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More procurement professionals are choosing to work on an interim or contract basis than ever before. Many firms are now heavily reliant on the services of these specialists to fill skills gaps or to lead short-term projects. If procurement chiefs and their HR colleagues can understand why they choose to do this, they stand to get more out of their services in the future.
Not being constrained by a permanent employment contract gives a person a much greater degree of flexibility in terms of their work/life balance. Obviously, that’s not to say that the firm taking them on will want them to head off early every day. However, it does mean they can factor in some downtime at the end of projects and in between roles. Some professionals choose to work for nine months of the year to allow them to take the school holidays off while others use their downtime to manage personal interests, go on holiday or simply to take a break from work.
Whatever the reason, a better work/life balance is synonymous with a happier and, in turn, more productive employee for procurement.
Working as a permanent employee for five years, you would probably experience one or two roles, however an interim in the same period could work in a dozen different roles. That means they can familiarise themselves with different operating models, cultures, character types and locations in a much shorter period of time. Consequently, it also means they can build the types of skill sets that allow them to progress further in their careers more quickly.
Working across different firms and different projects naturally allows interims to widen their experience quickly and develop sought-after skills that businesses are willing to pay more for. To the business, this makes sense. Interim professionals are often brought on board for specific projects, change management or transformation programmes of a finite length and so firms are able to reroute permanent costs – such as those perks not available to interims like pension contributions – into a higher salary. Meanwhile, some contractors work on a risk/reward model similar to that pioneered by IT firm, Perot Systems in the 1990s, which means they can claim additional earnings after the successful completion of a project.
In the procurement and supply chain fields specifically there are skills shortages and so interims are often taken on to fill roles where a permanent skillset simply isn’t available. This means interims are in a strong position to claim increased compensation.
You may have heard of the concept of ‘imposter syndrome’ where professionals, usually high-achieving ones, doubt their own ability and suffer from a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. However, that is essentially impossible for interim procurement and supply chain professionals to experience because they are able to quantify their value almost as soon as they enter the door. Joining a project for a short period of time means they can often make immediate cost savings and implement more efficient processes that will positively affect the bottom line in a very short timeframe. This allows them to build up demonstrable evidence of the value they bring to an organisation, which will be attractive to potential future employers.
This might seem like an unusual perk, but it’s one we regularly hear from interims within our network. Not being a permanent fixture within an organisation means they can sidestep any company politics, remove themselves from the gossip and simply get on with the job in hand. If you offered that benefit alone to permanent staff they would probably bite your hand off and it’s one that often attracts many professionals – particularly the more experienced ones – to the contracting arena.
Working as an interim certainly isn’t for everyone; some professionals value the security and resources of permanent employment. But for a function looking to fill a gap or to push a project forward, interims can be a good solution. Will it remain a career choice for many years to come? That is a tricky question to answer, but it is certainly true that for the now they are here to stay.
Sally Davis is director of the global interim practice at 1st Executive
This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders. Procurement Leaders received no payment directly connected with the publishing of this content.