Is HR interim management right for your organisation?

Julia Nickless

By Julia Nickless

12 Feb 2019

There is a common misconception that interim HR managers are used simply to fill in resourcing gaps, between one manager leaving and the next arriving. In fact, this is the case only in a minority of interim HR assignments.

HR Interim

An interim HR manager will often be brought in because they have a different skill set; one that is needed to manage a specific challenge. Indeed, it's routinely the case that the interim manager may be brought in to an HR function that has a HR Generalist in place. While providing HR services, the interim will work alongside them to supply extra capability or management resource.

What is an HR interim manager?

  • Interim HR managers often come with a wealth of experience gathered in other organisations facing similar challenges. This enables them to act in a consultancy role, advising the in-house HR managers and, in effect, helping them develop the ability to manage new or more challenging situations.
  • Interim managers have the breadth and depth of experience in human resource management to hit the ground running, so they are often called on when a key manager is suddenly not available. For example, is someone develops an illness and is not expected return to work for some time, or a manager seconded to a strategic project or other area of the business.
  • An experienced interim can take over key responsibilities quickly and efficiently, providing immediate HR services. They will also be used to mitigate the uncertainty and upset that these situations can sometimes bring. They will have the experience to deal with this empathetically and positively, without losing sight of the issues that must be addressed.

The benefits of using HR interim services

There are numerous benefits to using HR interim services. Many organisations bring in an interim manager because they are at the beginning of a period of significant strategic realignment, with consequent changes in people planning and resource requirements.

1. Mitigate the risk of failure to deliver

Bringing in an interim manager allows an organisation to mitigate any risk in not being able to deliver a particular task or objective. Not only does it help tasks that may not have been completed to hit deadlines, but often the cost of bringing in an interim HR manager outweighs the cost of failure to complete that task.

For example; during an employee relations case that has gone to tribunal, the cost of bringing in an interim HR manager who has expertise around the particular issue, could be significantly less than the financial implications for losing the case as well as the negative impact it could have on the organisation’s image.

2. Give specific projects specialist attention & upskill current employees

There may be gaps in the skillsets of existing managers, which stops them being able to effectively deliver a particular task. Using interim HR managers gives you the chance to bring in someone to work on a task who has experience of doing so before. This, in turn, can then allow them to help upskill current employees, so that after the interim manager’s time is over, they may be able to affectively perform these tasks themselves.

For example; if your organisation is moving from one operating system to another, your HR managers may not have experience in making these changes. However, an interim HR manager can be bought in that has worked through changes in operating systems on numerous occasions, allowing them to effectively lead a project.

Most companies rely on generalist staff who are stretched across the whole HR function. It is rarely possible for them to be experts in all areas of compensation, reward, O&D, change, Talent Management, Talent development, Talent Acquisition, E/R and HRIS. Interim help is a great way to boost support in any one of these specialist areas.

3. Interim Solutions with temporary overheads

Factors like Brexit and other economic uncertainties are putting organisations under extreme headcount pressure, which can mean that an interim solution is ideal for all parties. This can allow an organisation to weather the storm during volatile times, with the staff they need, rather than employee new people and increase overheads. This allows for a stop-gap, until an organisation knows exactly what it wants or needs.

4.  Extra resource can allow tight timelines to be hit

When there are large changes in organisations, the timelines are often short, with particularly important deadlines that need to be met, or legal penalties could be incurred, jeopardising the future success of the whole organisation Bringing in interim HR managers or consultants can allow organisations to meet these deadlines. This can allow the right people to be concentrating on the right tasks. They also have the ability to hit the ground running, saving time and the potential need to train or learn new skills.

5. The interim HR manager can be objective

Existing managers may themselves be being moved, promoted or reassigned. They can find themselves with divided loyalties, fighting for their own staff and thus questioning some of the plans that they are being asked to implement. The human resource management function may find itself under attack by those who feel that they are being treated unfairly.

An outsider can bring objectivity and detachment to what can be a negative or heated atmosphere. They are able to consider issues without becoming embroiled in personalities or organisational politics. This can prove to be of enormous value.

Knowing when to use HR interim management in your organisation

This is a question of understanding the full range of services an interim manager, or potentially an HR consultancy, can supply. Examples of situations that should prompt thoughts of using an interim include:

  • Need for continuity when a sudden change is occurring either across the organisation or specifically in HR. These change agendas can cause great disruption and need specialist skills.
  • The need for someone with prior experience, potentially leading or assisting in mergers
  • When there is need for specific knowledge that the organisation has either lost or currently doesn’t have. Market expertise is key and interim managers can also help to fill potentially difficult roles.
  • The need for cover during times of unexpected employee loss, i.e. sickness, maternity and other such leaves of absence.
  • A requirement for advice or policy development in specialist areas such as TUPE or equality practice
  • Redundancy or career transition situations in which objectivity may be valued
  • Sudden requirements for a manager, where a fully competent professional can take up the reigns immediately
  • Work that is project-based and requires both HR and project management skills
  • Cultural change projects
  • Capability building where the enhanced skills required are new to the organisation
  • New business partnerships or outsourcing arrangements which require agreement on HR issues
  • Specialist areas such as pension scheme changes

Is HR interim management right for small or large businesses?

HR Interim management can be vital for organisations of any size, with each potentially needing it for different reasons. Organisations of both sizes may have need for interim support. A small organisation may not have any HR capabilities to begin with, for instance, and a big organisation may not have the resource or skillsets required for a specific project.

Summary

Interim human resource managers provide businesses with the expertise and skills they need when they have specific HR challenges and projects. They're very much involved in organisational change and in building capability within organisations.

If you're wondering whether a specific need in your organisation might be best served by an interim HR manager, please get in touch with our recruitment team to discuss how an interim manager can help to drive success in your organisation.

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