Driving Corporate Innovation: Talent Strategies For Today’s Businesses

CEOs are charged with developing strategies for meeting business objectives. Competitive and functional strategies – whether looking at growth, stability, or renewal – typically evolve around such things as sales, profits, new and existing customer base, just to name a few.

More and more companies are looking to another strategy: using top-tier interim executives. If you have been operating under the premise that an interim executive (IE) is 1) used only for vacancies; 2) brought in when companies are in trouble; or 3) too expensive, then you are being left behind in an increasingly competitive landscape.

We interviewed executives at Cerius who go into the field every day and meet with corporate CEOs to discuss ways companies are using interim executives – and dispel a few myths along the way. Answering the following questions can help you see if you are missing a key strategy for your company, as well as a critical innovation driver.

Corporate Innovation: Are you in, or anticipating you’ll be in, an innovative growth strategy, looking at a merger, acquisition, or expansion into new markets?

Mergers and acquisitions are highly specialized processes requiring significant expertise. Rare is the company of any size that has the in-house talent available to execute these transactions, nor would they be able to support such talent on a permanent, full-time basis. Expansions into even regional markets require a certain expertise that you need, but can’t justify for a permanent position. International expansions face even bigger challenges, such as regulations and reconciling business practices with government policies.

Corporate Innovation: Why it’s important and how an IE can help:

Growth initiatives such as expansion often just need someone to kick it off and ramp it up, without requiring a high-level person to maintain it for a long-term or permanent basis. Small- to mid-sized companies in particular may have difficulties even drafting a job or capabilities description, or knowing how to relate to players in the process. An IE can easily transfer knowledge to competent in-house staff to manage the expansion. Mergers and acquisitions have a lot of moving parts: financial, legal and human resources. Utilizing IEs is a talent strategy that this type of transaction requires.

Corporate Innovation: Are you considering hiring a consultant to launch a new initiative or revamp an existing one, such as an IT system or manufacturing process?

According to one of our interviewees, the critical difference between an IE and a consultant is typically execution. “IEs are hands-on executors,” she says. “Consultants are planners.” A consultant may do a great job of choosing an appropriate system or process for your company, but then what? You have paid a lot of money for a plan and now need to budget for execution. “Contingent workers can add to an organization’s intellectual capacity and provide instant expertise as needed.” (link: www.talentondemand.org/toda.pdf) Planning expertise is different than implementation experience and an eye toward innovation – which IEs absolutely possess.

Corporate Innovation: Why it’s important and how an IE can help:

It can take a lot of human bandwidth, as well as expertise, to implement any new initiative or revamp an existing procedure. Even if you have the on-staff expertise, can your company withstand the time constraints while performing existing duties? IEs are used for hands-on work – they get their hands dirty. They are also proficient at knowledge transfer so that your employees can seamlessly maintain once the IEs leave.

Corporate Innovation: Do you follow the rule of “Hire slow, fire fast” even when you have a vacancy?

We encounter many companies who believe they have a good internal succession program in place to fill the void of a vacant position, and that back-filling a position is adequate enough to “get by” while looking for that full-time employee. As one of our executives put it, however, “Having the wrong person is an intangible cost, regardless of how long the vacancy exists. You are filling a position but losing opportunities by not having the best person for the job.” Innovation does not grow from a strategy of “getting by.”

Why it’s important and how an IE can help: Interim executives have often held positions at Fortune 1000 and all the way up to Fortune 100 companies, yet are motivated by helping companies – not by money. Most have a mix of large- and small-company experience and can step into any situation to fill a void. This doesn’t leave out your existing employees. While filling an existing vacancy an IE can assess other team members to determine if they can step up, while helping put procedures in place. The IE may even determine the position is unnecessary, or find another cost-saving strategy. The bottom line is that with an IE you have less risk than a full-time, permanent hire, and have given yourself the opportunity to discover whether or not a full-time position is even necessary.

Final Thought: Have you considered trying the executive out first on a project basis?

More and more, companies are bringing contract professionals into the company on a project basis before making a decision whether to hire for a more permanent position. Both the company and the executive can make a more informed, longer term decision based on hands-on information rather than speculation and hope. Often we see a company end up with a more experienced executive than their budget originally allocated for since the executive is more willing to work within it after working inside the company on a project or two first.  Conversely, we also see companies willing to expand the budget once they start to see the types of top and bottom line results the executive can bring them.  You can see why this is becoming more of a common approach as a win-win for all.

To learn about how Cerius Interim Management can help you, please visit our home page by clicking here.


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