When the need arises to quickly build up an executive team, or the heat is on to replace an executive position that’s suddenly vacant, time isn’t always on your side. Executive vacancies can adversely affect operations, finances, employee morale, and short-term stability. The option to hire an operational or financial executive “on demand” through interim executive placement is an increasingly advantageous option, as it enables companies to be agile in a world that has otherwise been forced to slow down.
Interim executive placement entails hiring a temporary executive for a position in order to fill an urgent or immediate need until a long-term replacement can be found. The timeline for our team at Madison Gunn to place an interim executive is often very short, which enables companies to select and onboard a new hire without major company disruption. Interim executive placement is a valuable option for private equity firms, their portfolio companies, and other types of businesses that need to fill an executive position quickly and efficiently. Hiring in this way has many advantages for companies—not the least of which is the ability to provide stability and boost workplace productivity in a time of uncertainty.
Stepping In for Today’s Workplace Challenges
In an uncertain and ever-changing work environment, interim executives are valuable resources for companies. An interim executive can help to make an unpredictable moment in time smoother and more seamless. When layoffs become a necessity on an executive team, for example, an interim resource can step in to bridge the gap and keep the company running smoothly as the company works to determine its next steps.
An interim placement may also be a more economical option, as opposed to searching for months for a permanent replacement as the clock is ticking—and as an essential role stays vacant. A portfolio company also doesn’t have to carry the burden of figuring out payroll or benefits when an interim executive placement is made. At Madison Gunn, an interim resource is a W-2 employee of our company, and we handle those particulars for our clients so they can focus on getting their new executive up to speed.
The Value of Interim Executive Placement
Bringing an interim executive in has the potential to solve many challenges that an executive vacancy or emerging skill set need creates. Interim executive placement can:
Help businesses adapt quickly and be nimble. Agility and flexibility are desired qualities in any workplace environment, but in a time of urgency, they’re essential characteristics for a business’s survival and growth. An interim executive can join a leadership team, quickly assess the current situation, and start implementing necessary changes right away that will help to buy a company extra time until a permanent executive can be put in place. For other members of the executive team, this also eases strain created by the vacancy. It also takes the pressure off finding a permanent hire right away, grants companies the time they need to ensure that they find the right long-term fit, and reassures uneasy stakeholders.
Help leadership execute strategic priorities. Interim executives are focused on setting a company on the right path and getting achievable results in a short timeframe. It’s what they’re trained to do—and they’re quite good at it. “Effective leaders empower managers to make the best decisions they can, bearing in mind a clear set of enterprise priorities, such as keeping employees safe and behaving ethically toward customers,” said Mary Mesaglio, a research VP with Gartner’s CIO research team.
Immediately bring in new and needed strengths to leadership. Amid this global pandemic, companies are re-assessing their current skill sets to identify gaps and roadblocks. Remote working, economic and labor market changes, and many other factors are causing shifting priorities and, in some cases, may require drastically different approaches to leadership. The right interim executive can immediately bring necessary strengths to the table through their unique blend of skills, experience, and perspective. These strengths can lift up an executive leadership team that’s gotten stuck, reset their direction, and help to forge solutions to the challenges the company is facing. A reputable executive search firm will work with their client to identify their highest-priority skill gaps and emerging skill needs, and then find an interim executive with those skills who’s well equipped to take on the challenge.
Provide stability during executive vacancies. An interim executive is experienced and comfortable in adapting to difficult situations. They understand how to present a clear purpose and plan for moving forward, while also being sensitive to a company’s pain points and working to minimize the instability felt as the result of an executive vacancy. A strong interim executive is also able to build trust during times of uncertainty by helping employees feel physiologically and physically safe. As Jay Cohen, founder and CEO at Dexian, writes, “I wholeheartedly believe that true leaders cannot guide their teams through uncertainty without a foundation of compassion and empathy.”
Help to navigate critical business events. Although there may not (yet) be a company “playbook” for responding to a pandemic, an interim executive has the ability to quickly assess a company’s pain points and create a clear, efficient, and collaborative plan of action so that leadership is able to communicate to its teams with a unified response and start putting that plan into motion. They’re also skilled at creating a business plan for future disruptions, so the company will be ready before the situations occur.
Forge a path for businesses to be more innovative. Aside from attending to immediate operational duties, bringing an interim executive onto the leadership team in a changing environment may give companies an opportunity to stretch out of the usual comfort zone and find ways to innovate. A changing world also demands that companies look inward and change things that aren’t working anymore. An interim executive, who offers a fresh set of eyes at the company, may be in a key position to rally the troops and get staff immersed in a common purpose—while raising morale and setting up an eventual permanent executive placement for success.
End up being a permanent fixture. Although it’s not the norm, when an interim executive meshes so well with a company that it doesn’t make sense to replace them, a company may choose to make them a permanent hire. This avoids the need to use additional time and resources to find another executive, and can also create less workplace disruption in the long run.
Interim executive placement can provide companies with a source of stability in a time of uncertainty; bring fresh ideas to the table; and help teams be more agile, adaptable, and innovative. The right interim executive can be a salve for a company’s wounds—a reassuring leader who brings everyone together to confidently tackle the challenges that lie ahead.