July 1, 2009
Column | labor pool

Temporary help for the executive suite

Need short-term management help? Right now, you can have your pick of highly qualified professionals who are looking for something to tide them over until the job market picks up.

By Donald Jacobson and Shelley Safian

Smart managers understand that a business is only as good as its people. But they're more the exception than the rule. There are still plenty of managers out there who see employees as a drain on the balance sheet. They're the ones who began handing out pink slips left and right as stock prices and revenues plummeted last fall—sometimes wiping out whole departments with a single swing of the ax.

Their loss may be your gain, especially if your company is in need of some high-level short-term help. Thanks to all of the organizations around the country making similar cuts, there's a vast pool of talented, highly qualified professionals who are looking for something to tide them over until the job market picks up. These are experienced, welleducated professionals willing to work on a contract basis. And they could be the ideal solution for employers that can't add permanent headcount but need someone to handle specific, highly targeted projects, like spearheading a restructuring effort, designing and implementing a new system, or salvaging important customer relationships.

The idea of bringing in management temps might go against the grain for some companies, but it's really not such a far-fetched notion. Your company has probably hired interim personnel before, perhaps bringing in seasonal help—order pickers, shipping clerks, or customer service reps—during peak periods. Hiring short-term management talent to get you through a crunch isn't all that different. This approach has already been used successfully by companies to fill short-term finance, legal, and technical positions.

But how do you find qualified candidates in your area? Recruiters can help. In recent months, some of the professional supply chain recruiting organizations have been developing networks of talent throughout the country. They've compiled extensive databases with the names of local professionals who can meet specific challenges, who have experience in specific industries, and so forth.

For companies with short-term needs, the advantages of hiring interim executives are obvious. You can find experienced people with the specific talent or skill you're seeking, and who can hit the ground running. The company pays for what it needs, with no extras. (An interim personnel agreement doesn't necessarily include health insurance, or even paid sick or vacation time.) And it's a no-stringsattached arrangement. You hire them to get a particular job done, and once they finish the assignment, that's it—no long-term commitments necessary or even implied. When the economy bounces back, everyone is free to renegotiate or walk away.

But these deals can also be highly advantageous to companies whose needs may extend beyond the short term. Think about it. When the economy recharges and you get the approval to start hiring again, you already have some candidates—people you've had the opportunity to work with and observe in action. With them, you know exactly what you're getting. Their knowledge, skills, work ethic, and productivity have all been tested under real-world conditions; you don't have to rely on a hunch.

In these difficult economic times, layoffs and hiring freezes have become the order of the day. But interim management talent can help keep the company running at peak performance levels until the recovery takes hold.

About the Authors

Donald Jacobson
Columnist
Don Jacobson is the president of Optimum Supply Chain Recruiters, a recruiting organization that specializes in the placement of management personnel in the logistics field on a nationwide basis. You can reach him by calling Optimum SCR at (800) 300-7609 or by visiting the firm's Web site, www.OptimumSCR.com.

More articles by Donald Jacobson
Shelley Safian
Columnist
Shelley Safian is vice president of marketing for Optimum Supply Chain Recruiters, a recruiting organization that specializes in the placement of management personnel in the logistics field on a nationwide basis. You can reach her by calling Optimum SCR at (800) 300-7609 or by visiting the firm's Web site, www.OptimumSCR.com.

More articles by Shelley Safian

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