By Pamela J. Gallagher
Hiring an interim executive has long been thought of as a band-aid solution on the heels of an unexpected resignation or a way to give a potential new leader a trial run before committing. But with more businesses taking on flexible staffing approaches combined with the ups and downs of the economy over the past 15 years, companies have realized the financial and strategic benefits of engaging an interim executive rather than seeking to make an immediate permanent hire.
In the current COVID crisis, businesses are dealing with extreme levels of uncertainty and unpredictability as they try to make wise decisions for their employees and the future of their organizations. The high-flexibility, high-expertise nature of interim executives makes them an especially viable solution in times of crisis to keep companies moving forward strategically yet cost-effectively.
In times of crisis, three benefits of engaging interim executives stand out:
1. Avoid an unsustainable long-term commitment.
With the economic turbulence brought on by the pandemic, many businesses aren’t sure what the next year will hold. Financially, this is a risky time to hire a full-time employee (plus benefits). From a workplace culture perspective, it is a gamble for companies and prospective executives alike to bring on a new hire without being able to meet in person to get a sense of culture and personality fit.
On the other hand, it’s hard to sail a company through rough waters with gaping holes in the leadership structure. So, what is a company to do? An interim is adept at stepping into crisis situations, getting caught up to speed quickly, and keeping the organization focused on their goals without all the risks of making a permanent hire in sub-optimal conditions.
2. Offer employees the support they need.
When an interim executive joins a company, they aren’t there to take over someone’s job. Their mission is to lend support and assistance and breathe some new life into the company with fresh perspectives and solutions. The transfer of knowledge from interim to employees has the ability to make the entire staff better, sharper, and more adaptable for coming challenges. Additionally, an interim is able to give an unbiased opinion in a way that a new hire is not. An interim is invested fully in the work, but isn’t as likely to get tied up in organizational politics.
Often, interims are brought in to support a company while an executive is on personal or family leave. With so many employees suddenly becoming teachers in addition to their roles as parents, the need for gap coverage is higher than ever. Companies have a unique opportunity to make good on their value of putting their people first by engaging interim leaders to keep all the plates spinning while employees take the time they need to invest in their kids’ education.
3. Make progress on specialty projects.
When current employees and executives are already working at maximum capacity, special projects are often considered important, but not urgent. These projects continue to get put on the backburner, often to the long-term detriment of the health of the organization or the satisfaction of their employees. Bringing an interim executive on to tackle a specialty project allows your people to stay focused on the essential work they’re already doing without the pressure and stress of taking on an additional project.
In uncertain times, effective, expert leadership is crucial. Companies can access the knowledge and support they need without the financial strain from unwise long-term commitments by trusting an interim executive to help keep the organization moving forward.
About Pamela J. Gallagher
Pamela J. Gallagher is a senior healthcare finance executive with 20 years of experience balancing the reality of finance with the delivery of excellent patient care. As a consultant she instills financial discipline, streamlines processes to maximize revenue, and reduces expenses for immediate improvements and long-term results. She writes on healthcare, finance, and technology at gallaghersresulting.com.
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