As we hurtle towards the end of the year, I thought it would be helpful to give our network a snapshot of what we’re seeing in the interim HR space.
I think it’s apparent to most that the availability of interims far outstrips demand right now and has been the case for much of this year. That said, there is certainly opportunity out there and specialist roles such as Reward, HRIS and senior generalists with expertise in change/transformation have weathered far better. More broadly, the market remains very reactive – at the last minute roles can still be cancelled or given to the elusive ‘internal candidate’ (I’m starting to feel sorry for them –surely it doesn’t instil much confidence if they were such an afterthought?!), whilst unexpected poor quarterly results can cause a project to suddenly be kicked into the long grass and that urgent interim need is no longer.

The uptick in activity that many believed would come in September seems to have belatedly arrived in the last few weeks and, as we look cautiously towards 2024, I thought I’d share some observations for those who are interested:

Solutions, solutions, solutions
There has been an appetite amongst clients (which has only increased) to work in partnership to find the best solution to their problem. Whether that is greater flexibility in working arrangements, navigating skill/cost challenges by bringing a more experienced (and therefore more expensive) interim in but on a part-time as opposed to full-time basis, or working with us to satisfy IR35 requirements, organisations seem open to navigate issues and find an arrangement that works best for both parties more than ever before.

Fractional Interims
Sounding like a Terminator movie sequel, the Rise of the Fractional Interim is something I’m being asked more and more about. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on this topic in more detail in the next couple of weeks but interestingly a large proportion of the interim work we’re delivering falls into this category. But what is it? Well, it’s essentially someone who is engaged to deliver a specific piece of work over a certain period of time but isn’t necessarily required to do so working full-time, certain days or even a set number of days each week – it’s far more fluid. As an example, in more than one instance we’ve had clients utilise a fractional interim to support with some key strategic directives whilst also working with the CEO to scope what the organisation needs longer-term in a permanent CPO to help deliver the business’ objectives in the mid-to-long term.

Rates remain competitive
As many HR leaders deal with the downward pressure to ‘do more with less’, there’s the concern that day rates may dip as a byproduct, but we’ve seen nothing to support this. Everyone remembers the post-pandemic surge in recruitment where those who had been working on lower rates voted with their feet and moved to secure more reasonable rates elsewhere. There will be no repeat of that – companies aren’t trying to take advantage of what is arguably a buyer’s market and are simply paying what they need to secure the right talent. It’s justifying the hire in the first place which is the challenge right now.

It’s not you
One thing I really want to emphasise is the number of great interims that are on the market at present. This doesn’t initially sound very reassuring but it’s important to remember that if you’re finding the market tough or have come runner up in a process (perhaps more than once!) it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong nor does it mean you’re not great at what you do – it’s just highly competitive currently and some of the best interims we know are experiencing exactly the same.

An improving market?
After a somewhat sluggish start to the year, job flow has continued to increase and Q3 saw us closer to the highs of the last couple of year. There isn’t enough happening to give us the confidence to say things are definitely on the up and 2024 remains an unknown quantity but we remain cautiously optimistic for what’s to come.

Mark Ladds
Interim Partner