Posted by Robert Half on 24 April 2014
The sacking of Manchester United boss David Moyes this week left the club with a significant gap in the management team, with four games still to play this season. Recognising the failure of the Moyes appointment, and the need to take time over the hunt for his successor, the club has installed Ryan Giggs as interim manager. The veteran Welshman has stepped up from his player-coaching role until the end of the season, at which point a new permanent manager is set to be installed. But given the nature of his appointment, and the role he is expected to play, is it accurate to describe Giggs as an interim manager? Is he in fact acting as a temporary manager - essentially a short-term staffing fix to bridge the gap until a new boss is chosen?
The background to the appointment
So why exactly has Ryan Giggs been appointed? He has no previous management experience in football, and Manchester United are one of the biggest clubs in the world. By nature, the managerial job is one of the most highly coveted in the game. To some extent, his lack of experience works in his favour, as there is little expectation on his shoulders to deliver instant results. Essentially, Giggs is a well-regarded, long-time employee: someone who knows the club inside out and commands great respect among his peers for his professional achievements. The Welshman is not only Manchester United's record appearance holder, but he is the most decorated player in Premier League history. As such, he is viewed as somebody the Manchester United players can rally around during the final few weeks of the 2013/14 season, ahead of the summer break. It would appear that his status as a senior professional - and a club legend adored by the fans - is the principle reason for his short-term appointment, as opposed to his specific managerial CV.
The interim: Rafa Benitez
What would be different about an interim managerial appointment? Typically, the individual would be somebody with a long track record in the profession - potentially an experienced 'old hand' - brought in externally to assume managerial responsibilities. Take Rafa Benitez for example, who was appointed interim manager at Chelsea last season following the sacking of Roberto Di Matteo in November 2012. The Blues did not want to make a permanent appointment until the summer, conscious of the fact that their celebrated ex-boss Jose Mourinho was interested in returning to the club. However, they did want an experienced manager at the helm - someone capable of delivering instant results - for the second half of the 2012-13 campaign. Rather than merely 'baby-sitting' the squad, Benitez was brought in with a brief to ensure Chelsea qualified for European competition, and try and win some silverware. The fixed-term appointment worked for the Blues, with the interim manager helping to turn results around after Christmas. At the end of the season, the club even won a trophy - celebrating victory in the UEFA Europa League final against Benfica.
Interim v temporary
In some respects 'interim' and 'temporary' are similar terms, but then, in the context of management, there are distinct semantic differences. Whether Ryan Giggs is an interim manager or a temporary one, he is in charge of the Manchester United first team until further notice. And - given that he is unlikely to be considered for the permanent job - his tenure will end when an appointment is made. The question is whether the level of expectation is higher for an interim manager? Does the title allude to a higher level of responsibility, and a tougher brief for the incumbent? Organisations need to consider such implications when they advertise short-term roles or make appointments. It is important to have a clear idea of what they are looking for, what they hope to achieve, and how best to advertise the role. If they are looking for an interim manager, it may imply they are seeking someone with a high level of skill, experience and historic achievement - for instance, an industry-specialist 'consultant' like Benitez. Having delivered a trophy for his employers, he moved on at the end of the season and is currently managing in Italy with Napoli. More commonly, a temporary managerial role may go to the second-in-command, or another lower-ranking employee receiving their 'big break'. Rather than being an expert, they may find themselves learning on the job to some extent. Maybe this is more akin to the Giggs situation. He is available and willing to step into the managerial role for a certain length of time, before reverting to his previous job. Of course, the role will be added to his managerial CV for eternity, but will the title reflect the nature of the job he has taken on?