Flexible staffing meets the executive suite. At a recent networking event I attended, someone asked about a position they had seen posted by 3M “seeking a Temporary US National Sales Manager for our Infection Prevention Division.”
He thought it looked funny to see “temporary” and national sales manager in the same sentence. Then someone else chimed in saying they knew of a woman who had taken a VP-level job with Ecolab, with a private office on the executive floor and a six figure salary…for six months.
“This is a good deal for both parties in my view,” says Eric Nelson, a former CFO turned management consultant, who hasn’t yet taken a temporary executive assignment, but would if the right opportunity came along.
“Companies can get the talent when they need it, and turn it off when they don’t. They don’t have to worry about the exit plan for an executive, no golden parachutes and the like, and the executive can be honest in their work and not be constantly worrying about politics and their posture and standing with the C-suite.”
So why do executives want to “temp?”
Sometimes the motivating factor is the boredom that soon may set in after a big career and early retirement. One recruiter told me his typical short-term executive client is a 50-to-65-year-old empty nester who is already tired of the golf course and the condo life in Florida or Arizona.
The typical short-term executive client is a 50-to-65-year-old empty nester who is already tired of the golf course and the condo life in Florida or Arizona.
Even though many of these execs may not need the money, the cash is still pretty sweet. Temporary C-level employees might earn from $1,000 to $2,000 per day for an assignment that could run anywhere from six to 18 months. Of course they don’t get the stock options and other forms of compensation available to their permanent counterparts, but they might have already earned the big bucks in their previous life.
Many aspiring temporary execs work with a recruiting firm. But that’s not the only way.
“Just like with permanent positions, networking is still key,” says Nelson. “Of course we all bring our networks and connections from our years in corporate America. If you are interested in a short term assignment, you can just put the word out and start talking to people. Not every company uses this model of course, but it seems to be becoming a little more popular.”
Linda Stewart is CEO, President and founder of EPOCH, a company she formed in 2007 to introduce a new talent management resource to organizations. She acts as a broker of independently employed financial service executives who offer their project based consulting services to help companies accelerate the completion of critical business initiatives.
Stewart says her model is “different from traditional consultants that focus primarily on strategy, these executives are all about execution.”
She told The Wall Street Journal “people are feeling a lot less loyal to any one company,” and because terminating an employee is expensive and difficult, making “the cost of getting a full-time employee wrong is way too high.”
“Because terminating an employee is expensive and difficult, the cost of getting a full-time employee wrong is way too high.”
The demand for executive temps seems to be strongest in health care. I also know a private-equity firm who is always looking for C-level execs for projects and assignments, although some of those are in the turnaround space, which is another subject – and personality type – entirely.
Nielsen Healthcare Group in St. Louis placed 150 interim executives at health-care organizations last year. Here are some of the reasons they list as to why an organization might be in the market for such an arrangement.
- Because sometimes it disserves the organization to leave a key management position vacant
- Sometimes it’s possible to develop an in-house candidate for advancement before the vacancy occurs / sometimes there isn’t any in-house candidate available
- Sometimes it won’t do the organization any harm to leave a position vacant for a while / sometimes quality patient care depends upon, regulatory bodies expect, and the financial health of the organization requires that key management positions be filled with competent individuals
- Sometimes the search for the next regular permanent manager can be concluded quickly / sometimes the search can drag on for several months and even longer
- Sometimes someone on staff can cover the vacancy / sometimes no one on staff has the knowledge-base or time to take on additional duties
- Sometimes money can be saved by leaving the position vacant / sometimes the lack of a capable manager costs more than it saves
- Sometimes things are going so well that the operation can just coast until the regular permanent candidate is hired / sometimes problems need to be fixed, opportunities need to be realized, before the regular permanent candidate is hired
Traditional executive-search firms generally recruit senior talent for permanent positions of course, but it appears a growing number are increasingly taking on searches for temporary assignments.
Are you? We’d love to hear from some recruiters or executive search pros who have experience working with executive temps, and who can share some of the highs and lows.