Interim Q & A: Discussing Interim Selection with a Hospital HR Executive An interview with a Chief Human Resources Officer of a 3-Hospital System in S.E. USA, - by Managing Director Zach Besheer.
Q: Could you tell us about your role within your organization?
A: I am currently the vice president of Human Resources for a healthcare organization with 7200 employees. I have been in HR for 30 years and in this particular role for one year. Along with numerous other responsibilities, I manage interim leadership transitions for my organization.
Q: What are the pros and cons of working with a firm to select an external interim versus engaging an internal interim?
A: [With an internal interim], they're already here, they're already within your system, and you're just going to move someone over on a temporary basis. The pro is they're a known entity, the con is they're already filling a role, so you're going to have a gap. What will they leave behind? If it's an internal promotion-type interim, is that person going to become the boss of their peers? Can you increase their span of control? All of that has to be called out before you put them in that role. And those are some critical, crucial conversations that are hard to undo.
The other component is, sometimes the interim role can go on much longer than anyone anticipated. And what's that going to do to that person and their current, permanent role? How long can you sustain the vacancy or the increased span of control? How long is that sustainable for the organization? With an internal interim, there is a cost that is not just the dollar cost of that interim. And it could also be employee relations. [The pro of an external firm is] they know what you're looking for. They have partnered with you on this. They know culture—and really, culture is one of the most important things on an interim fit. They've listened to you. They've asked why you need this person. And they turn around relatively quickly.
Q: What advice do you have for HR leaders dealing with any internal repercussions following an external interim hire?
A: First off, you need to be transparent with the circumstances of the need for an interim as much as you can be. You [might have] just fired the person who's been letting employees get away with poor attendance, or who hasn't been a good fit for the organization. Some people are okay that the person is finally gone and some people are mourning that loss. You really have to maneuver this based on the circumstances.
Q: What should someone in your position know about working as partners with an interim leader once they arrive?
A: Don't plug and abandon them. It is your responsibility to check in with them as much as it is your interim firm's responsibility. They're going to see and uncover things; Let them know that they can come to you. Take advantage of that different set of eyes and new ideas. You have an obligation to that interim as much as that interim has an obligation to you.
Q: What's the best advice you can give someone who has never hired an interim leader? What are some common misconceptions people have about working with an interim leader?
A: I think it's the idea that they're “work machines.” That they won't need a day off for something personal. Or they won't need an extended weekend at home. Or that they can live in a hotel and be perfectly content. And they think it's easy—that interims love to travel and that it's easy to leave your family to work. If you're going to have a holiday party, invite the interim. Treat them with respect, because you will probably have the interim longer than you anticipated. And the value of the interim is probably greater than you will tap into. You're going to get out of them what you give.