Want to Make the Right Permanent Hire? Hire an Interim First

How hiring an interim prepares your organization to make better permanent hires

By Pamela J. Gallagher

When an executive leaves unexpectedly or major personnel changes occur, the void is felt at all levels of the organization.  Rather than rushing to return to a feeling of equilibrium, I believe one of the best ways for healthcare organizations to make the right permanent hire and position the organization for long-term success and stability is to first hire an interim manager.

Interim managers do more than just “hold down the fort” until a permanent hire can be made.  Interims bring their expertise, perspectives, adaptability, leadership and motivation skills, and entrepreneurial mindset to the challenges your organization is facing.  An interim executive comes in with an analytical mind and unbiased view to help your organization achieve sustainable results in a short amount of time, allowing you the time to iron out persistent organizational issues and assess your needs so you are better positioned to make hiring decisions with purpose and wisdom.

Gain fresh perspectives and re-focus on your mission

Getting the objective outsider view that an interim can provide is important for the long-term health of your hospital or healthcare organization, especially if you tend to promote from within. Often, when a management position becomes vacant unexpectedly, organizations will rush to promote a promising lower-level manager, even if he or she still hasn’t fully developed the skills to be successful in the vacant position. Hiring an interim manager into this position for a short time before you hire internally allows you to work out process issues, for example, while bringing the potential internal hire up to speed. The interim can bridge that gap, setting up the internal hire and your organization for success.

Times of transition provide the opportunity to consider who you are as an organization and whether processes currently in place promote your mission and values. A lack of crisis doesn’t mean everything is running smoothly. When growth slows, mission creep sinks in, goals go unreached, or when urgent issues distract your organization’s leadership from mission-centered issues, an experienced interim’s perspective could be just the breath of fresh air your organization needs to refocus on its unique identity.

Take the time to assess your needs

Hiring an interim manager rather than immediately hiring a permanent employee allows you to respond rather than react when a manager leaves your organization, an urgent systems change is required, or a crisis arises.  The leadership and experience of an interim can allow your organization’s leaders to hold space for thoughtful decision making rather than putting a band-aid on the situation. 

An executive or management transition is a natural time to consider staff restructuring, especially if the person previously in the vacant position has been with the organization a long time.  Taking the time to consider your mission and values will inform the right goals and functions of the open position before you hire.

Implement a short-term project or redesign processes (while saving money)

Similar to business consultants, interim managers can provide an objective, unbiased perspective to diagnose issues. But where consultants typically only recommend solutions, interims are specialists in implementing solutions.  If your organization has a short-term or urgent need, consider hiring an interim rather than a permanent employee to meet that need.  Interim managers are able to get a lot done quickly because people know they are only there for a short time and need to move quickly to help the organization meet its goals.  This allows for better focus on the task at hand and fewer distractions, such as workplace politics.

Not only do interim managers bring a wealth of previous experience solving a variety of problems in many types of healthcare organizations, they also tend to be more cost-effective. Though an interim’s rate may seem steep, remember that your organization has access to their expertise without the expense of benefits, paid time off, and professional development, to name a few.

Vacant management positions create a sense of urgency for an organization’s leaders, and there is always a temptation to hire a permanent employee as quickly as possible. Hiring a highly qualified, uniquely experienced interim manager will channel that sense of urgency into opportunities to thoughtfully refocus on your organization’s mission and assess the organization’s needs, allowing you to make a more effective permanent hire in the future.

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.

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