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Human Resources

Published on September 3rd, 2014 | by Special Guest


The Evolution of HR - What’s in Store for Interim HR Directors?

In this guest post senior interim HR professional Mark Bowers details how the function has changed, the trends that are shaping its future, and how interims can gain the advantage. 

Looking at the rapid pace of change that has occurred in the HR industry over the last 20 years, it is difficult to pinpoint the biggest challenges. However, the shift in the discipline from a support function, to that of a strategic arm is perhaps most notable both for permanent and interim HR directors and professionals.

The evolution of HR

In the beginning, HR was simply known as Personnel, (or tea and sympathy), and was very staff focused. But a huge change in demand from a much more modern and assertive business world, has seen the function develop further. HR professionals now find themselves working at a higher level, dealing with more diverse issues such as mergers and acquisitions, as well as people and talent management, and operating at a much more strategic level as “Business Partners”- some even with an eye to P&L responsibility across the organisation.


This more organisational development strand is a relatively new area showing exactly how HR can contribute to the bottom line, showing a return on investment and supporting crucial business areas such as outsourcing and change management – and this area is where the new breed of interim HR directors (HRDs) have stepped in.

The conscience

In my experience, as both a permanent and interim HRD, HR has now become the conscience of an organisation. From adding crucial value by supporting diversity and inclusion, to delivering major organisational projects and programmes effectively, this new strategic function is helping to de-risk businesses that aim to become more commercial and gain, or retain, a competitive edge. But how does this effect the professional HR interim and what can you do to make sure you remain in demand in an increasingly crowded marketplace?

Interim best practice

Having made the leap from permanent to interim in 2012, I know all too well the discrepancy between HR practice and HR reality. Although the change to interim can be circumstantial and full of trepidation, it is important to remember a few other key tips in order to succeed:

  • As an interim, although you are part of a team, you should always operate at a strategic mind-set in order to remain effective.
  • Try and stay objective, yet focused and time bound. Remember your unique position allows you to be above the politics, making life much simpler.
  • Stay in touch – not only with your own contacts, but also with your wider network and your chosen interim service providers too. Contacting people only when you need an assignment will not reap rewards. Constant networking, as always, is key.
  • Commercialise to survive – lastly, and especially in HR, you must always have one eye on the commercial element. Use your business acumen to prove the value of the function and you will leave a legacy and gain a reputation that will serve you well in the future.

What do you think of the role of HR today? How has it affected interims operating in the industry? Let us know your thoughts below.

About Mark Bowers

Mark has been an HR Director for over 26 years, operating in both the private and public sectors. For the last 14 years he has operated as an HR Director on P&L boards, the last two of these as an Interim. He has extensive experience as a UK / International Senior HR Business Partner operating across multiple sites in a dynamic market environment providing strategic HR leadership and delivery of HR Services through in-house and outsourced teams.

Mark Bowers LinkedIn Profile

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About the Author

Alium has a network of Trusted Partners and Associates around the world who have a great amount of knowledge to share with the interim community. We regularly invite them to create special guest articles giving our readers the most up-to-date and informative market knowledge available. If you would like to write a guest article, please get in contact with Rod McInnes or call 02073987500.

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