Key skills and experience needed to be successful interim in the Healthcare market

Driving Sustainable Change - the integral supporting act played by Interim Managers in building the new Healthcare economy

It’s estimated that the interim management industry is worth approximately a billion pounds a year in the United Kingdom – that’s big business by anyone’s standards. Across all sectors, tens of thousands of interims are employed to cover unexpected gaps, deliver key projects, or drive change and growth. Interims are seen as a source of competitive advantage – and that’s the best description of the way they are used in today’s market.

An important distinction to make is the difference between the temp/contract market and genuine interim roles. While temporary roles are typically tactical (maintaining steady state), interim roles require genuine change agents who can demonstrate knowledge transfer, legacy creation, and a consistently compelling return on investment.

That puts the demand for interims in context, and it also leads into an exploration of interims themselves. On face value, interims can appear to be looking for the lifestyle benefits of not having a permanent role. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. At senior level, interims tend to agree that they are pursuing a vocational call; the challenge of short term, high-pressure assignments that place responsibility and accountability squarely on their shoulders. The challenge and excitement of moving between organisations – and even sectors or countries – is far more of a draw than the perceived flexibility.

One interim we’ve placed several times across the Public and Private sector says she’s ‘hooked’ on testing her skills in new environments, with ever-changing stakeholder groups, new customer bases, and different organisational landscapes. We’re often apprehensive about people looking for interim work for the flexibility or lifestyle – so much is expected of senior interims that it can be an unrealistic expectation that you’ll have more free time or a better work life balance.

Across all sectors and nearly all functions, successful interims tend to demonstrate one characteristic in common: they are able to swiftly engage diverse groups of stakeholders. That ability is so important in an interim assignment, since interims need to hit the ground running, very often executing projects or implementing initiatives that span a number of organisational departments, as well as internal and external stakeholders at all levels.

The interims we look to partner with are skilled communicators, can readily engage stakeholders, and have the breadth of knowledge and gravitas to see the big picture while they’re focusing on their specific area. Interim assignments at the senior level also require the capability to coach and mentor, since interims are there to leave a legacy of value by transferring knowledge, rather than creating a culture of dependency (which has earned management consultancy a bad name in recent times).

Within the Healthcare market, the economic situation has radically transformed the type of skills organisations are seeking. In what has historically been a ‘closed shop’, there is clearly a greater appetite for interims with commercial backgrounds bringing specialist expertise (such as M&A skills). There is also demand for those that can point to direct cost savings, significant (measurable) process improvements, and even revenue generation. There is no question that senior interim managers will have a big part to play in the next – and perhaps most sweeping – evolution of the health service. Organisations unable to access the top echelon of interim talent will struggle to succeed. 

Rob McCargow | Managing Partner | Cadence Partners. Cadence Partners provides Interim Management and Executive Search services to a wide array of healthcare clients within the NHS, the private sector and the third sector; we have a particular focus upon providing strategic and operational support to organisations during times of organisational change, turnaround, growth and reconfiguration - contact

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