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With pay rates on the rise and human resources being the second most dominant business function utilising interim managers, Jason Atkinson, Managing Director, Russam Interim, an award-winning UK interim management provider and Chair of the Interim Management Association (IMA) takes a look at the trends in HR interim management for 2014.

Many businesses rely on interim management as an essential resource and the world of HR is no different. Increasingly, organisations are seeking out the skills and experience a senior HR interim manager can offer, especially for challenging or sensitive change management or transformation projects, where an injection of senior level experience is needed for a dedicated time period.

Our latest Snapshot survey of 12,000 Interims published in January showed that over half of interim managers are being hired to provide specialist skills that are absent in businesses, 41% of interims are being brought in to design or implement new business strategies and 38% to deliver special projects.

Other growing areas are business turnaround projects, merger and acquisition work or supporting start-ups and one in five interims said they played a mentoring or coaching role as well.

Over the past year, Interims also experienced an increase in daily pay rates, with average rates rising from £593 in December 2012 to £660 in December 2013. Daily rates for HR interims have followed this upward trend too, with rates rising from £548 in December 2012 to £586 at the end of 2013, making HR the fifth highest paid interim discipline.

These pay rises indicate the willingness for companies to pay handsomely to access top talent and specialist skills, especially for implementing a new strategy or starting a special project.

Carole Harden, an experienced HR Interim Director whose client experience includes HMRC, Transport for London and the Department of Transport amongst others recently spoke to me about the trends she is seeing for interim work in HR.

Carole believes that interim management has become more established in recent years with more companies realising that it is possible to fill a skills gap with a highly qualified person at very short notice. One growing trend is for organisations to buy in senior level expertise rather than ‘grow their own,’ because they are increasingly more comfortable with having a healthy turnover of expertise rather than the classic long-term employee model. They see the benefit of the breadth of organisational experience an interim can deliver and how this can impact the business in a positive way.

According to the Institute of Interim Management (IIM) human resources is the joint second most dominant business function utilising interim managers, representing 16 per cent of the total interim market along with roles in finance in 2013, the same as it was in 2012. Human resources and finance are only beaten by board and general management as being the most dominant business sector demanding interims at 19 per cent.

So what kinds of assignments are out there for HR interim managers? According to Carole Harden it’s “at the top end, transformation is at a premium.”  This is something we are seeing too – change and transformation is currently the number one discipline for interims according to our research.

One good example of transformation HR interim work is the work we did with Southern Cross Healthcare, when it was faced financial crisis in 2011. Southern Cross urgently required experienced TUPE specialists who would be able to handle this high profile project and deal with the transfer of Southern Cross employees and the Trade Union (GMB) – all within tight deadlines.

We were able to place several senior HR interims with TUPE experience to transfer all Southern Cross’s 41,000 employees, assets and care homes to 49 new operators in total to meet the desired timescales. This project was only successful because the interims knew exactly how to handle this challenging brief which was politically sensitive and required them to manage employee contractual documentation, deal with Trade Unions, employees and advise on employment relations issues amongst other things.

It’s not just about high flyers though; there are still a number of gap filling opportunities available for HR Interims whilst companies wait to recruit permanent managers. Demand for interims with international experience is also strong and this is an area for growth in 2014. Carole has also noticed an increase in overseas organisations beginning to look at the UK and Europe as a business destination and place to establish operations and believes that individuals with international start-up experience will be in demand.

We are also finding that Interim management is increasingly a popular career choice for women, despite a gender divide on pay rates. On average women are receiving over £150 a day less than men for an interim assignment, with the average pay rate for a man at £686 a day and for women just £519 a day. This mirrors the jobs market as a whole though, as women working full-time still earn almost £5,000 a year less men, according to TUC figures released in November 2013.

The Ipsos MORI data from the IMA highlights that 36 per cent of respondents to their survey are female and said this is a figure that continues to increase and is the highest recorded since 2010.

Overall the picture is positive and interim management will continue to be a buoyant sector of the recruitment market this year. The UK is now officially out of recession, and we believe economic growth will fuel the demand for highly qualified interims in 2014 who offer a valuable, cost-effective and flexible resource for companies looking to grow.