Jason Atkinson
Russam GMS

Member Article

International interim management market

Jason Atkinson of Russam International explains opportunities in the fast growing international interim management market.

International assignments make up around 11% of the overall interim management market; however, the market is evolving fast. We are seeing a growing demand for UK interim talent from international companies and UK companies recruiting interims to help them establish an operation overseas.

We have just published a new research report, ‘The International Interim Market 2012’, which highlights that demand for interim talent is particularly strong in Western European countries, but is emerging, albeit far more slowly, in the BRIC nations and Asia too.

Out of the 460 interims who responded to our survey, 8 out of 10 had completed assignments overseas. 67% of them had clocked up between five to 10 years of international interim experience, nine out of ten were men aged between 45 and 60. Only 10% were women – and the market is very male dominated.

79% said that demand for interims overseas is strong because international firms need specialist skills on a temporary basis when they can’t resource projects locally. Half of them also said that UK qualifications and the ‘British’ interim manager ‘brand’ are both prized highly abroad.

Project management is the most popular kind of assignment, followed by general management roles and business development projects. A fifth is working on financial projects so there is strong demand for financial experts. Half of interims had worked in manufacturing or engineering firms, 31% in professional services firms and 27% in banking or financial services companies.

The top ten international destinations for British interims are:

  • Western Europe
  • Eastern Europe
  • USA and Canada
  • Africa
  • Middle East
  • South East Asia
  • Australia and New Zealand
  • BRIC countries
  • India
  • China

However, this list might well look very different in five years time. In terms of future growth, Asia was considered the number one market, followed by the BRIC countries and then Western Europe.

According to the respondents there are many benefits associated with overseas working. The number one perk was the challenging and stimulating nature of working abroad, second on the list was the higher levels of pay and thirdly, the fact there were a greater number of jobs available. Surprisingly, the excitement of living in a foreign country and learning a new language were considered less important.

But working overseas is not without challenges. 40% admitted that leaving family and friends was difficult, 17% said that it was very intensive experience with little downtime and 13% claimed the cultural differences were challenging.

Overseas working is also a man’s world, with the majority admitting they rarely encounter women in similar positions when abroad. They cited several barriers hindering women’s progress including security issues, cultural differences in many Middle Eastern countries and a ‘macho mentality’ in Southern European countries. They also said it is easier for men to live in hotels and more ‘acceptable’ for men to dine in restaurants alone.

One of the main points that came out in the research too was the fact that just like in the UK; international firms are recruiting interims based on their competence and experience. They want people with proven international business experience, as well a ‘global outlook,’ who can integrate into their business and culture and deliver the goods. This is the key to a successful assignment in the UK or overseas.

But, the international market is lagging behind the UK. Many firms don’t hire women in senior positions - something we hope will change over time.

Based on the key findings of the report, I wanted to share with you my top ten tips for international interim success:

  • Learn the language, smile, make friends and adapt to the cultural dynamics
  • Establish a good relationship with the client quickly but keep in regular contact with your home and office
  • Keep an open mind; the UK is not the be-all and end-all
  • Make sure your contract covers all eventualities – remember you will be travelling in your own time often and much of it will be unpaid
  • Hit the ground running, do what has to be done, don’t put on any airs. You are one of the workers, not a colonial officer
  • Your personality is as important as your skills
  • Don’t go native and don’t expect the locals to like you – you have taken one of their jobs
  • Integrate and don’t be too ‘British’
  • Be prepared for things to take longer than in the UK
  • Treat it as an adventure. Enjoy the differences, relish the can do environment and get on and deliver

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Russam GMS .

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