Recruiting executive level interims that sit within the top three tiers of an authority is rarely planned and is even avoided where possible, yet these appointments are often necessary and can be transformative. So, should local authorities develop short-term strategic resourcing plans to ensure that these appointments go as smoothly as they can, the interim accepts the offer and delivers the desired outcome?
When an authority goes to market for a permanent executive it usually begins with a tender, sent to a select number of agencies to bid and pitch for the work. Once a partner has been selected, they will create a ‘go to market’ attraction strategy and candidate pack, often supported by a microsite.
This includes a timetable so all parties know the key dates from the outset, a foreword about why applicants should apply, key information about the role and the authority along with video or other dedicated content.
So why don’t interim roles follow the same format? Would authorities make more successful appointments if they went into a similar level of detail, all be it in a scaled back version for speed?
In a candidate-short market getting the ‘go to market’ strategy right from the beginning is vital. It’s important to think about how the role will be perceived. If a potential candidate receives multiple phone calls from different agencies, what impression will that give the individual, especially if they all have a different reason for hiring or understanding of the role? Following the executive search model of working exclusively with one agency will give you more control over your messaging.
Time restraints may limit the content that can be created such as an introductory message from the Leader or Chief Executive, but a detailed briefing with the agency and a clear message about why you are looking to hire, the key deliverables, milestones and measures of success will make the role far more appealing to applicants. This should be an absolute minimum but can often be missing from initial communication.
Setting out a timetable at the outset gives the process structure. Time can be held in both interviewers and interviewees diaries and issues are flagged from the start. Potential applicants also know how long they have to get their CVs updated and write compelling covering letters or supporting statements. By not only sharing but keeping to these dates, you will build early trust. Should the candidates receive other offers during the process, they are more likely to put these on hold until your process has concluded.
Experienced interims are likely to have already delivered a similar level of role at a comparable authority to the one you are looking to hire for, so the interview questions will be more of an opportunity to explore how they deliver and whether you can see them fitting into your organisation. Graham Charsley, Interim Director of HR and OD at Stockport has been working with the Authority to develop their approach to values-based interviews and we spoke at length recently of the importance of knowing your organisational values and behaviours.
When you combine a clear understanding of these values and behaviours to understand how they have delivered; how they have met different types of challenges you will be able to develop questions which target the evidence you are seeking and get the best out of your recruitment discussions.
While selling your opportunity at the initial briefing stage is key, it is especially important during the interview stages so that your preferred candidate will be fully engaged and ready to accept your offer. Tell them what is great about working for your authority and with your teams. If there is something challenging about the role, do not be afraid to share that with them. An experienced interim will do their due diligence before accepting your role so better for it to come from you than for them to hear it third hand.
Until an interim has received a contract, they are likely to still be active in the market, so prepare paperwork in advance and be ready to raise a contract as swifty as possible following the interviews and offer.
Once an offer has been accepted, arrange to meet your new interim quickly. Most interims will still be concluding their current contract for a few weeks; if you can, get meetings in the diary in advance of their start date. Invite your new interim to dial into team meetings and secure meetings for them with key stakeholders either before their start date or during their first few weeks. This will not only show your commitment to their success, it will also help enable it.
When the interim’s first day arrives, make a great first impression and treat them the same way you would a permanent hire using the same onboarding methods.
Setting clear expectations is second nature when hiring an outside IR35 Consultant/Contractor, as you set them clear deliverables as part of the Check Employment Status for Tax assessment process, but this method can also be applied to Interim Managers. Know what success looks like, including any key milestones, and communicate this with them and use it as part of your regular update meetings with both the interim and the agency.
By having short-term hiring as part of your strategic resourcing plan, you will be able to act quickly and effectively when a need arises. You will know how long it takes to make a hire and have planned diaries in advance to avoid delays. You will have considered your organisational values so you can search for an interim that aligns with your organisation and avoid any mismatched senior hires. You will be aware in advance of your internal procurement processes so you can avoid any paperwork delays and potential back outs. And most importantly when you find the person you want to hire, you will have created the best environment for you to not just be their first choice but to deliver a great assignment.
Sally Wilson is a Principal Consultant in GatenbySanderson’s Interim Leadership Team