One of the earlier interim industry benefits (>10 years ago, before the 2008 financial crisis), was an independent interim’s ability to challenge client ‘cognitive bias’, for example, by suggesting better solutions to ‘the way things are done around here’.
The interim’s ability to tactfully challenge came from experience across many clients and, especially, many sectors.
Client Challenge Example
I recently challenged cognitive bias at a Contracting industry client. Long-standing family and industry mind-sets and practices were tested to create new solutions collaboratively.
Example solutions included technologically advanced (for a ‘basics’ industry), end-to-end digital transformation of core processes and clean data sources for better decision making, having endured paper-based processes and dirty data for many years.
Imagine, if you will, basically educated road workers using mobile devices to capture risk assessment evidence (photos), to track job workflows and to reschedule work priorities; quite a transformation!
The client also turned around from loss-making to profitable in nine months on the back of this, and other cognitive bias challenges.
Commodity Driven Candidate Selection
The Interim Service Provider (ISP) challenge to clients’ mind-sets via their selected candidates appears to have taken a back seat in recent years. It has been replaced by narrowly specified candidate sector experience and CV brokerage introduced from contractor/commodity recruitment practices.
Interims now tend to meet with clients via ISPs selected for client sector fit rather than the ability to champion change and transformation based on broad skillsets and agnostic sector experience.
I think this practice does not well serve UK Plc and the client-ISP-interim industry.
As one respected interim recruiter put it recently: “'More of the same' only results in 'more of the same'.”
IR35 Likely Effects
An evaluation of the proposed 2020 IR35 changes is a likely dramatic impact on the current interim and contractor industries.
There will be a confirmation of independent interims outside IR35; and contractors becoming ‘part and parcel’ of the client and inside IR35, effectively employees.
The New (former) Interim Approach
The commodity-based marketing practices which entered the interim space ten plus years ago will be replaced, if not already, by consultative approaches to client solutions, above, say, £700 per day interim rates.
Multiple CVs emailed to clients will become passé, and ‘chats over coffee’ will make a comeback for both ISPs and interims to more fully explore solutions to critical client problems.
One recently visited IIM Platinum recruiter said he does not send CVs to clients, preferring to book coffee slots for clients to see three interims he knows can do the job.
I encourage clients and interims (when in an assignment, as clients) to take up this approach and ask ISPs to send interims they trust and know can do the job, rather than wade through copious CVs to select people, to then see as well.
Why should clients do all the work?
Perhaps this new approach could also serve clients in contractor selection?
Key to a transition away from CV brokerage to chats over coffee with interims known to be able to do the job is client education.
Interims (per the IIM Surveys) find 60% of their assignments themselves, and ISPs the remaining 40%.
In my view, both interims and ISPs must educate clients in new ways of getting the best ideas, talents and capabilities for critical client change and transformation needs.
All three parties in the interim industry will win by preferring a consultative interim industry approach over client CV filtering.
ISPs will need to let go, though, of their fear of losing business by not sending many CVs to clients just in case they might send the right one.
Another interim recruitment group I recently met has for quite some time separately branded their interim and contractor businesses not to confuse clients, and to focus consultants with the right skills on the right approach that fits the required client solution (interim or contractor).
Risks to Avoid
A risk I see (and two other ISPs recently visited), is the commoditised approach to interim engagement lacks sustainability.
Larger consulting houses (to whom commoditised CV brokering is anathema to their business models), will gain further market share in value-adding change and transformation work; and perhaps the interims too.
Another risk is interims forming interim practices with marketing capabilities to build on their 60% self-sourced engagements.
ISP Recommended Changes
A question for ISPs: how are you discerning, separately branding, marketing, and appropriately resourcing with skilled consultant’s client offerings?
- Do you make a distinction between interim and commodity approaches in your recruitment processes – are they clearly defined, or confused – to best serve the client base?
- Should your interim and contractor/commodity offerings have separate brands?
- Are your consultants then working with the right approaches and client connections?
It is difficult to challenge client cognitive bias (a major client benefit) in a CV. However, half-hour chats with clients about their challenges and discussing, among other things, ways other industries solve similar problems is where enhanced interim industry value-add will be gained.
All three parties (client-ISP-interim) will then be served better, and the reputation of the interim industry will grow in response because of the progression to a consultative approach.
Of course, consultants do challenge cognitive bias. However, they lack the hands-on and in-depth leadership engagement that interims are renowned, to see what is happening deep inside clients’ businesses.