Why are we not employing older interim managers?
In Norway it is often the case that when you have passed 50-55 years of age you are considered too old to be employed in a management position. Is this sensible?
Young managers vs. experienced managers
For as long as I can remember we have had this discussion in Norway concerning the age of managers and employees. It is still very much the case that many companies look for managers with high levels of education and extensive experience between the ages of 30 and 40. In my opinion this is not the ideal combination. At the age of 90, Olav Thon said: "It is time for me to step up the pace as I am entering the final stages!" No one could claim that he has been a poor manager?
Is there really any correlation between age and being a talented manager? I guess it could be said that age is a number which means something different to each person. A talented manager has specific skills that are also developed over time. There are numerous definitions of talented managers and plenty of discussion as to whether a talent for management can be learned or whether it is something you are born with. Our experience, based on 14 years of providing interim management, is unambiguous: Experienced managers who have "done it all before" are the absolute best managers in situations that necessitate quick action and a strong implementation skills.
Obvious advantages of older managers
This is something we experience every single day when providing interim management. For some mysterious reason it seems to be acceptable to hire older managers for interim assignments. The utility value of older managers becomes more obvious to the companies and it may seem more acceptable to hire older managers for a temporary period only, although we struggle to understand why this is not also the case for permanent employment.
If the individual concerned can do a good job in an extreme situation, as is often the case, why can they not do a good job in a more "normal" situation? A typical situation that our clients often require help with is turn-around operations. Experienced interim managers are often the solution they are looking for. The following requirement specification must be met:
- The candidate must have extensive operational experience
- The candidate must have previous experience of turn-around operations and be able to document the results
- The candidate must be able to quickly understand the company's situation
- The candidate must immediately be given the necessary respect and trust from employees
- The candidate must quickly initiate and follow up on necessary interventions
- The candidate must implement and deliver in accordance with agreed schedules
It is a given that such a person cannot be newly qualified with limited management experience. An experienced, dynamic manager is required. A manager with the right background for implementing such a process in a successful manner.
Norway needs mature managers!
Our experience of mature managers, which we have provided to several hundred companies over the years, is that this works well, every single time.
The interim managers we provide fall within the age bracket of 45-65, with an average age of around 55. These are people with enormous resources and vast experience and knowledge and, not least, great willingness to work who are highly dynamic. They are also reliable, have adult children, are happily settled and can usually work long hours!
Unfortunately it is still the case in Norway that this is a resource base that is, in many ways, declining. It might not be every day but we often hear the following when talking with our interim managers:
They have applied for several jobs but not made it through to an interview a single time. This is in spite of their experience and education being a perfect fit for the job. When they follow up it becomes clear that age is the underlying cause if they are 50 or older. We know that these managers will subsequently become interim managers and will do an excellent job!
I believe that mature, experienced managers would be very relevant candidates for challenging management jobs. It is not necessarily the case that older managers should be employed every time. In many cases a younger manager is often chosen, for various reasons, but the mature candidate with the right background should certainly be considered. It is a great loss for both the individual company and corporate Norway that these managers are not used. It results in the loss of vast expertise, willingness to work and talented management.
In many countries the word 'senior' has positive connotations but this is not the case in Norway. Even though we have been working with interim management for fourteen years we have not yet dared to claim that we hire out “seniors”. Senior is quickly interpreted to mean old, washed-up people, who are no longer relevant in the market. This is quite a frightening viewpoint and completely wrong when you look at results rather than less interesting factors, such as age.