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Interim Talent: A Growing Trend

July 10, 2014
by Tim Tolan
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Interim executives will increasingly be in demand. Here are the elements of a fruitful assignment, both for employer and employee

The number of interim executives in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world is growing and the demand for interim talent is more than just noticeable. I sincerely believe this trend will become a growing part of the employment movement here in the U.S., particularly in healthcare, and especially in HCIT-related roles like CIOs and CMIOs. If you do simple math—with the projected number of baby boomers retiring (10,000/day), coupled with the number of independent delivery networks and hospitals in the U.S., it’s easy to see that the demand will grow. The result? There will likely be a shortage of experienced healthcare executives moving forward, which means demand for interim healthcare executives will only grow over time.

The interim world can be a bit tricky. In most cases, interim executives are hired to fill a gap left by the sudden departure of a key executive. Finding the right interim solution can be very challenging, especially when it comes to dealing with the permanent staff they will be leading. The hiring manager should ensure that an interim executive not only has the functional expertise to fill the role, but also has the temperament and demeanor to make sure there is continuity with the staff during this period of change and uncertainty. Understanding an interim candidate’s ability to navigate the leadership transition is key when walking into the abyss.

I served as an interim executive vice president for a healthcare IT organization many years ago, and that experience showed me that with the right on-boarding and support from senior management, the outcome can be very positive. One of the keys for me was the support I received from the CEO and the leadership team. Without that support, the outcome and the results would have been less than impressive. In my role, the timeline for my interim work was outlined up front, and I understood exactly what the company wanted from me. I found the work both challenging and exhilarating, and while I knew it was a short-term assignment, I found myself challenged by knowing each day mattered because I only had a certain amount of time to accomplish my goals. That was key for me.

As we look ahead and you consider either taking on an interim role yourself or perhaps hiring an interim HCIT executive, make sure you evaluate candidates for the requisite skills required as if it were a permanent position. If you are taking on an interim role yourself, make sure you are able to check the following boxes:

  • Compensation (should be higher than your current salaried role);
  • Length of engagement;
  • Location in relation to your residence;
  • Employment status (W-2 employee or 1099 contractor);
  • Costs of benefits; and
  • Travel expenses to/from home at least twice monthly.

Like any permanent role under consideration, make sure you like the person you will be reporting to; it matters so much. Talk to a couple of the people who you will be working with and try to understand the culture—even though you will only be a part of it for a short period of time. Also, make sure you have the authority to perform and execute against the goals and objectives you are hired to accomplish. Those goals need to be very clearly spelled out.

Your role is critical to the organization that will be hiring you as an interim executive. They want you to succeed, and in order for both parties to do so, there must ground rules. It is very important that there is a clear understanding that your decisions can never be second-guessed by the executive team (unless it’s behind closed doors). The result would be a guaranteed failure that would be extremely difficult to overcome.

As demand for interim executives increases, you’ll be ready to meet it with an informed mindset and everyone can win if you avoid potential problems up front and treat the interim role like the professional you are.

Tim Tolan is senior partner of Sanford Rose Associates-Healthcare IT Practice. He can be reached at or (904) 875-4787. His blog can be found at