Businesses are dynamic; they grow, contract, fail and succeed. Research has firmly established that this process is vital to productivity and sustained growth in any successful economy and should be actively encouraged. However, this dynamism necessitates equal flexibility in the workforce, and often demands the creation, removal and reinvention of jobs. So how can companies retain the best talent during these ebbs and flows?

Planning ahead

Resource planning, including equipment, staff, skills, and the talent pipeline, is key to the success of any business. However, a recent whitepaper reported that 83% of organisations acknowledge they have skill gaps (resource shortages) resulting from change, disruption and competition. For many, these skill gaps threaten a company’s ability to prepare for the future, and almost three-quarters say missing skills affect their organisation’s service delivery, customers and future growth. Moreover, the same survey showed ineffective senior leadership training has resulted in concern over a succession planning crisis; half of respondents said their companies had insufficient leadership bench strength and 47% said they expect a gap of leadership or executive-level skills in the future. Involvement of key stakeholders across the organisation is crucial to success in identifying and closing skills gaps.

Permanent or interim talent

Despite seeming the obvious solution, hiring may not be the best way to fill skill gaps, particularly when certain assets including adaptability and flexibility are in ever increasing demand. Similarly, although a key feature of a company’s long-term strategy, investing in long-term talent within the business may not help address short-term or urgent demands. For many, highly skilled interims may be the way forward.

Traditionally, interim talent is used to fill the void whilst full time employees are absent (e.g. maternity, sabbaticals of long-term sickness absence), or to bridge the gap between one employee leaving and another starting. More strategically however, the right interim manager may hold significant value in helping a firm manage a period of change, get a new project or idea off the ground, win new business, set up a new partnership, or manage internal re-organisation including downsizing, merging, integration or acquisition. The right interim manager could offer value to multiple areas of the business.

Interim management

There are many obvious benefits to hiring interim talent; knowledge and expertise, new and objective points of view, highly efficient with no distractions from existing office politics, to name a few. However, these benefits can only be reaped by managing an interim correctly, and by carefully preparing your existing team and yourself for their arrival. Map out your priorities and key deliverable for the next 3-6 months, and ensure both your team, and your interim manager, are clear on these. Review progress with the interim manager regularly, and treat them as part of your team, keeping them informed and updated. Also, clearly brief your team on the role of the interim manager and allow adequate time for a handover and embedding of knowledge before they leave.

When done right, an interim manager can provide a cost-effective way to access the best talent to deliver a flexible solution, whist transferring skills to your team. It is not right for every situation but should always be a consideration.

For more information on The RSA Group Interim service please contact Prad Mistry at or on +44 7875 379492.

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