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Is an interim executive the secret weapon your business needs?

The working world is undergoing a massive upheaval. The booming gig economy, a renewed focus on work/life balance, and the widespread acceptance of less rigid work structures has changed the landscape of businesses across Australia.

These changes have made their way to the upper reaches of the job ladder, spurring the growth of the “Portfolio Professional” trend. Serving as an interim executive is no longer a stop-gap measure to fill time between long-term jobs. Today, many of Australia’s top executives are actively seeking interim executive roles to build their profiles and bring flexibility and excitement to their working lives.

​Watermark recently released its Interim Executive Annual Survey for 2019, which peeks behind the curtain of the interim executive world. Let’s pull apart some of the most surprising insights from this survey to uncover why we expect to see even more Portfolio Professionals in the coming years.

The tectonic shifts opening up interim executive roles

Interim executive positions have been a common part of the modern workplace for some time now—businesses have long needed experts to fill in gaps or help pull together large projects. The current Portfolio Professional trend, however, is driven by a number of recent developments in technology, coupled with shifts in public and consumer attitudes.

Interim roles for Chief Technology and Information specialists are on the rise as a result of the complex technology most businesses need to compete in 2019. Cloud computing, new software and tech, and the ever-present threats against cyber security have prompted many businesses to need an expert on the ground, fast.

Meanwhile, both consumers and regulatory bodies are placing more scrutiny on companies. Customers are focused on the ethics and values of the businesses they support, which has opened up opportunities for Customer Experience Officers and Crisis Communication specialists on interim bases.

The Australian market itself is also playing a factor the rise in portfolio professionals. With stronger competition and shifting workplace structures, more companies are in need of interim CEO, CFO, and COO roles to address urgent issues with skill.

What’s the appeal of working as a Portfolio Professional?

Of the executives interviewed for Watermark’s report, nearly three quarters said they prefer interim work as their ‘Plan A’ to permanent positions. Why?

Flexibility and variety are the two leading factors behind this strong desire for interim executive roles. Short term assignments allow executives to try out new industries and businesses, which prevents the fatigue that often comes with working for years in the same company. With portfolio work, executives can balance interesting assignments with other personal  (family and travel time), and professional pursuits (board and advisory roles).

Still, not all Portfolio Professionals want to stick with interim work forever. Around 25% of respondents said they take on interim positions in the hope of being considered for a permanent role.

How businesses benefit with Portfolio Professionals

As more individuals with executive experience join the ranks of interim workers, businesses can look forward to a number of advantages. Watermark’s report delved into these advantages, asking respondents to cite the greatest attributes they could offer an organisation.

Experience took the top position; most interim executives know that their years of experience can be a huge advantage; they’ve ‘see it before’, have deeply honed ‘super powers’ and can often better navigate the ecosystem over candidates who may have only worked for one or two businesses over the last few years.

Results and profit both made the list as well. With experience comes the ability to ‘hone into problems’, streamline processes, reach new audiences, and agilely address issues, clearing the way for stronger results with better payoffs for the business.

Fresh perspective is yet another aspect interim executives can bring to the workplace. An outsider executive will bring an  objective set of eyes, and can help a business break out of “herd mentality” that would steer them down the wrong path if left unchecked. Interim executives delight in solving the problem, leaving a legacy and moving on to the next challenge.

Whether you’re an organisation looking to bring in a new executive team member, or you’re an interim executive looking for your next role, Watermark is here to help. We have years of experience matching interim executives with businesses in need. Get in touch today to learn more.