The term interim manager means different things to different people. Within the industry, an interim manager is a senior professional, typically used at short notice for high impact roles. They are often overqualified for the assignment, meaning they have the potential to offer seamless delivery and full accountability.  They can be used across every business function in the public and private sectors. 

As organisations have come to understand the skills and experience that interim managers bring, not only during the assignment, but in the knowledge they leave behind, they can make much more use of interims on a planned basis to cover strategic needs and not just sudden unplanned departures, such as:

  • Managing an organisation through a major change  
  • Managing functions to fill a short term skills gap
  • Delivering projects and programmes
  • Implementing cost savings and reducing risks
  • Turning around businesses and organisations in crisis

The interim management value proposition

The cost of interim managers has recently been criticised, particularly in the press. On many occasions, the daily cost of an interim manager is calculated over a year and considered to be an inflated salary. However, what is not calculated are the additional costs an interim manager has to plan for, such as holiday pay, sick pay, tax, NI, pension contributions and other benefits, not to mention professional indemnity insurance which interim managers need, and travel expenses. This also takes no account of the fact that an interim manager is “up and running” on day one because they have done similar roles before and therefore have very little need for induction, so the benefit is immediate.

Given all of the factors above, when the full time permanent salary, including benefits, is compared with the daily rate of an interim, there is often very little difference, and this cost pales into insignificance when compared with the cost of a management consultant of a similar level.

Interim managers are increasingly being considered a highly cost-effective solution when compared with the potential costs of failure.

  • Return on investment: interim managers are focused on delivering results with lasting benefits and are paid on the understanding of goals and objectives being delivered, and not simply on the basis of attendance.
  • Speed: interim managers can be available to start within days and because of their experience and expertise, they will make a noticeable impact from the outset.
  • Expertise: an interim manager is a source of specialist knowledge, specific to your sector.  They are often overqualified and will bring skills and knowledge not otherwise in place.
  • Objectivity: interim managers provide a balanced external perspective, bringing a breadth of experience and an objective overview outside of company politics and are able to concentrate on what’s best for the client.
  • Accountability: interim managers will take responsibility and expect to be held accountable for results by being instrumental in an assignment’s successful delivery. They will be dedicated to the client’s agenda, not their own.
  • Effectiveness: typically working at a senior level, interim managers have the authority and credibility to effect significant change or transition within an organisation while enabling permanent staff to run the day-to-day business.
  • Commitment: interim managers maintain high professional standards because their future work always relies on referrals and a successful track record.  They will always want to deliver and exit in a seamless and efficient way.

Often, when trusts are in turnaround, they are criticised for spending money on interim managers; however, one trust explains the significant benefits brought by an interim during the process:

“Our trust was placed in financial turnaround as a result of its £13m financial deficit and accumulated debt. As part of this process, the trust was required to appoint a turnaround director to lead a programme of financial review. The region’s strategic health authority assisted by recommending individuals for this post.

“An interim manager was appointed to the post of turnaround director and worked with the trust during its first year of financial turnaround. He assisted in the development of a three year turnaround programme. During this year the trust was able to report a dramatic improvement in financial performance, achieving an in year financial surplus of £1.9m.”

Cameron Ward, CEO of NHS Barnet, said: “As clients, we need to understand our part in aligning the right person for the role needed. If this is done, the focus, expertise and breadth of experience a strong interim brings not only to the specific job, but the wider team, is a valuable part of the resourcing mix.”