How to Get Ahead in the Hiring Waiting Game

In an atmosphere of economic uncertainty, hiring freezes, and budget restrictions, business leaders face a growing list of open roles and stalled initiatives. But in an era of quick changes in consumer behavior, new product offerings, data and digital advancements, and a spike in M&A activity—to name a few of today’s challenges and opportunities—this is no time to delay major initiatives.

When teams are stretched thin and leadership vacancies slow momentum, it’s easy to get bogged down. But you can keep advancing the ball down the field—and doing more with less—by harnessing the speed and flexibility of on-demand talent. Innovative companies are not only placing traditional interim leadership roles, but also boosting capacity up and down the org chart with interim and temporary engagements at the leadership level.

Here are some of the ways that leading companies are using on-demand talent to keep moving forward on critical priorities amid today's uncertainty:

1. Start Building Capabilities Ahead of a Full-Time Hire

You might have a critical role open, but that doesn’t mean you need to wait until that position is filled to move on key priorities. In fact, getting a jump start on critical work ahead of time is a great way to set your future permanent hire up for success.

[Case Study] A multi-billion-dollar grocery chain was in the midst of optimizing its ecommerce fulfillment network, but an open Chief Data Officer role was slowing progress on the project. By engaging an interim data science leader, the team secured much-needed expertise and leadership right away, which not only enabled the company to stay competitive during a boom in online purchasing, but also helped ensure the eventual new CDO could hit the ground running.

2. Take Two Smaller Steps Instead of One Big One

When companies are looking to set up or to step up new business lines, new functions, or new capabilities, they often approach leadership needs with a strong vision of the future state they are building toward. Not surprisingly, key roles for these new areas are critical to ultimately fill with strong permanent hires—but the desire to move quickly from today to the future can lead to overly ambitious and nearly impossible-to-fill job descriptions. For example, the need for a permanent CFO and finance team with public company experience is paramount for organizations looking forward to an IPO. But does having experience as a public company CFO in the steady state equip a leader with the same skills required to build the finance systems, policies, and team necessary for the IPO preparation and execution?

Further, sometimes the sequence is just out of order, or the big picture and key reporting relationships are not settled enough to recruit confidently and successfully for the long-term. Distinguishing near-term versus long-term key activities and skill requirements—and then using on-demand talent solutions to fill those near-term needs—can unlock some of the logjams that can arise around major hires in significantly new moments.

[Case Study] A large healthcare organization was standing up a subsidiary. While the CHRO knew that a permanent CIO hire would make sense down the road, she recognized that she had an opportunity to hire an interim CIO with a different skillset—namely, experience building the function from the ground up. She turned to BTG for both an interim CIO and a skilled IT architect, who could work together to build necessary infrastructure, products, and tech teams to set the stage for an eventual permanent CIO hire.

3. Provide Relief for Leadership Teams with Temporary Project-Based Support

On-demand talent can support permanent leaders in powerful ways, extending their reach and impact during crunch periods—even as recruiting for permanent team build-out continues. Sometimes this takes the form of on-demand talent in interim VP- or senior director-level roles, but more often it looks like temporary-by-design roles that can lend special focus and extra muscle to critical projects and free up leadership capacity to focus on other priorities. This trend is particularly acute in HR, finance, and technology functions within companies that are growing quickly.

[Case Study] A fast-growing public biotech company’s HR leadership team had an important set of work to do around compensation and benefits but was repeatedly distracted by more pressing work in the people functions. The CHRO said, “If only someone could concentrate on this workstream for a few months and take it off my plate for a little while…” BTG provided a seasoned HR professional who was adept at both hands-on execution and bigger picture strategy work in Total Rewards, placing her in a “special project role” designed to last for only three months. Having someone who could stretch up and down—completing critical tasks, providing meaningful bandwidth to the HR org, and thinking strategically—freed up desperately needed capacity for the CHRO.

4. Add Leadership-Level Capacity Only When Needed

Clients are designing “flex” into their organizations and learning how to add capacity in a variety of intentional ways by replicating key roles for defined periods of time. Going through a hiring burst for a new business launch? Running “hot” against a variety of corporate development opportunities? These are two examples of times when leaders may wish they could clone themselves or high-performing team members to get through the crunch. On-demand resourcing can extend the team for those surge moments and resolve the conundrum around whether to add headcount for the long-term.

[Case Study] One F200 appliance manufacturer did just that when facing a major hiring challenge related to its digital transformation. The company’s Talent Acquisition team was simply overloaded, behind schedule, and looking to fill dozens of critical new and open roles at the senior manager and manager levels. The company had engaged recruiters as well, but also simply needed to extend its own TA team for a six-month period. With the help of an independent talent acquisition executive serving as a twin to the permanent TA leader, the HR team got the bandwidth it had desperately lacked and was able to push through the crunch.

While unicorn talent do exist, the reality is that these days, high-level talent are busy and have plenty of options, and engaging them requires moving fast. Instead of looking for a single perfect-fit person who can accomplish your list of goals, break out your objectives into multiple engagements and make progress immediately with on-demand resources.

Need help moving forward while hiring? Reach out to learn more about how on-demand talent can support your goals.

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About the Author

Kelsey O'Neal

Kelsey O'Neal is a Senior Director with BTG. She advises executive search colleagues, HR teams, and business leaders on the growing leadership-level freelance market—including how best to deploy this talent to fill immediate gaps, solve problems, and accelerate organizational growth.

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