Interim Executives Can Help You Retain Employees

14 Nov 2022

Interim Executives Can Help You Retain Employees

Times of change, crisis, and growth within an organization lead to an increase in employee turnover.

Employee turnover is not only incredibly expensive; it results in a loss of expertise and institutional knowledge for your company. This situation has a significant impact at the executive level.

A potential solution is engaging an interim executive who can navigate your team through challenges and give you the critical time you need to complete your search for full-time leadership. Interim executives can help retain talent, so the organization doesn’t suffer additional losses during a challenging time or a transition.

Interim executives can:

  • Guide a team until a full-time executive is hired
  • Manage a transformation shift such as a merger or an acquisition
  • Provide specialty expertise that is needed in the short-term
  • Assist with restructuring or downsizing
  • Supply experienced guidance, credibility, and mentorships during company launches
  • Tackle financial, HR, communications, operational, or reputational crises
  • Set the stage for a new leader and effectively manage knowledge transfer to prepare them for success

In our article, we’ll go into more detail about the role of an interim executive and how they can help pave the way for longer-term employee retention.

What is the role of an interim executive?

The ultimate goal of an interim executive is to stabilize an organization’s workforce.

Whether it’s addressing a transition or a crisis, they aim to reduce stress on an organization by bringing in key skills that might not exist within the current teams.

Often, interim executives are “overpowered” for the engagement; that is, they have broader, richer experience than the role requires. They’ve likely had a significant career within multiple businesses, which allows them to provide different commercial views and perspectives.

Often companies, particularly start-ups and other high-growth organizations, will outgrow the capabilities of their leaders as they scale. In these circumstances, an interim executive can help take a company to the next level and assist with hiring plans and leadership development.

What benefits does an interim executive provide from the start?

Interim executives provide a multitude of benefits.

They assist organizations in the following ways:

  • Mitigate the risk of full-time vacancy
  • Create time to build a profile for a new C-suite executive
  • Leverage their preexisting relationships and alleviate board member and investor concerns
  • Offer a fresh perspective and different leadership style with the potential for more objectivity and less bias

Interim executives tend to be very mission-driven. Depending on their role, they’ll have several different communication paths, but they primarily report to their sponsor—a board member, CEO, or C-suite boss. They can be pragmatic about the company’s goals and may recommend changing them to be more realistic and achievable, while still aligned with the mission and strategy.

They don’t have political agendas going in, and their engagements typically have an end date; this gives them more liberty to speak plainly and candidly, while still being respectful of their audience and the workforce as a whole.

What performance indicators does an interim executive use?

Interim executives often come in to implement cost-effective strategies, which is especially key if you’re trying to retain talent during a financial crisis.

Typically, their performance indicators depend on the specific mission of their role:

  • CEOs may work on strategies to increase top-line growth by a certain percentage or a specific dollar number.
  • Interim CFOs may help land new investments or restructure debt.
  • Interim supply chain management leaders may find new channels of supply or sources, revamp a warehouse for improved client delivery, or reduce inventory holds.
  • Interim CHROs may build a human resources (HR) function from the ground up, launch programs, or lead an HR transformation.
  • Interim sales executives may grow the company or build distribution channels.

How can interim executives boost employee engagement?

Times of transition are often accompanied by low employee morale.

If an executive search takes anywhere from 40 to 75 days on average to complete, that could be almost two months where teams are sacrificing their time. In situations where companies have stressed their workforce or are seeking new leadership, they tend to spread work to cover the gap; workers will be at max capacity, but still scrambling to cover more assignments and projects. This can only be sustained for a short period through company morale and a willingness to help.

Interim executives help bridge that gap. In some instances, they can even come in and cover for another executive who is taking an extended leave; that way, the work is not divided amongst the team and their responsibilities can remain consistent.

Interim executives are experienced and quite skilled at coming in and assessing teams and processes. These evaluations are what they have been hired to do. They are good at initial data analysis, reading a room during meetings, and walking the floor and having conversations with employees. They can quickly assess the workforce and leadership condition in their domain and move to protect and fix it.

If tough decisions must be made to save a company, or if the mission is to liquidate the company, interim executives are often very sensitive, provide clear information, and leverage any resources available to assist employees during layoffs.

Their mission is to retain critical talent and provide open communication and transparency in hopes of maintaining work-life balance for employees.

How do interim executives shape the hiring process for new executives?

An interim executive is like an ER doctor. They stop the bleeding, assess the situation, then prepare a path for longer-term care. On occasion, interim executives can become the permanent hire if they’re the right fit, but many are involved in the interview and selection process for their successor. They help choose their permanent replacement and assist with the transition.

Knowledge transfer is the most important factor for a collaborative handoff. An interim executive will share what they have learned, what they have observed, and what strategies could be implemented for long-term success, and what challenges might be ahead. They will also identify key internal and external relationships for their successor.

Finding the right person to lead the company through its next phase, supporting them through the onboarding process, and eventually handing off an organization that’s in a stronger, healthier place, provides a path towards longer-term employee retention as the company moves forward.

How Odgers can help

We’d love to start a conversation with you about the multiple benefits of interim management. We provide a large pool of skilled interim leaders and independent consultants, and we’ll ensure you have access to the full complement of talent you’ll need to sustain and grow your business.

Glen Johnson is a Partner with Odgers Interim based in Atlanta. He works on some of the most important interim assignments for leading private and public organizations to provide them with the right interim executive talent. Glen joined Odgers Interim from Delta Air Lines where he led Global Talent Acquisition for seven years. Before Delta, Glen had a nine-year career with Siemens where he was Senior Director of Talent Services for Siemens Global Shared Services North America and previously led Talent Acquisition for Siemens Energy & Automation. He can be reached at (404) 932-8633 or glen.johnson@odgersberndtson.com.

Lori Rubin is a Partner in the Atlanta office; she leads the Healthcare & Professional Services practices of Odgers Interim US. She also focuses on the Energy & Utilities, Retail, and Consumer sectors. Lori is a highly experienced recruiter with over 20 years’ experience. Prior to joining Odgers, she served as VP of Sales & Recruiting at Locum Tenens.com, a Jackson Healthcare Company. She started her career as Director of Recruiting for Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and the Greenberg Traurig law firm. Lori can be reached at (678) 523-7711 or lori.rubin@odgersberndtson.com.