Though we appear through the thick of it, the Great Resignation has had rippling consequences that continue to affect numerous industries. Moreover, its reach is still felt at the highest levels of business, in the C-suites of companies big and small. A record-setting number of CEOs chose to leave their posts in 2021, and the top brass continues to thin its ranks in 2022. The search for C-suite replacements is growing fierce—especially since there aren’t enough qualified candidates to go around.
As companies seek to replace departing or already departed leadership, they’re faced with a precarious situation. They need to fill vacant positions quickly, with qualified leadership—while also battling recessionary forces and market turbulence. Faced with this cocktail of stressors, more and more organizations are turning to a stopgap solution: interim executives.
Defining the role of an interim executive
As the name suggests, interim executives aren’t a permanent solution to a vacant C-suite role. Rather, they’re individuals brought in to create short-term stability as the company searches for a long-term solution. Given this definition, it’s no surprise that companies in 2022 have jumped at the opportunities interim executive offer. As they seek to create forward-looking stability, interim leadership presents organizations with a win-win situation.
The core role of an interim executive boils down to a few critical expectations, which are largely situational. These can include:
- Providing a stopgap between an outgoing C-suite member and a to-be-determined hire.
- Emergency support in a high-level position after the sudden departure of an executive.
- Bringing situationally specific insights to a particular challenge the company faces.
- Guiding the organization through turbulence caused by market, M&A, expansion, etc.
In many ways, interim executives are stewards: they move the company towards its objectives in the face of challenges. In 2022, more and more companies are facing these challenges.
Demand for situational leadership surges in 2022
Interim hires are up in 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Demand for chief executives—broadly defined as CXO positions—is up a staggering 20.1% this year. Moreover, BLS data indicates that there’s strong competition for these individuals, as companies jockey to outbid each other for their services. Interim C-suite leadership wages are up an average of 5.7% in 2022.
The surge in interim leadership hires doesn’t end in the C-suite, either. Top executives across different sectors and positions have also seen a rise in hiring, ranging from 5.4% among Special Operations Managers, all the way up to a staggering 38.3% rise in demand for Compensation and Benefits Managers. Other notable demand surges include:
- Advertising and Promotions Managers (35.7%)
- Social and Community Service Managers (29.9%)
- Purchasing Managers (28.2%)
- Public Relations Managers (26.1%)
- industrial Production Managers (25.1%)
- Facilities Managers (23.9%)
These hires are represented in the BLS’ broad segment on Temporary Help Services (NAICS 561320). While these hires may very well become full-time, long-tenured staff members, their initial hire represents organizations’ demand for immediate, plug-and-play solutions to leadership demand.
Outlooks for qualified leadership remain competitive
Companies looking for leadership in 2023 need to be proactive in how they seek it. With interim professionals already being poached to fill mission-critical roles, outlooks for bringing on experienced leadership remain competitive.
To onboard an interim executive, companies need to focus not on the search, but rather in defining the position: expectations, challenges, goals, timeframe, etc. Don’t just consider the company’s needs, either: consider what interim executives are looking for. They don’t just want compensation that aligns with a competitive marketplace: they want the freedom to exercise their expertise and tackle the specific challenges they’re being hired to combat. To that end, organizations need to delegate with impunity as they turn their attention to greater outlooks: finding a long-term executive to bring aboard.
Competition for executives (including interims) may be fierce, but organizations can distinguish themselves beyond being the highest bidder. Showcase culture, opportunity and structure to win qualified candidates, and reward them with meaningful, lucrative employment that puts them in a position to succeed on their own merit.
Staffing solutions have become integral
Filling an empty executive position traditionally means working in tandem with an executive search firm—someone that can identify, evaluate and screen potential candidates. The same holds true for finding an interim executive. The familiarity of this framework makes it an easy decision for companies facing increasing pressure to replace leadership quickly, with qualified professionals.
The beauty of an interim executive is that they’re well-equipped to tackle the specific challenges facing a company, and there’s an upfront agreement and expectation that revolves around these challenges. Companies aren’t hiring for permanence; they’re hiring for need. As a result, they have access to a broader talent pool and the peace of mind that comes with situational readiness.