Expert Insights

Interim or permanent – when is it right to make the switch?

It’s rare for career interim managers to take a permanent role. One who recently did just that is John Adkins, an executive with vast experience of devising and delivering organisational change, who has also led companies at the highest levels. We spoke to John about why he did it and what individuals and companies should consider before making the switch.

There are many benefits for using interim executives: they bring experience, expertise and objectivity to help companies navigate the huge complexities of change.

Similarly there are advantages to making a career out of being an interim. “I love the variety; the ability to come into different situations and companies where my distinct skills really made a difference,” says John. But recently he made the relatively unusual step for an interim to switch to a permanent contract, joining the payroll of the last company he worked for. Why?

“There were several drivers,” he explains. “My task as CEO, to achieve sustainable performance improvement in young volatile markets, was of at least one or two years’ duration; so there was plenty of work left for me to do on the assignment. Also, the client wanted someone for the longer term which would be seen by the organisation as a sign of stability. It was also appropriate from a tax point of view for me to go permanent. Finally, it suited me. I found myself in a business that was incredibly interesting.”

A growing trend?

John suspects we could see a trend for companies taking on more interim managers as permanent executives. “This year businesses began to realise that some of the big macro-economic threats had receded,” he says. “But they also know the government isn’t going to create growth for them, and so companies may be looking to secure the longer term services of experienced interim managers to do just that.”

Of course any move of this kind has to benefit both parties and each situation must be considered on its own merits. For the interim manager, there may be a number of reasons why he or she feels the time is right to go permanent. Factors may include an excellent financial package, an opportunity for job stability in a still-turbulent market, geographical reasons (ie closer to home) or the chance to take one last major role before retirement.

However, John believes interims should be cautious about being seen to pursue permanent roles, as it could undermine their credibility among some interim management providers. “If it’s the client who’s pushing, that’s one thing. But if you’re applying for lots of permanent roles, that could send the wrong signal.”

“You should also carefully consider the contract you’re being offered,” he says. “Just because a role is ‘permanent’, doesn’t necessarily mean you have any more stability, especially considering you can be made redundant in the first two years without receiving a pay off. It’s wise to make sure you have a contract that suits you. Whatever the reasons, I believe a good interim should put the needs of the business first.”

Weighing up the costs

Companies also need to think wisely before attempting to lure an interim executive. “Ostensibly it could look like a cheaper option – but once you take into account national insurance, holidays, benefits etc, a permanent could cost about the same or even more. Plus you need to keep your executive motivated. Will they be able to stay focused on the change project, once they become more a part of the company’s culture and everything that goes with that? Will they be able to retain the objectivity that made them so attractive in the first place? And what will they do when that project is finished?”

There is no hard and fast rule and every situation is different. But if John’s correct and we do see a trend for businesses to offer more permanent positions, interim executives could find themselves faced with some very interesting decisions to make.

Following the successful restructuring of his client’s business, John has now returned to the interim world.

Interim to permanent:

  • We could be seeing a trend for more permanent opportunities opening up for interim managers
  • Interim managers need to carefully consider a range of factors including type of contract and whether it’s best for them – and the business
  • Companies should fully explore the cost implications and whether the permanent executive would still be able to carry out the job they were asked to do as an interim

John Adkins

John Adkins is an experienced senior executive who has held several chairman, CEO and MD roles in large and small companies. John is a turnaround professional with a keen interest in managing change and improving businesses. He has undertaken turnaround assignments on behalf of banks, PLCs, private equity and accountancy companies.

Williams Bain

Williams Bain is an exclusive hybrid interim and change management provider. We’re trusted by some of the UK’s largest organisations to support the implementation of complex strategies that accelerate results and lead to definitive, positive and measurable change.