Befriend the Trend: Companies and professionals benefit from the rise of supertemps

Befriend the Trend: Companies and professionals benefit from the rise of supertemps

There is a new kind of temp entering the workforce. Known as “supertemps”, this is a person who defies any belittling preconception of a temp. These previous members of the C-suite have either been cast aside or are unperturbed by losing their spot on the corporate ladder. Either way, companies are tapping into this talent for short term stints. Appointing “the right man for the job” proves to be a cost-effective hire, and with the changing economic climate – one that is continuously ambiguous, offering little job security – temporary work is fast becoming normalised.

Author and workplace guru, Daniel Pink, first highlighted the phenomenon over 10 years ago in his book, Free Agent Nation. He predicted the rise of the independent contractor and defined free agents as executives in-between roles or committed to short term contracts. A recent Harvard Business Review article labelled them “supertemps”. These top level managers, whether it be lawyers, CEOs or consultants, have been trained at esteemed institutions and are alums of well-respected companies. As a result, they are increasingly trusted by corporations and intermediaries have sprung up to cater for this talent.

Supertemps are predicted to grow in number and potentially alter the way the future of business works. A 2011 Mckinsey report shows that 58% of US employers expect to hire more temporary employees, with an emphasis on high skilled roles rather than administrative ones.

But the appearance of the supertemp is not just an American trend. According to Booz Allen Hamilton, the UK market for interim managers is one of the best, making up for as much as £1.17bn (R18bn) revenue in 2009. And across Europe, annual growth in the market for interim executives has been over 20%.

In keeping with international trends, South African companies are moving towards a more streamlined and results driven approach to hiring individuals for key positions. SA labour policies have created an unusual pool of highly talented and experienced professionals who can’t get back into the corporate work space and are now available on the independent market.

Richard Angus, an entrepreneurial chartered accountant and founder of The Finance Team, has tapped into the trend. The Finance Team pairs up companies in need of talent with independents looking for the next assignment. “The Finance Team service model has helped bridge key gaps in our team while we build the stature and delivery of our finance areas,” says Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) Corporate Banking CFO, David Munro.

For the savvy professional, capitalising on this trend could be advantageous. The interim market offers a viable platform for highly skilled people who crave flexibility but want to stay in the game. Kery Boucher is currently working at RMB Corporate Banking. She joined The Finance Team around 18 months ago. “At the time I was looking for more flexibility as I wanted to start up some other businesses. But I wanted to continue to add value in traditional business and finance.”

Boucher says supertemps can maintain an income stream while creating flexible lifestyle choices. “Not all assignments are full-time – other businesses can be pursued on the side. It allows individuals to create a lifestyle tailored to their values, freeing up time for family and passions.”

Most supertemps find that compensation is comparable to what they earned in full-time jobs – sometimes even better. When taking on multiple projects at a time, there is an opportunity for diversified income streams. Boucher consults through The Finance Team and has a second business focusing on sustainability. She recently joined the University of Stellenbosch Business School as a facilitator on management development programmes and runs two other businesses – one as an investor and another with her husband.

The need for, and emergence of, intermediaries is another way to garner revenue from the emerging trend. As the movement makes its way to SA, and companies and individuals begin to see the advantages, there is an opportunity for entrepreneurs and executive recruiters to tap in and focus exclusively on recruiting high-end, temporary talent.

Companies who know how to best engage this lower risk, flexible talent model can be a source of competitive advantage. Employing staff on an interim basis saves the considerable expense of a full time person – it only makes sense in our current economic climate. Supertemps will go in and make an impact quickly. They have all the necessary skills for the job. They will be able to gain people’s confidence quickly and are naturally self-starters who are able to network easily. Companies will begin to realise that it is more cost effective and productive to hire the best possible team for a specific phase.

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