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Survey Finds Companies at Odds over Succession Planning

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3/23/2011

North American companies seem to be at odds when it comes to planning for management succession, according to an online survey of 1,098 senior managers and executives conducted by American Management Association.

As many as one in three organizations is considered genuinely committed to succession planning, the survey found, while for another 43% the commitment is merely intermittent. Moreover, at 14% of companies, senior management is thought to pay just lip service to such planning.

How would you describe the attitude of your organization’s senior leadership toward management succession planning?

Our senior management team is genuinely committed. 34%
Our senior management team is sporadic in its commitment. 43%
Our senior management team just pays lip service to succession planning. 14%
Don’t know 9%

"The survey findings deserve senior management’s close attention," said Sandi Edwards, Senior Vice President for Corporate Learning Solutions, which offers advisory services and tailored learning programs to organizations. “There is little consensus among the more than 1,000 organizations we surveyed on what succession planning actually consists of, or even what it ideally ought to be. Moreover, this uncertainty is found at a time when the overwhelming majority of companies (71%) understand that given the competitive nature of the global economy and fast-changing business conditions, a smooth management succession is now more important than in past years.”

The ambivalence to succession planning is reflected by the degree to which companies promote from within. While a plurality (43%) reportedly seldom recruit from outside the organization, one-third often do so. 

To what extent does senior management ignore the management succession plan and go outside your organization to recruit key people?

Often 34%
Seldom 43%
Never 5%
Don’t know 18%

Edwards observed that organizations have been preoccupied with survival strategies and cost cutting. “It’s now time for them to play catch up in talent retention and development, and an effective management succession plan is integral to achieving this. Top people will stay with an organization if they are valued, have meaningful development opportunities and see potential for advancement. On the other hand, ignoring succession planning sends a loud message that on board talent is taken for granted. It’s no wonder that the best people may look elsewhere for their next career step.”

AMA's Corporate Learning Solutions conducted the online survey in December 2010 in order to probe perceptions of corporate bench strength as well as management succession preparedness. The survey population consisted of primarily senior-level business, human resources and management professional contacts drawn from the AMA.

About AMA's Corporate Learning Solutions
With more than 85 years’ experience and headquartered in New York, American Management Association (www.amanet.org) is a leading provider of comprehensive leadership, management and talent development. AMA's Corporate Learning Solutions partners with corporations and government agencies to provide results oriented training solutions that are aligned with business, culture and workforce strategies.