HR uncertain where next CEO will come from

Only 24% of HR and talent teams at UK companies have universally agreed plans for a succession policy should their chief executive abruptly resign, according to a new survey.

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The research, conducted among more than 200 HR professionals by global talent mapping, pipelining and executive search consultants Armstrong Craven, found that almost half of respondents (42%) expressed little confidence in existing succession plans should their CEO step down tomorrow.

Additionally, the survey found that succession planning problems have been compounded by the current, competitive hiring environment, with more than four in ten saying they face a struggle to identify future leaders with the right skill sets and behaviours.

Struggles continue for finding the 'right' leader within any business

These skill sets and behaviours have also been changing, with the top three now identified by HR leaders as the ability to empower and champion teams; the ability to manage and drive change; and strong emotional quotient and intelligence.

Rachel Davis, co-managing director at Armstrong Craven, said: “The pandemic has had a significant impact on the qualities organisations are seeking from leaders.

"Traditional leadership behaviours – agile mindset, driving change, managing crises – are still important but leaders also now require new traits.

"These new qualities – high emotional intelligence, the ability to lead hybrid teams, curiosity and empowerment – enable more enlightened businesses, where trust is at the centre.”

The survey concluded that although HR and talent teams understood the ideal behaviours and skill sets needed for their organisation, almost a quarter of them admitted they did not know where to look - internally or externally - to find future leaders.

Assessing leadership risk and benchmarking was also posing a problem, the report found. Some 29% of respondents said they had no mechanism to accurately assess this risk in their organisation.

Talent leaders are not prepared if their CEO step down

Peter Howarth, co-managing director at Armstrong Craven, said: “It’s of deep concern that so many HR and talent leaders responding to the survey aren’t fully prepared with a succession plan should their CEO step down tomorrow. It’s not surprising however.

“In a highly competitive market, businesses are overwhelmed with immediate pains of hiring software developers, retail staff or for the shop floor, for instance. Leadership succession planning isn’t currently ‘on fire’, which means it can sit on the back burner until fingers get badly burned.

“We applaud those who are prepared for different eventualities. The first priority for the others is to understand their leadership risks. We see that many organisations are able to identify the types of leaders they want in their business, which is positive, so leadership succession planning – including talent mapping and talent pipelining – supports business strategy.

“By understanding internal gaps and balancing these with knowledge of external talent, it’s possible to build pipelines of engaged talent to help secure the organisation’s future.”
Related news:

Read more news and views from David Sapsted in the Spring 2022 issue of Think Global People.

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