What the Numbers Say: Interim in the UK

Numbers are a friend of the interim, not only for analyzing a company’s health, but also for assessing the state of the field itself.

The trick is capturing figures from a nebulous population that defies traditional employment counting or data-collecting.

The UK’s Institute for Interim Management annual survey offers one look. It captured data from roughly 2,000 interim managers and executives doing business in the UK this year. The study provides hard data regarding interim engagements in a country that has a strong tradition of engaging interims in both the private and public sectors.

It should be noted that the UK study was not limited to high level executives, but the 2,000-plus surveyed included line and project managers.

Before getting into the numbers, the study took a moment to review tax proposals that are a subject of concern in the interim community, presenting the possibility that many interims could be taxes as employees. See story here.

The following are a few highlights from the UK study:

Average age. Nearly half of the interim managers surveyed (47%) were in the age range 50-59, a proportion virtually unchanged from 2010 and 2011; the average age for an interim manager was 52.4 (52.6 in 2010, 52.8 in 2011), roughly unchanged over 8 years, according to the study.

Gender. Twenty-three percent of the interim managers surveyed were female, close to the 2011 figure, but up from the 20% in 2010.

The study showed that nearly 40% of interim managers falling into the survey’s 30-39 age group were female, compared to only 8% of the 60-69 age group. “We view this as a strong indicator that the 1 in 7 proportion of female interims at the turn of the century will have improved to better than 1 in 3 by 2020,” the study stated.

The study noted that the majority had entered and remained at the non-executive level. Ninety-one percent were in human resources and marketing.

The day rate average of £553 for females was 12 percent below the average £627-rate for males.

Sector: Sixty-nine percent of interim managers were working in the private sector, up from 64% in 2010 and 2011, while the proportion of interim managers working in the public sector has fallen from 32% to 25%. The not-for-profit and charity sector accounted for 6%. “(T)he desire that many private sector interims had in 2008/9 to move into the public sector, now appears reversed with many public sector interims seeking private sector work,” the report stated.

Roles: Interim managers were primarily engaged in specialist and change activities, according to the survey. About 14% of the assignments were “gap fill.”

Operational Level: IIM is not exclusive to C-level executives, but includes project and line management activities.“Over the last three years, the proportion of interim managers operating at executive level has fallen by about 15% (54% to 46% of the total), whilst the proportion of those engaged in line and project management activities has increased by 20% (39% to 47% of the total),” the study reported.

Functional Assignments: The most dominant business functions utilizing interim managers were finance and human resources (both 17%), board and general management (14%), procurement and operations (both 11%).

Industry Assignments: Interims were at work across a wide range of industry sectors, with about 30% evenly split between business/professional services, manufacturing, and technology/IT/Telecom, according to the survey. Healthcare/NHS/Medical came in at 9%.

Concurrent assignments: Only 15% of interim managers actively engage more than one client at a time.“Portfolio working is often discussed by interim managers, but in practice, it is still rare,” the study reported.

Assignment Gaps: The average assignment gap (median) was 2.1 months, down from a median gap of 4.0 months in 2010.

There remains a ‘two speed’ community, according to the survey. “A subset of interims are much better at going off, then back on assignment,” it stated.

Duration: The median assignment lasted 7.3 months, slightly above the 7.1 month median in 2011.

Day Rate: Day rates fell to £614 after improving in 2011 from the previous year, although the average ‘best rate’ has increased slightly to £744.

By function, board and general manager day rates were holding up reasonably, as were IT and procurement. Other functions have fallen back somewhat, the study details.

A final interesting note: in a sidebar commentary, Ashton Ward of interim search firm Eton Bridge partners, noted the need for service providers to step up and facilitate the interim curriculum. “The education or coaching process is essential as interim management is not for everyone. What makes a good interim? How should I do my CV? How do I market myself? Who else should I approach?” All issues that professional organizations servicing interims ought to provide, in his view.