Business continuity is crucial and is growing more difficult by the day in this climate. It’s not surprising that according to a 2020 Intuit report, 80% of large corporations plan to increase their use of a flexible workforce, including interim talent, in the coming years.
But there are also several other significant long-term benefits of interim talent that last well beyond the engagement—advantages you may not have thought about. As we charge forward into the Future of Work (at a faster pace than any of us expected a mere 12 months ago), now is the time to evaluate how a flexible model could be your secret weapon for success both today and tomorrow.
Here are five additional advantages of engaging interim talent, especially now:
1. Upskill your team.
At Inspire, a successful interim assignment does more than fill a gap. To us, success means that at the end of the engagement, the surrounding team is more effective and efficient, to power the company forward.
Consider the interim bookkeeper who introduces a software that saves the team hours of spreadsheet-toiling each week. Think about the interim HR professional who also has experience in project management and teaches the team a faster method for sourcing, recruiting and interviewing. And there’s the interim marketing manager who happens to be a whiz at social media—who takes one of her temporary teammates under her wing to show her the latest and greatest in analytics capabilities, audience growth, and emerging trends.
2. Boost your resilience during periods of fluctuation.
Companies traditionally encounter periods of fluctuation at fairly predictable moments: when scaling, when scaling fast, following a merger or acquisition, and surrounding a redesign of the organization. During these times, an interim expert can keep a role functioning while also helping to pivot and adjust when it isn’t clear exactly what’s coming next. With a skilled professional in place temporarily, the company has time to evaluate their needs, make strategic decisions, and hire right.
As we begin 2021 with so much uncertainty, a workforce influx has become the norm for most organizations. Unemployment is twice as high today as it was one year ago, slow vaccine rollouts have extended timelines for when we can anticipate “normal” again, and managers are strategizing how to adjust to the growing work-from-anywhere culture. In this uncertain climate, interim talent can give leaders the space they need to make more strategic decisions for long-term success.
3. Prevent burnout.
We’ve cautioned HR leaders against assuming a team can fill-in for a colleague’s temporary leave of absence. The “make do” approach can be incredibly costly. Overworked employees can quickly grow resentful and leave the company, or, even if they stay, experience burnout with costly mental health implications.
Healthcare expenses related to burnout cost employers an estimated $1.9 billion per year. Even more concerning, UC Berkeley psychologist Christina Maslach explains the human toll: “You lose the sense of passion and meaning about what you were doing and why. You’re saying, ‘What do I have to do to get out of here and still get a paycheck?’ and then eventually, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do this? Maybe I made a mistake,’ and that leads to depression and anxiety.”
As employees grapple with the additional stresses of racial inequality, health concerns, and economic uncertainty, burnout is already a growing issue before we even think of asking someone to “pitch in” more. Interim professionals can take on the work of an unavailable colleague rather than adding to the overflowing plates of other members of the team.
4. Increase retention.
This fall, HR leaders everywhere were forced to reevaluate their retention strategies when we learned that, in September alone, 865,000 women and 216,000 men left the workplace. Keep in mind, these numbers reflect people who have stopped looking for employment or who have left a job—not those who were laid-off or considered unemployed. Meanwhile, according to McKinsey and LeanIn.org, 1 in 4 women are considering leaving the workforce. And while at work, women are twice as likely as men to worry that their performance will be negatively judged because of home responsibilities.
These figures are not surprising given the disproportionate demands on women who are also picking up more of the childcare, eldercare, and schooling at home—three times more often than their male counterparts. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept this loss of talented women as a necessary impact on our businesses and culture.
Interim professionals can help turn permanent leaves into temporary ones as employees tend to personal and family demands. Knowing that a role is attended to—and not building up a list of to-dos in an employee’s absence—also eases the transition back into the workplace.
5. Introduce diverse points of view.
Firms like Inspire, or Martellus in brand management and marketing, Early Growth for finance, Priori for legal, and other leading fractional and interim expert agencies are composed of experienced professionals with diverse backgrounds and on-the-job experiences. And this diversity of thought and experience can help disrupt a team’s flow—in a good way.
Even the best companies can fall into habits based on “how we’ve always done it.” This stagnation can stifle innovation. Interim talent will ask questions like: “I am curious why do we do it this way?” and “Is this program truly inclusive?” Plus, they’ll be able to point out when corporate-speak doesn’t quite translate to an outsider—and worse—when it’s offensive.
The best interim talent will supplement your team well beyond the duties in their job description. While their time on the team is limited, their impact will last well beyond their engagement—and help carry your organization into the future of work.