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ODGERS INTERIM OPINION

4 November 2014

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Making the move from corporate HR into executive interim search.

3.5 years ago I made a decision to move my career from a boutique recruitment firm into internal recruitment for Sobeys –is the second largest food retailer in Canada with $16B in annual revenues.  My role was to bring the “agency” recruitment speed/accuracy and client service focus to the business.  Within a short period of time I was seconded onto a special project team within Sobeys to help restructure the business nationally.  This is not something I had specific experience doing, but the leaders saw the transferrable skills I had, and wanted as fresh pair of unbiased eyes.  (This is one of the many uses for Interim leaders coincidentally.)

The project stretched out over a year.  Among other things, HR was tasked with transitioning our hiring practices for the duration of the restructure to hiring contract employees only, without reducing hire quality.  (Sobeys didn’t want to add any new permanent employees until the structure had been agreed on, to be fair to the employees and the business.)  This was an interesting challenge, as the bulk of the roles being filled were true headcount vacancies and likely not roles which were going to be changed significantly over time. 

Within the business we had to do a lot of “selling”; to the hiring managers, on the talent available in the market, and to the candidates, that Sobeys was a good investment of their time despite being in a restructuring process.  We were able to make many good hires, but at the leadership level we certainly struggled to find "top talent" who were receptive to taking contract or short term roles.  Most companies define top talent as highly sought after, currently working, employees with growth potential. (AKA – High Potentials)

Leadership and skill gaps don't always need to be filled with high potentials  companies don’t always have the apeitied for risk and time for hires to reach their potential  They need an expert now. There is a rich talent pool out there who have years of experience and knowledge who can be tapped into to hit the ground running and help companies get through transitions in their business, or even help transition internal high potential candidates to the next level.   Or better yet – you could hire a few Interim executives who have experience manoeuvring companies through a restructuring process.

When I was approached about joining the interim division at Odgers Berndtson, I was just digging into a Marketing search that I had filled about 2 years earlier... same role, same hiring manager.  Odgers presented me an opportunity to work across all sectors, and throughout many different disciplines, and an opportunity to help grow the Interim division in Canada.  Our UK office has 50+ employees in their Interim team, and we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg here in Canada.  This is exciting, and a huge opportunity to join a company in the growth phase.  Jason Peetsma our Managing Director has an infectious energy and drive, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with the demand for this solution.  The speed with which we operate in interim is fantastic, and truly meets the client’s needs. 

The sheer volume of people that internal recruiters are exposed to, means that they often don’t get to develop deep relationships with the candidates, and certainly after a senior search is completed, the low likelihood that they will need another candidate in that discipline means that they likely won’t maintain the relationship with that candidates beyond a quick email touch point from time to time.  In my new role I spend the time developing the deep understanding of the experience and skills of our Interim Executives, so that when our clients have an urgent need, we don’t need to start developing the relationships.  We simply call our top 3-5 candidates within that space. 

I am still taking the consultative stance with our clients that I did internally at Sobeys, and I still strive to be an extension of their business, but now I get to develop and maintain this arsenal of senior professional experts who have made the choice to provide their skills to companies on an Interim basis. 

I am passionate about the potential of this solution for leaders.  This is not something that is openly brought to the table and I think it should be on all company’s radars.

If you would like to learn more about Emily or heris work, please do visit her profile.


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