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Filling a gap by hiring an interim manager Back  
Pioneer Global Investments, apart from being one of Dublin’s largest operators in its field, is also the human resources (HR) centre for the group’s international operations, managing the requirements of no less than fifteen regional offices worldwide. This wide-ranging remit would present serious challenges for any HR department, but the picture in this case is compounded by the complexity of the group’s compensation and benefits arrangements, which include equity-based reward schemes for executives across a multitude of jurisdictions.

Interim manager Peter Rowley with Pioneer's human resources manager, Una Kilduff.

This complexity makes the HR department’s ‘end year review’ an intensely pressurised affair, lasting six months from September to March, and demanding a highly developed and specialised skill set. So, when the Compensation and Benefits manager booked maternity leave just as this hectic review period was to begin, the need to find a capable and qualified replacement was very real.

Una Kilduff, HR manager with Pioneer, knew the required ‘comp & bens’ skills could not be provided from within the group’s own resources here in Ireland, and couldn’t even be sure they might be found elsewhere in this country, (the incumbent had been recruited from the UK). She was equally aware that she could not fill the gap herself – at least not without other aspects of her work suffering. However, she did have an awareness of the availability, and potential, of interim management as a solution for this type of contingency, and so turned to InterIM Solutions Ltd to provide a suitable replacement to see her department through the six month long review period.

Four candidates were initially presented by InterIM Solutions, and the one judged to be the best fit duly commenced as a de facto ‘comp & bens’ manager in September of last year. The manager, Peter Rowley, was chosen for the scope and depth of his managerial skills and prior experience, his evident people skills, and how he’d fit into the established patterns of Pioneer’s HR department.

As with all interim managers, he was expected to take up the reins in short shrift– ‘interims’ as a breed do not expect any honeymoon period when they take up an assignment. What did surprise Una, however, was the low level of supervision required of her: under the assignee’s direction, the comp & bens function within her department operated with very much the same degree of autonomy as before – only a brief familiarisation period was necessary on the interim manager’s part – and she was free to devote her own energies to where they could add greatest added value to the organisation, rather than picking up the slack for an absent colleague.

An important factor in the manager’s success, both in landing the post and in subsequently discharging his duties, was the quality of the diagnostic process he conducted at the outset. As an organisation, Pioneer is a highly complex and unique entity, and the assignment demanded that the /interim/ gain an understanding – up front – of what the job entailed; how Pioneer’s HR department functioned, and how he should work with those around him to see the end-year review through to a successful conclusion.

A good interim needs good people skills, and a key aspect to the success of this assignment was the working relationships the manager formed with those around him, integrating with the team and ensuring that the work gets done and to the required standard. This does not imply that an interim is a carbon copy replacement for the person he or she replaces. Everyone has their own unique way of working, and an oft cited benefit of interim management is the fresh perspective that comes with the temporary manager’s experience, qualifications, and insight.

The daily rate for an interim manager is more than the nominal salary of the person they replace, but this takes account of the fact that they must finance their own holiday pay, pension contributions, sick leave, etc. Even at this higher nominal rate, however, Kilduff is in no doubt as to the benefit to her department and the organisation it serves.

Interim management has proved a positive and effective experience for Pioneer Global Investments, she says. Not only would she use it again if the need arose, but would recommend it as a valuable weapon in the HR armoury for any organisation in similar circumstances.

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