In today’s market, businesses are constantly looking to streamline and improve their processes and offerings, embed more agility into their teams and future-proof themselves. One route to this is business transformation.

Despite there being a number of economic headwinds, the transformation market remains buoyant, and the best candidates are able to choose the most attractive roles. So how can organisations set themselves apart and attract the best interim talent? Steve Arrow, Executive Director in BIE’s Transformation Practice, draws on his 15 years of experience providing client-side delivery capability with FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies to share his advice.

Attracting the right programme leadership is critical for the success of any transformation programme. The best transformation leaders have a collaborative approach to articulating the vision, rallying stakeholders around a shared cause, utilising clear and consistent communication and helping teams become greater than the sum of their parts.

Ultimately, a Programme Director with a proven track record of running successful programmes of similar size and complexity is essential. Not only will this ensure that an experienced hand is on the tiller, but the right leadership with the requisite credibility, expertise and drive will be a major contributing factor when it comes to attracting top-tier follow-on talent and building overall trust in the project. It’s important to start as you mean to go on, by setting your sights on attracting the best.

The challenge? The talent shortage caused by the uptick of transformation projects, either currently underway or being planned. This was the top challenge facing programmes for 43% of those surveyed in our report, and it’s clear from speaking to our network of best-in-class transformation leaders that they have multiple opportunities under consideration. Even during uncertain economic times, the best talent will always be in demand.

Organisations that want to attract the best candidates need to stand out. In order to do that, you need to make sure you’re offering what they want and that you have established the best conditions for success in your organisation by the time you start the hiring process.

Here is what you can do to attract today’s top transformation talent.

1. Ensure you’ve got internal sponsorship for the transformation programme

You need strong executive support right from the get-go. The CEO, the board and the senior leadership team (SLT/ELT) need to be fully committed to the change agenda, and show a united front to the business. It’s not enough for them to just sign off on the project; without the most senior sponsorship and true buy-in, any large-scale transformation will most likely fail to achieve any of its outcomes or targets. As Simon Cordrey, BIE Managing Director, Business Transformation, stresses: “Any cracks at this level will inevitably lead to costly failure.”

2. Lay out a clear road map

You may know where you want to end up with your transformation, but first, you must establish your plan for getting there. This is particularly important if you plan to have multiple programmes running simultaneously, which is fairly common at the moment. 57% of organisations we spoke with for our Transformation Report were undergoing full business transformations, for example. The bigger the project, the more voices will be involved. Unfortunately, these transformation streams often don’t speak to each other and have differing agendas, which can lead to duplication of work with large cost implications. Before you approach talent, make sure you have established a plan for the programme. To begin with, you’ll want to establish clear targets and deadlines and define key reporting and communication lines.

3. Establish a strong business case and realistic budget

Experienced candidates understand that their roles can be challenging, but they don’t want their day-to-day work to be an unnecessarily uphill battle, so make sure you’ve laid solid foundations. It’s important you’ve done your due diligence and outlined the clear business case for the programme (the more thorough, the better), and received sign-off for the budget. That way, you’ll build confidence in the project and give the transformation team the elements they need to establish and deliver on their targets, and ultimately on the full potential of the programme.

4. Establish clear governance and controls

Many businesses overlook how important robust governance is to a successful transformation. Research from the Harvard Business Review suggests that 53% of companies haven’t developed a strong, business-wide governance approach. Clear governance is a must. The aforementioned buy-in from senior leadership is important here, particularly with regards to empowering people to make decisions. Spend time with key stakeholders at the beginning of the project to design your model and the decision-making criteria. They need to be strong enough to withstand upheaval, but not so rigid that it restricts agility and the necessary speed of delivery.

5. Pay attention to resourcing

The transformation team is normally a blend of major consultancy firms, SI support, the best internal SME talent, and experienced interim managers. You need to make sure you get the right balance between internal and external talent, and that you are working with the best. After all, the quality of the people determines the quality of the outcome of a programme – and impacts the timelines required to achieve the desired results.

6. Make hybrid working available

While the vast majority of people are eager to have a blended working model, with both office and remote working as options, it’s clear that in the current climate, roles that require them to be in an office for four or five days a week are less attractive. This is particularly the case if the roles are based in locations that are less accessible.

7. Consider IR35

IR35 has had an impact on hiring, but not to the extent many in the market feared. Nevertheless, it has made interim working at the senior level more challenging, with many candidates unwilling to consider inside roles. In order to not weaken their hiring positions, we have seen our clients adjusting roles to fit with the legislation or constructing reward and salary packages to compensate for the loss of earnings. Clients and candidates alike are also opening themselves up to the possibility of permanent contracts.

8. Avoid fixed term contracts (FTCs) if you can

There has been a significant increase in the number of FTCs in the market recently, but they are not attractive to the majority of experienced interim candidates. They are seen as the worst of both worlds, so if you can avoid them, do.

9. Familiarise yourself with market rates

Day rates are not the deciding factor for many people when weighing up various opportunities, but they can play a role. There is no great expectation that market rates are going up significantly, so most people will be realistic about this, but be sure you are informed about what is appropriate to offer.

Ultimately, candidates won’t make a decision based on one or two factors – they will look at the whole picture. It is up to you to use whatever levers you have at your disposal to make your role, and the prospect of working on your programme, attractive.


For more advice about and help with attracting top-tier talent to your upcoming transformation programme, please reach out to our Transformation Team.

Written by

Steve Arrow

Steve is an Executive Director within BIE's business transformation team. He works closely with his clients along the entire transformation journey from project initiation, scoping and risk management through to skill and capability reviews, governance and programme execution.

His remit covers transformation roles such as programme directors, target operating model design, change and communication, programme management, process design, M&A and interim leadership roles across functions.

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