Cracking the Code on C-suite Succession: A Roadmap for Chief People Officers

Chief Executive OfficersHuman Resources OfficersBoard of DirectorsC-Suite Succession
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October 27, 2023
1 min read
Chief Executive OfficersHuman Resources OfficersBoard of DirectorsC-Suite Succession
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
C-suite succession is crucial but challenging for leaders. Only 43% of CPOs believe their organization has a successful strategy.
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The tumult of the last three years proved that strong C-suites are more important than ever.

It seems then, that C-suite succession would be a top priority for all leaders. Additionally, most chief people officers (CPOs) believe it to be one of the hardest parts of their jobs. In fact, our Global Leadership Monitor shows that only 43% of CPOs think that their organization has a successful strategy for leadership succession at the C-level, suggesting serious room for improvement. At the same time, boards are seeking increased visibility on succession planning efforts below the CEO level. The challenge for CPOs lies in creating a more strategic and systematic approach to C-suite succession in the context of a rapidly changing environment and workforce.

 

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Succession planning is tough. It is one of the hardest things I do in the organization.”

 

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You go through talent planning, and you talk about bench strength, but when that job actually comes open, let’s be honest: things can go sideways."

 

There is a strong upside to getting this right. A healthy C-suite talent pipeline not only minimizes risk and disruption, but also enhances business continuity, pace and agility, while lowering costs and increasing employee morale. Yet, it remains an important but elusive part of an organization’s strategic planning efforts.

 

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Organizations that get a leader they know and hopefully love end up being more stable. You avoid a lot of uncertainty and cost.”

 

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We view succession planning from a risk management perspective—if someone leaves, we have someone to replace them with.”

 

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The focus and commitment to development has been very well received by our workforce. We have a higher level of engagement.”

 

While a great succession planning system is critical, several factors differentiate a great approach from a merely good one. RRA spoke with almost 30 CPOs and board members across the globe to understand the state of C-suite succession planning in their organizations better. Insights from these conversations—along with expertise gathered from the almost 400 succession-related assignments RRA has completed in the last three years—have informed this report. We gathered insight that we hope will help CEOs, boards, and CPOs to uncover:

  • The unique differentiators of effective C-suite succession planning
  • The common challenges with C-suite succession planning and how to solve for them
  • Advice when embarking on this journey

This report will largely focus on what great succession planning looks like at mature (medium to large) organizations, but please refer to page 12 for advice for scaling or high growth organizations.

 

Graph 1

Source: Russell Reynolds Associates Global Leadership Monitor; N=52 CPOs

 

 

 

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Cracking the Code on C-suite Succession: A Roadmap for Chief People Officers