Over the past five years, John Delaney has worked at four hospitals across the U.S. But the human-resources executive isn't a job hopper -- at least not in the traditional sense. Rather, Mr. Delaney is among a small but growing number of executives who are lending their expertise to employers in need of temporary, highly experienced talent.While some professions -- like nursing and accounting -- have workers who are commonly tapped by employers for limited stints, in recent years companies have begun recruiting interim help at the executive level. Now as work-force demographics and economic conditions shift, more employers are warming up to the practice.
| More from WSJ.com: |
• Getting the Most Out of a Career Coach
• Working Productively as a Telecommuter
• Tip of the Week: Spearhead a Charitable Cause
Temporary executive jobs differ from consulting positions in that they require more than just strategic input. "These are situations where companies need someone who knows how to execute and operate and not just analyze," says Jody Miller, co-founder of Business Talent Group, a Los Angeles-based firm that specializes in temporary executive placements.Interim executives also typically work closely with a company's top managers and their reports, just like a full-time employee would. "You're viewed as a member of the team," says Sharon Slade, who is in the midst of a five-month stint at a global pharmaceutical company helping to redesign its packaging process.Firms that help find executive temps say that while demand for these hired guns is strongest in health care, private-equity firms are also heavily tapping high-level interim support to manage their portfolio companies. Financial-services firms, banks and insurance companies are also increasingly looking for temps in the executive suite.
|Recruiters say these days there is less of a stigma attached to candidates with interim experience on their résumés. "People are doing it more proactively versus reactively," says Linda Stewart, president and chief executive officer of Epoch, a Boston-based firm that recruits interim executives. "People are feeling a lot less loyal to any one company." In Europe, employers have long accepted the practice partly because terminating an employee is expensive and difficult, making "the cost of getting a full-time employee wrong is way too high," says Ms. Stewart.Nielsen Healthcare Group placed 150 interim executives at health-care organizations last year, a 30% increase from 2006, reports Bruce Nielsen, president of the St. Louis-based recruiter. And CMF Associates LLC, a financial-services consulting company in Philadelphia, has seen searches for temporary chief financial officers grow to about a dozen or more a month from 10 or less a year ago, says Tom Bonney, managing director.Demand is growing at such a brisk pace that at least two firms recently launched to recruit temporary executive talent in a range of industries. Eighteen -month-old Business Talent Group has 35 corporate and nonprofit clients and about 500 executives on tap for temporary assignments. And 16-month-old Epoch is working with 12 employers and roughly 600 executives. Both firms charge clients fees that include the salaries for the candidates they place. By contrast, traditional executive-search firms generally recruit senior talent for permanent positions and don't facilitate the payment process for hired candidates. However, a growing number of these firms say they are increasingly taking on searches for temporary assignments.Some companies are hiring interim executive talent to fill gaps created by retiring baby boomers while they search for permanent replacements. Others are turning to temporary help to sustain a business following a sudden departure. And, they say, the strategy has become particularly valuable in recent months because faraway recruits are taking longer to relocate due to the depressed housing market. |