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Demand for Interim Executives on the Rise
By 2025 a majority of the workforce will be employed in an agile capacity, making it likely that more search firms will come to offer interim talent services. One recruiter, StevenDouglas, saw this coming more than a decade ago. Mark Viner joins Hunt Scanlon Media for this primer on the importance of interim executives.
March 19, 2019 – Across the board, in every industry, today’s candidate-driven market is fueled by growing demand for top talent against a landscape of short supply. This has led to nearly three million people being employed in temporary jobs, a number that is expected to grow at a healthy pace over the next few years as companies strive to stay agile in the midst of changing market needs.
Hiring interim workers can help businesses sidestep talent gaps and remain nimble. A recent report by CareerBuilder found that 47 percent of employers reported that they planned to hire interim workers this past year, up slightly from 46 percent last year. Of these employers, 58 percent plan to transition some interim workers into full-time, permanent roles.
“With the lowest unemployment in recorded history, it truly is a candidate market,” said Mark Viner, president of interim resources at executive search firm StevenDouglas. “There is a considerable high amount of permanent job-offer turn-downs, counter offers, multiple offers, etc. We believe it is currently taking employers two to four months to hire employees in this market because of the competitive conditions.”
StevenDouglas saw the demand for interim search services back in 2006, when the firm decided to start a service offering by creating a synergistic interim resources division that would focus on recruiting and hiring dedicated project professionals to serve its clients on an interim and project basis.
“Over the years, increasingly, the firm’s clients were asking for interim assistance,” Mr. Viner said. “Examples of traditional search clients needing interim services included maternity leave coverage, general bandwidth to assist with significant client workloads, backfilling open positions while searches were taking place and/or tackling the demands of Sarbanes Oxley reporting which began for public companies around 2003.” Listening to clients, he said, the firm tripped into the interim services field and began to assist clients on a one-off basis with no true sustained focus or leadership.
Backfilling an Open Position
“Interim resources can backfill an open position while the search takes place, and is driving our growth at the moment,” said Mr. Viner. “Also, other factors supporting the interim division include the current state of low unemployment, and need for qualified candidates in some of the high-demand areas of expertise we serve.”
The initial idea for launching the interim division was to service StevenDouglas’ client base, which largely existed in South Florida. Within the first year, situational hiring opportunities were presented which gave the firm the opportunity to expand the interim division around the country, into markets where executive search services were lacking.
It was that willingness to hire internal employees in markets outside of South Florida that allowed the firm to expand its reach beyond its native turf, serving clients, initially within interim resources. Today, StevenDouglas has 15 offices in the U.S. as well as a presence in Latin America and Canada, with many locations offering both executive search and interim resources services.
The interim resources division now provides about 80 percent of the firm’s revenue. “Separate from the meaningful expansion around the country, low unemployment continues to help drive interim resources growth,” said Mr. Viner. “In this extremely tight labor market, particularly within accounting, finance, IT and human resources, backfilling open positions is the No. 1 project request within interim resources.”
Following a successful 18-year financial career, Mr. Viner chose to shift his attention to the sales, marketing and leadership aspects of project-based professional services. Just before the career change, he had been chief financial officer of a publicly-held company.
Mr. Viner joined StevenDouglas in 2006, when its interim resources practice was launched. His strength has been the ability to leverage his broad experience and work with clients to help scope project needs and collaborate with them regarding their challenges. He recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the firm’s interim offering and how it builds lasting relationships with clients.
We are aware that many of our competitors do not offer both search and interim staffing services. We believe that’s a missed opportunity on several fronts. First, clients need both services, especially in a tight labor market. By offering solutions to help clients at both ends of the hiring spectrum, you truly build deep rooted relationships. Second, in the case of executive search placements, very often we are placing candidates for interim services. We have not had any issue with delineating to our clients who we are and how we can help, and we have had no difficulty in describing the two pieces to our business. Very often we introduce the fact that our firm can help on either end, and we take the time to describe how they are two separate, yet synergistic, divisions within our firm. Again, this approach is designed to best serve our clients’ needs.
As the executive search sector has become more diverse in its offerings, do you think traditional search firms will consider interim resources as a permanent addition to their cadre of recruitment offerings? What types of firms are less likely to add this service?
It is natural to expect that search firms offering only one side of the hiring spectrum may choose to expand their offerings. But we believe long-standing, well-known search firms which only offer a retained product will be less likely to expand into the interim space. As more firms enter the hybrid hiring space, we will continue to invest resources to maintain and expand our market reach.
The human capital sector has not seen a downturn in about 10 years. Many experts predict one on the horizon. Does a recession impact interim resources more severely than permanent hiring?
We believe our interim resources division to be somewhat downturn/recession proof. We chose to diversify in 2006 when we formally launched the interim resources division. When the recession hit in 2008-2009, the permanent division very naturally suffered and experienced a significant downturn because companies were laying off employees, and/or freezing new hires. Companies certainly weren’t using search firms to hire new employees. However, we found during this period that our interim division materially held its own. Companies were cutting deep, yet at the same time interim resources gave them variability and flexibility.
Explain some of the nuances of recruiting for interim workers that are different from that of full time hires.
The internal staffing for executive search and interim services is completely separate as they are very unique businesses. Within interim services, we are recruiting and hiring people who elect project work as a career alternative and become employees of StevenDouglas. The executive search division is recruiting permanent employees for our client companies, which are people who desire traditional permanent employment. That truly is a line of well understand demarcation for our firm. As for client needs, if it crosses into both divisions, that will be handled by two client-serving individuals as their needs are very separate and require different expertise to properly handle a successful placement. To avoid any confusion, this approach is described to clients so they understand the process and know what to expect.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor –Hunt Scanlon Media