Is specialist HR support an unaffordable luxury?

Jun 28 2002 by Brian Amble Print This Article

From Jack Welsh’s legacy at the GEC empire to Jo Blogg of Jo Blogg & Son, no CEO can afford to ignore recruiting, developing, rewarding and retaining good people.

This becomes more business critical during a period of organic growth or a more radical period of change such as a merger, acquisition or divestment, as such changes will have major implications on business processes and organisational design.


Large organisations will have teams of advisors and HR professionals to advise on such issues, but SMEs don't necessarily have the resources or budget to devote to a fully-fledged HR department. In the case of smaller and especially family firms, there may be an additional concern about introducing outsiders who might not tune in to the owner’s thinking and business plans.

Hiring an interim HR manager is a flexible, affordable way of gaining top-level input from an experienced professional. Drawing from their wealth of practical experience, interim HR executives advise from an independent standpoint, but they also expect to roll up their sleeves and make it happen.

Focusing on tangible results, they work hand-in-hand with the management team shaping and implementing HR practices that suit the firm’s current needs and future aspirations. This work can range from the practical such as writing employment policies and contracts to the developmental such as identifying skills gaps and resourcing plans for future organisational growth.

The experience of one start up, whose business plan specified growth to sixty people within two years, highlights some of the business and organisational benefits that an interim HR professional can bring.

Avoiding mistakes

Kris Hutterly, vice president of finance & administration of Sign Post Films chose to take on an interim vice-president human resources with existing contacts within the entertainment industry, not only to hire staff, but also to help with security issues, write a staff handbook, implement benefits schemes and offer legal protection.

She believes that the investment made in an interim VP Human Resources prevented the company making any expensive mistakes in their recruitment process.

As HR professionals, interim managers can also train up, or provide a mentoring source for the SME employees and leave the capabilities with the business after they have left. Interims can therefore overcome any potential feelings of disenfranchisement or relinquishing control that may be caused by a permanent incumbent.

Charging on a daily rate, interim costs are lower than consultants’ fees and don’t have any employer costs as the interim is providing services as an independent contractor.

The easiest way to source an interim is through a reputable interim HR provider. These are either independent (and entrepreneurial!) businesses or operate as discrete practice areas within established HR recruitment firms.

The distinct advantage for SMEs in using a provider is the instant access to a network of professionals who have been interviewed by a consultant to prove their technical HR competence. Therefore when meeting an interim, the small firm can focus on the ‘cultural fit’ and define the parameters of the project more closely. There is also the additional security of having a managed relationship.

Giving more than advice and without undermining the permanent make-up of the management team, interims can offer a perfect solution to SMEs requiring some short-term senior level HR expertise.