The Corona pandemic has made many professionals reluctant to change jobs, mainly because they feel uncertain about the labour market. Yet a period of crisis also brings great opportunities. For senior professionals who have felt stuck in their permanent jobs for a while, a switch to an interim management position can be a great opportunity.
However, Stephanie De Bruecker, Senior Consultant in the interim management division at recruitment specialist Robert Walters, has noticed that many senior professionals often have the wrong idea about this way of working. Time to take a closer look at these misunderstandings around interim management!
Let's start with the beginning: what is the ideal profile of an Interim Manager?
Stephanie: "Ideally, an Interim Manager has worked for a minimum of 10 to 15 years in multiple organisations, where he or she has held various positions. Within finance for example, this could be a Financial Controller who has evolved from an audit background into a managerial role within financial planning & analysis or corporate finance, where he also led a team. To build a career as an independent Interim Manager, it’s a strong plus if these previous experiences were gained in multiple sectors."
What misunderstandings about interim management do senior professionals have?
Misunderstanding 1: An Interim Manager is the same as an interim professional
Stephanie: "Not at all! Let me explain with a concrete example: an interim professional is someone who moves from one interim assignment to another, often to replace a permanent employee in case of illness or absence, or to provide temporary extra support. He or she takes over the work for a certain period of time. Such a temporary assignment can be at various levels, from junior to senior Accountant.
An Interim Manager, on the other hand, is someone who enters an organisation and is able to quickly analyse all the existing processes and scan the organisation from a 'helicopter view'. His or her role is often linked to change and project management, in addition to the operational tasks.
Misunderstanding 2: An Interim Manager is always at a management level
"Not always," says Stephanie. "Often, it is indeed a management position where a team needs to be led, but an Interim Manager can just as well be called in for a 'stand-alone' position where the operational side is decisive. That may be a temporary replacement of a senior employee due to illness or pregnancy, for example. Here, the organisation is looking for someone who is immediately 'plug & play', so that business continuity can be guaranteed. In addition, organisations are increasingly looking for true project managers who are experts in the operationalisation of complex system or process implementations with a transversal impact on an organisation. Their extensive experience ensures that they can anticipate potential bottlenecks in the process, for example, which saves an organisation a great deal of time."
Misunderstanding 3: Becoming an Interim Manager entails financial risks
"The step into an independent status is a big decision for many. You are taken out of your comfort zone, after having worked in permanent employment for a long time. If you do not have a financial background, it is advisable to have the support of an accountant or adviser. But money is not the main reason why someone decides to become an Interim Manager. Their primary focus is to further develop their expertise and put it at the service of an organisation. We often see professionals leave their permanent jobs because they want more variety and challenges. As an Interim Manager, they can do that. After all, they choose their own assignments and know that they can give independent advice from their own perspective and expertise. And that is what motivates them to bring assignment after assignment to a successful end.”
Misunderstanding 4: An interim management assignment lasts a maximum of 3 months
Stephanie: "An interim management assignment is sometimes of short duration, that is true. But we very often see that an assignment is initially planned for 3 months, but then extended by another 3 to 6 months. Interim Managers who have successfully completed a project are often asked to take a look at other activities or projects within the company on the basis of their expertise. And that’s how the duration of their assignment extends. Long-term projects can even take 12 to 18 months. So it's not at all the case that Interim Managers need to look for a new assignment every 2 or 3 months."
Misunderstanding 5: Interim Managers spend a long time looking for a new assignment
"Of course, a starting Interim Manager will wonder whether he will be able to transition easily from one assignment to another. That is why it is important to have a good network. Calling on a recruitment agency that specialises in interim management assignments is no superfluous luxury. After all, they are in daily contact with organisations and know what is going on, which projects are planned and where." The number of interim management assignments advertised online is very small. Since this type of assignments originates from a concrete need in the business, the value of a consultant as a trusted intermediary in an organisation is crucial. He or she then proactively links the right people from his or her network to the need of an organisation.
"By regularly updating your interim management consultant on the projects you are working on and when you will be available again, you increase your chances of moving smoothly from one assignment to the next."
Misunderstanding 6: Interim Managers often have no fit with the company culture
"Since an Interim Manager is only hired temporarily for a clearly defined task or assignment, a perfect fit with the company culture is less of an issue than with an employee who is hired permanently. More important is that there is a good fit with the hiring manager and the team members he or she will work with. Unlike in a permanent position, the Interim Manager does not have to worry about how to present themselves internally to stand a chance of being promoted, for example, and can focus on the expertise for which they have been hired.
When a recruitment agency is looking for the right Interim Manager for an organisation, they obviously take into account the sector in which the organisation is active. After all, certain sector experience can be important for the successful completion of the assignment. And vice versa: when an Interim Manager chooses not to work in a certain sector, this is also respected."
Misunderstanding 7: An Interim Manager only gives advice
Stephanie: "An Interim Manager is not a consultant who observes, writes a report and then leaves. On the contrary. An Interim Manager immediately identifies opportunities and then implements them, together with the team that is closely involved in the project. He is only satisfied when he has had a positive impact on an organisation. And he prefers to create that impact himself, by having an operational and hands-on role in an organisation."
Misunderstanding 8: The corona pandemic brings everything to a halt
"We noticed a slowdown during the first lockdown last year, that's right. In some organisations, planned projects were put on hold for a while, and at the start of the pandemic the focus was mainly on cash flow optimisation. In crisis situations, the added value of Interim Managers becomes even more apparent. Because of their specific expertise, they are the ideal people to lead companies out of the crisis. Think, for example, of an Interim Manager within finance. In many cases, he or she can look at the functioning and profitability of the organisation and do what is necessary to optimise this, so that the organisation can face the future in a healthy way," concludes Stephanie.
Looking for a new challenge?
Discover more about working as an Interim Manager. Curious about which assignments we are currently looking for? Take a look at our interim management vacancies.