Interim managers stepping up to ensure business can make transformative changes

29 Sep 2020

Interim managers stepping up to ensure business can make transformative changes

The take-up of interim managers is rising in Germany, and with good reason.

Uncertainty has always driven the hiring of interim managers as firms look to react to challenges that demand additional leadership resources. But as Covid shocks the economic system, simultaneously demanding swift decisions and exposing issues that require more transformative thinking and action, their usefulness has become better-understood.

“There has been a lot of change in the industry in recent months. After an initial pandemic crisis management, companies have started to adopt extensive programs that are now being implemented and require increased management resources. This current situation brings the need for excellent interim talent even more to the front, something we are serving with a dedicated service.”, explains Daniel Nerlich, Managing Partner at Odgers Berndtson Germany.

Companies have found themselves with gaps in their management armour. They’re facing projects that have to get delivered in double quick time.

This might mean an urgent technological transformation, or dealing with the consequences of a merger or acquisition. There might be a need to drive a culture change, or to face a specific challenge like new legislation or growth into a new market.

Hiring experience, achieving sustainable results

In critical business and transformation situations, analysis, problem-solving proposals and implementation are important. In most cases, it is not analysis or strategies that are lacking, but implementation. Interim managers assume responsibility for this and solve the client's problem. This is the fixed goal of the assignment from the beginning.

What you get from an interim manager is clear: deep and relevant experience. It’s the experience of someone who has ‘been there and done it’, perhaps multiple times in different contexts. They have seen the successes, know the pitfalls, and are familiar with best practice and the best technologies. The best interims keep up to speed with all of this and take best practice from one organisation to the next.

So, your interim manager hits the ground running. There’s no massive learning curve, once they are familiar with your organisation. In this regard, good interims will also have the soft skills, political savvy, and flexibility to find their feet without delay. Also, since they not looking to build a career power base, they are purely focused on their specific objectives.

Honest opinions to unlock fresh solutions

Often, permanent staff might be too cautious to speak out in challenging situations. In contrast, a good interim can tell it how it is, and can have difficult conversations with an important level of honesty. Challenging convention from the outside will always be easier for an outsider than an insider. Especially one with a clear record of achievement on similar projects.
To add to the diversity of opinion, leading search firms are also mindful of diversity and inclusion when compiling lists of interim candidates.

If that blend of experience, current thinking and expertise all sounds like what you’ll get from a big consulting firm, you are not wrong. The big difference, of course, is the price.

Focusing on outcomes

“A dedicated interim search firm understands that they are providing a business solution, not simply a recruitment one.”, as Sascha Hackstein, Managing Partner Berndtson Interim, makes clear.

"Our understanding of the company situation, the culture and the current starting position is critical to a successful appointment."

Only once there is that clear understanding, can the process of finding the right candidate begin. We understand that the decision can have real consequences, whether it’s in terms of people’s jobs, or, as in healthcare, for example, people’s lives. Our reputation is also at stake.

Beyond skillset, successful interim managers also have a particular mindset and personality qualities that distinguish them. We have identified curiosity, flexibility, and humility as key.

The best candidates are engaging, and capable of quickly establishing a rapport and building trust in a short time.

Of course, in a working world that is often socially-distanced, the challenges are multiplied. Getting to know the team and its capabilities is more difficult, for example.
But while the current pandemic is a sudden and profound challenge, it is worth remembering that interim managers are used to coming into an organisation that is facing difficulty and using their own agility to push on with their assignment.

Hiring better, faster, smarter

It goes without saying that finding the right interim manager without delay is key. A reputable interim recruitment firm will be able to help you find the right person and mitigate the risk of hiring the wrong one.

Sascha Hackstein advises on how to choose the right interim search firm, and the questions to ask about their experience in the field of top-level executive search:

  • How good are their relationships with the interims they place?
  • How is the understanding of the initial situation, which competencies and approaches are required in the mandate?
  • How works the process from the selection of the manager, through the support during the mandate to the result-oriented conclusion?
  • Is there a broad background of experience in consulting and expert network?
  • Have they thoroughly mapped the talent available in your sector?
  • Can they reach across borders via a global network?

Klaus Hansen, Partner Odgers Berndtson, Germany, is clear about the importance of Berndtson Interim to serving clients, “As the economic and business landscape continues to be in flux, we have the capability to help clients adjust their talent and succession plans to find the right mix of permanent and interim leadership talent.”

"Our Consultants have carefully cultivated a wide network of senior-level contacts, and have a global reach too. That means unparalleled access to the best interim talent, wherever it is.”

Finally, in a time of stress and rapidly-changing demands, having an interim search partner as a buffer and mediator will ensure that all the hiring issues, from remuneration negotiation to contract details, can be taken care of without taking up unnecessary time.

To discuss how to solve current and future challenges in critical and essential business situations or to get more information about our Executive Search, please get in touch.