Posted by Robert Half on 08 September 2014
Every organisation can benefit from employing experienced professionals - individuals who have developed a high level of expertise in their chosen field and progressed into more senior roles. Of course, there's plenty to be said for employing entry-level staff who can grow with the company, but employees with 15 or more years of experience are often the glue that holds the workforce together. They offer leadership skills, industry insight and extensive contact books - all of which can be highly valuable to growth-focused organisations.
But the reality is that employees can't go on forever – nor do they necessarily want to - certainly not on a permanent, full-time basis. There comes a point where more experienced members of the workforce are ready to take a step back and enjoy a slower pace of life, or at least work on their own terms if they're not ready to retire. This can cause a problem for organisations, who stand to lose valued individuals they have come to rely upon.
Employers concerned about retirements
According to research conducted by Robert Half, more than two-thirds of finance employers (69 per cent) are worried about the baby boomer generation - employees born between 1946 and 1964 - leaving their workforce in the next two years. Over a fifth (22 per cent) said they are 'very concerned' about the prospect of losing such individuals, while 47 per cent are 'somewhat concerned'.
The loss of legacy knowledge (43 per cent) is the biggest worry for employers, ahead of the leadership abilities (20 per cent), functional skills (18 per cent), non-technical attributes (13 per cent) and external contacts (five per cent) these professionals bring to the workforce. With this in mind, many employers are thinking about what they can do to retain these key individuals for longer.
Benefits of interim managers
Senior professionals recognise the fact they are highly-skilled members of staff, capable of leading exciting projects, delivering value for their employer and earning attractive salaries. There is plenty of incentive for them to keep working, providing they can take greater control of their career. For those looking to improve their work-life balance and/or take advantage of flexible working, self-employment looks like an increasingly attractive option.
Employing senior professionals on a short-term, temporary basis - as and when the need arises - can offer mutual benefit to both parties. Working as interim managers, they can essentially pick and choose their assignments, alleviating the pressure of full-time, permanent employment. They are able to take weeks - or even months - off at a time between placements if they choose, almost serving as a bridge to full-time retirement.
Organisations can benefit from the use of interim managers in a number of ways. As well as being able to keep key individuals involved with the business - although with reduced responsibility - they can cover absence, act quickly to replace managers who leave, and ensure important projects are headed up by high-calibre professionals. Employers can access the skills and experience they need on-demand, as and when they require them, rather than keeping another top-earner on the permanent payroll.
High interest in interim managers
The Robert Half study revealed many senior finance professionals are interested in working as interims once they leave full-time, permanent employment. Some 96 per cent of chief financial officers said they consider being and interim manager and consulting an attractive career choice as they approach retirement, with 42 per cent citing it as ‘very attractive’. More than six in ten (61 per cent) respondents said the flexibility of this model appeals to them, while 53 per cent are excited by the potential pay awards. With employers eager to tap into the knowledge and expertise of finance specialists - particularly on a short-term basis - many are willing to pay a premium for the best people.
Robert Half found that employers are using interim managers across a range of industry segments. Senior professionals with financial regulation (42 per cent), risk (33 per cent), financial reporting (27 per cent), business systems (27 per cent) and compliance (27 per cent) expertise are in strongest demand. But employers are also seeking to hire on a non-permanent basis in operations (22 per cent), business process improvement (19 per cent), audit (16 per cent), project management (13 per cent), change management (five per cent) and financial crime (four per cent).
An alternative to retirement
Julian McLaren, a vice-president with Robert Half Management Resources, said most of those professionals who are considering a career as an interim manager are looking to apply the skills and experience they have gleaned throughout their careers to progressive, forward-looking organisations. "Companies hoping to capitalise on growth initiatives are well advised to leverage the deep expertise that these professionals offer, often providing the legacy of knowledge transfer and upskilling to permanent employees long after the engagement has ended," he stated.
Mr McLaren said finance leaders benefit from the cost-effective access to skills offered by interims. "By continuing to capitalise on the readily available and highly trained interim market, businesses can adjust more easily and quickly to workload variations," he stated. "They can scale their workforce up and down according to demand, plug short-term gaps in the senior management team where applicable and ensure they have the right people leading key projects."
Employees can't go on forever - there comes a time when everybody is ready for retirement, or at least a change to the normal routine. But being an interim manager is an attractive alternative for professionals who feel they still have something to offer once they finish working full-time. By embracing this market, employers can alleviate concerns about the loss of key staff members and ensure they always have access to people of the required calibre. Providing organisations are willing to pay the going rate for skilled and experienced professionals, they are available on-tap, whenever they are most needed.