Gap Management: A Key Human Resources Function
In today’s successful organizations it is the HR personnel who facilitate the hiring practice for the organization. Generally, hiring policies and procedures are developed within this area and HR expertise drives the strategies for staff replacement and utilization. Current research suggests one of the most costly functions an organization incurs is as a result of the following human resource activities:
- Moving forward with hiring replacement staff without taking the time to evaluate the position and its current relevancy.
- Rushing to a decision because of the negative impact created by a lengthy vacancy.
- Moving forward with a new hire when the manager is required to “settle” for a candidate who is less than desired.
- Making a long term commitment to a new hire without being fully committed to the need for such a position.
A favourite caution in human resource circles when it comes to hiring practices is “It takes 30 minutes to hire and 30 years to retire an employee – you better get the first step right!”. To facilitate a good hire an organization has to step back and evaluate their needs. It is in these very cases when interim expertise could be utilized to manage the gap and allow the organization to make a well informed decision on “where-to-from-here”.
Interim Management (IM) as a business practice has been around as long as organizations have existed although it was not identified in specific terms as it is today. Since the early ‘80s, the concept and use of interim managers as a resourcing tool for organizations has received attention from academic researchers and policy makers as well as practitioners. Today, there is significant variation in IM practice, descriptions and utilization. These practices vary based on geography, industry and even organizational discipline. A Russam GMS study published in June 2009 entitled Snapshot of the Interim Management Market identified the various types of interim managers and their frequency within the market in the United Kingdom. The top four business sectors utilizing interim management were in Government and Health Care (24%), Consumer/Retail (14%), Manufacturing and Engineering (12%) and Nonprofit (8%). From a functional perspective interim managers’ utilization in general management positions accounts for 31%, finance 16%, operations 14%, and 11% for both sales/marketing and human resource. IM positions are created most often to manage a project or change initiative, with the position generally lasting from three to 36 months. The breakdown for utilization of interim managers ranked according to function is: change management 25%, program and project management 25%, business improvement 20%, gap management 17% and crisis management 9%.
As a Human Resource (HR) professional, with the majority of my experience within the public sector, there are a number of statistics within this study that I find informative. It is rather surprising to me that a full 70% of the IM work performed falls within the areas of change management, project management and business improvement, while only 17% falls within gap management. When it comes to staff replacement, one of the major concerns expressed by management to their HR service providers (whether they be in house or external) is the time, cost and lost productivity they experience in the hiring process. Local managers want their replacement staff in place immediately, want the best possible replacement and want it to happen without loss in productivity. While these are essential components of a good hire and appropriate gap management, they are, in most cases mutually exclusive without utilizing interim expertise to allow the time to facilitate the best hire possible. HR staff needs to take the lead in developing hiring practices that allow the organization to make the best hires possible and resist the pressure to simply fill the void with the current available option.
Through the utilization of interim managers the organization is provided with functional expertise in a timely fashion as well as an expert who can help assess the organization’s needs without having a vested interest in the continuation of the position. They can participate in the evaluation and prioritization of current practices in the specific area and provide unbiased input into the review of the position. Identifying gaps that may not be obvious to internal expertise, and provide sufficient time and expertise to facilitate the transition and orientation of the newly acquired permanent employee are critical functions that are essential to a good hire.
All of these positive outcomes can be realized by utilizing Gap Management, which accounts for a relatively low percentage of IM utilization (17%), and interim expertise as a standard HR practice. A gap management strategy that addresses these needs will strengthen the hiring process and in turn strengthen the organization.