Adapting to change: in praise of interim manager’s resilience


11 Jun 2020

Adapting to change: in praise of interim manager’s resilience

CIPFA-Penna Senior Associate Consultant Cat Bush writes in praise of the agility, adaptability she’s seeing in the interim market right now, with insights from experienced interim Pat Main.

Difficult times both need and create resilience. It could be that you’re having to work from home, look after loved ones or children if your child’s nursery is closed, or like me you’re having to home school and re-train as a teacher, it’s tough!

In no other industry is this more true than the interim market. Times are hard, assignments are on hold for some and for interims working on the front line the demands of roles are at an extreme. But we’ve seen some great examples of interims adapting and reacting well during this time.

Here’s my reflections on resilience, and how it impacts performance as an interim.

What are interim managers experiencing now?

The biggest change our interim managers have seen is the sudden necessity to work from home. Many are beginning assignments having only virtually met with the client and more often than not, having not even been onsite.

People need to feel connected, engaged and motivated and this requires our IT to run smoothly. We all know that IT can let us down sometimes and this can have a huge impact on the quality of work provide to our clients. Organisations have been working tirelessly to ensure minimal disruption for home-workers.

We have also seen a loss of earnings due to the market slowing down and whilst most full-time employees are able to be placed on furlough for a certain amount of time, our interim managers simply don’t have this luxury.

All of this requires adaptability, and an attitude that when things go wrong, you have to make the situation work for you. That’s what we at Penna are seeing in our interim community.

How have interim managers adapted?

With most interims already set up to be able to work from home they are adapting well to the new ways of working, being open to new ways of interviewing and onboarding to new roles virtually.

In more normal times, interims find themselves working geographically close to home whether that be due to family commitments or just due to personal preference. With travel restrictions and working from home now being the new ‘norm’ we are finding that our interims are now more open to working with clients further afield. This is broadening the available talent we are able to provide to our clients. It’s also helping our interims be more competitive in the market.

The impact of working from home is also allowing our interims to perhaps reduce their day rates. Not having to factor in travel costs means our clients are getting even better value for money!

As always, our available interim managers are able to start a new assignment pretty sharpish. Whether that be to provide extra support or simply to fill in a gap whilst permanent employees take time off for caring responsibilities, or R and R.  

One interim’s view of adaptivity and resilience

Pat Main, Interim Head of Finance & Assets / Section 151 Officer at Reigate and Banstead Council, has certainly experienced changes in the market. But this change has been met with flexibility in her opinion;

‘It’s remarkable how quickly the Finance team has got used to working from home, despite a few initial technical challenges. Given we previously had no video-conference technology and limited capacity for home working. Yet there has been significant increase in the Finance team’s workloads as a result of having to capture additional unbudgeted costs and income reductions as a consequence of COVID19.”

Resilience also means adapting to working differently, and working with colleagues in order to achieve the best results. Again, this is something Pat has seen at Reigate and Banstead.

“We’re working closely with the Incident Management Team that’s overseeing the council’s response to COVID 19 including regular updates on the financial impacts, new Government funding announcements and the financial implications of having to pause or change service delivery in some areas. My team have also reprioritised planned work to accommodate changes to statutory deadlines for completion of the 19/20 statement of accounts and changes to council decision-making processes.”

Stay resilient, stay in touch

The stress of working from home and being cut off from fellow team members can compromise physical and mental wellbeing so whilst at home, keeping in touch virtually is essential as is keeping in touch with your agencies so we know who is available.

If you are finding yourself at a loose end, there are many ways to stay engaged; online training & development being one, making sure all the things you wouldn’t ordinarily have time to update is updated including your linked in profile, your CV & building your personal brand.

We operate within the Public Sector so whilst things may have slowed down over the past couple of months we can’t possibly come to a complete halt. With contingency meetings starting to wind down we have seen an increase in the demand for extra support/resource and the most obvious place to seek that support from is our trusty interim network.

Stay positive, motivated and engaged. But most importantly, stay in touch.