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Interim management requires not only considerable availability on the part of the manager but also a great deal of flexibility, both geographically and in terms of working hours.  These requirements seem difficult to reconcile with a regular personal life.  Yet, each year more German senior managers are swelling the ranks of interim  management.  Although there is hardly an ideal formula suitable to all managers, Axel Weber – Managing Director of Morgan Philips Executive Search Germany, shares his observations on the professional life/personal life balance of German interim managers.

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Is interim management widespread in Germany? Are there a lot of managers and a lot of offers of assignments?

Many German companies have recourse to interim management to carry out a specific project or handle a delicate situation. Parallel to this more and more senior managers taking on of these types of assignment decide, at around 50 years of age, to give their careers a boost and become interim managers. This practice is well established in German thinking and the market is showing strong growth.

Around how many months per year, on average, are interim managers active?

Assignments last between three months and a year. The duration varies depending on the type of project. Between two missions, some managers allow themselves several months’ vacation. On the other hand, some managers try to string assignments together. But managers do not receive any compensation once their assignment is finished. The choice then is rather a function of the manager’s personal financial needs. Nevertheless, interim management gives both the employer and the manager the possibility to benefit from a certain flexibility. An interim manager works on average around nine months per year. The manager’s specialities and his personal circumstances (mobility, availability, etc.) are the factors which will determine the number of assignments he or she will be given. The number of assignments offered by German companies is increasing each year.

Managers must achieve a lot in a short space of time. Does this mean they must be 100% available throughout the life of the assignment?

Interim managers are paid between 800 and 1500 Euros per working day. Companies expect from them a total dedication to the assignment, which is often very sensitive, and not just the provision of rare skills. The manager will have specific objectives; he or she must be sufficiently available to achieve them. Naturally this implies a not inconsiderable workload; however, the same is also true for internal positions with high responsibility. Managers can vary complex assignments with simpler ones in order to have more time to dedicate to their families and their private lives in general. Some interim managers alternate interim assignments with fixed term contracts, like this they can plan for the medium term. Interim management is a way of breaking the routine. A single assignment can be enough to give a major boost to a career.

How do interim managers manage their family and private lives in this context of high demands on time and a results driven culture?

Interim management requires sound experience. The average age of interim managers is around 50 – 55. At this age the children are already grown up and no longer live at home. Difficulties of organisation lie rather in mobility. An interim manager must be ready to up and go at very short notice. He or she can choose to be mobile only within Germany, within Europe or anywhere in the world. This is not just a problem for interim managers of course; it is faced by managers with highly responsible functions in general. A company head must also be ready to leave to visit a foreign subsidiary at a moment’s notice if there is an emergency.

Essentially then, the issue of work-life balance for interim managers is rather the same as the issue for senior managers in a company. Germans say they are satisfied with their work-life balance (8th place in a ranking of 23 countries offering the best private/professional life balance, according to the American magazine The Atlantic, in 2012). What other advantages offered by German companies do contract workers appreciate?

Companies have understood that in a situation where there is a shortage of talents – linked to both an ageing population and to a need for more specialised skills, investing in talent retention has become essential. German managers are generally satisfied with the balance of their private and professional lives offered by German companies. Tele-commuting and flexitime arrangements allow parents to manage both their careers and their family lives. Company cars are also much appreciated. The prestige effect of a luxury car is a real vote-winner. Finally, careful nurturing of talents and career management remain vital. The battle for talents is not over, far from it. If these elements are helping to retain certain talents today, companies and Human Resources departments should already be thinking about new infrastructures, new tools and new types of contract in order to win the battle for talents of tomorrow.

 

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