Should the same rules apply to diversity in permanent and interim hiring?

Interim leaders are critical appointments. They might revive a failing business or lead a project that enables an organisation to transition to a better future. Yet interims typically do not count towards diversity targets in pay gap numbers or other diversity reporting. Is diversity in this pool less important?  

According to the Interim Management Survey 2022 from the Institute of Interim Management, more than seven out of ten interim managers are men. “There is still a long way to go,” the report commented on the lack of gender equality. More than eight out of ten interim managers identify as White British. 

“Equality must be a priority in the workforce, regardless of employment contract type” says Herve Sodatonou, Partner, Transformation. “We are at a critical juncture where workforce diversity will determine companies’ performance. Our experience shows that when diversity increases, so does performance. A culture of equality is a multiplier of growth and innovation because it allows companies to draw on multiple perspectives.” 

It is a great paradox of executive recruitment that companies seeking an interim leader to oversee a period of transformation too often do not prioritise diverse talent that brings fresh perspectives and new experiences.  

Savannah Group is actively working to offer clients greater access to diverse interim candidates. “We have a responsibility to ask the question of the client so that they can consider the value of this,” says Mary Driscoll, Partner, Interim Management at Savannah Group. “If you are going through a transformation and bringing in the same kind of people to lead that change, it will yield the same results,” points out Kersty Bletso, Partner, Technology and Digital at Savannah Group. “Whereas if you use the opportunity to bring in someone from a different background, whether that is socio-economic or by ethnicity or gender, they are going to have a different view on how things can work and they will bring a different mindset, a fresh pair of eyes.” 

One reason for an increase in the availability of diverse talent for interim roles is new working patterns since the Covid-19 pandemic. Previously candidates could be required to work away from home for extended periods. However, “because more organisations are now able to offer remote and hybrid working, it has created opportunities for people with caring responsibilities to participate more actively in the interim workforce,” says Rebecca Sharkey, Research Analyst. “Whereas pre-pandemic, to go on assignment somewhere for five days-a-week was perhaps less feasible or attractive.”  

Savannah Group is encouraging clients to maintain these flexible working conditions to improve their access to the widest talent pool. It is also encouraging talent from under-represented groups to consider working in interim roles because of the unique opportunities to upskill quickly by experiencing different sectors, business models and working scenarios. “People have an opportunity to learn more and grown more,” says Bletso. 

“If you want fresh perspectives, different experiences and knowledge transfer, then diversity should be part of the conversation” says Driscoll.  

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