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Report on interim executives highlights need for ‘reskilling revolution’

From a post-pandemic world of work-from-home models and low unemployment rates to disruptive technologies and the need for diverse skills and reskilling to meet changing industries, one thing can be said – it’s a disruptive time.

Chief Futurist at, Dr Ben Harmer, summed it up nicely by stating ‘they are uncharted waters.’ And for interim executives, such changes have brought about new ways to work, flexibility and a demand for skills.

For the thirteenth year, Watermark Search International has sought to provide a comprehensive understanding of the Interim Executive market in Australia and to dive into why these professionals choose to work this way. In doing so, the Interim Executive Survey 2023 provides an overview of the broader environment and market sectors in which interim executives operate.

The role of an interim executive is important, with the survey finding that every leadership position can be supported by an interim executive – with the essential functional skills in demand being CFO (34%), CTOs (32%) and CEO (28%) / COO (28%).

An interesting snapshot provided by the Report is the use of respondent data to produce Interim Executive Avatars – a reflection of what is considered the ‘standard’ interim executive in 2023. This year, the avatars, named Eloise and Ivan, are lifelong learners, curious, well-read, digitally literate and networked. Both are in the roles of Interim General Manager or C-Suite, reporting to the CEO.

Eloise is in her mid-to-late 50s and is focused on areas such as healthcare, government and not-for-profit, whilst Ivan is in his early 60s and is mostly in the government and not-for-profit sectors. Both are choosing to work hybrid with work-from-home arrangements post-COVID.

Some of the other key trends for interim executives outlined in the report include:

  • The report found the highest female representation of interim executives at 34%, a 63% increase over the past ten years.
  • More than 50% of respondents are represented in the 50-59 age group.
  • Currency in skills and financial reward was new this year, with 20% of respondents citing both as important.
  • The great realignment – nearly three quarters (71%) of all respondents have re-evaluated their career and made changes during the past 12 months.

The environment in which interim executives operate is a large part of the report. David Evans, Managing Partner at Watermark Search, has provided an outlook of what lies ahead for industries, stating the skills prioritised over the last ten years will ‘no longer be enough’ to drive us forward.

‘Instead, there is a new set of themes emerging in the workplace that will drive future success for our leaders, employees, and customers,’ he said.

According to respondents, the main problems faced by professionals are cyber-attacks and supply chain disruptions – a conclusion consistent with the 2022 survey. However, the ambiguous economy, “recession or no recession”, was found to be the main focus for this year.

The survey also highlighted the five key themes facing future work, including longevity, skills revolution, meaningful work, agile planning and adaptive leadership.

One of the findings when looking at longevity was the need to create policies to accommodate multiple generations in the workforce. It is all the more relevant as people worldwide live and work longer. 68% of survey respondents prioritise “refreshing attraction and retention strategies” as the key factor to transform workplace longevity.

When looking at the skills revolution, the need for employee growth and development within an organisation was paramount to retaining high performers, said 98% of survey participants. Dr Hamer emphasised the importance of skills in ‘a world where we’ll have at least 20 different jobs across five careers.’

‘The skills revolution, ensuring workers have access to upskilling and reskilling opportunities underpinned by a focus on agile, lifelong learning so they’re empowered to succeed at what they do while ensuring they remain future-fit,’ he said.

A work schedule to meet one’s work and life commitments ranked high when choosing meaningful work, and 58% of respondents chose finding/retaining the best people as the number one external disrupter/influence on business strategy when it came to agile planning.

Lastly, when asked what the most significant issue would be for adaptive leadership to influence or disrupt business in the new year, respondents answered “fear of change and ‘old way of thinking’ by leaders.”

You can download Watermark’s 2023 Interim Executive Survey by visiting their website.

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