plan. Preparations for after the interim’s departure must also be made well in advance of his/her end date and the question, “how will this look when the job is done” needs a clearly defined response.
Interims need a clear scope of work and terms of reference for their assignment. They must be given enough responsibility to carry out their role without encumbrance, but also have a route through to a responsible Director (or equivalent) to oversee and approve their activities in the best interest of the hiring organisation.
Hiring an interim can be a good short term, cost-effective and flexible solution for any business looking to implement a change or transformation, but the process needs to be well managed to ensure the assignment is a success for both parties.