One-half of Canadian firms to lose at least 20 per cent of executives by 2017: Survey

90 per cent say next generation of managers not ready to take over
||Last Updated: 11/20/2012

Canada’s C-suite is bracing for a mass exodus over the next five years and little has been done to fill the imminent void, according to a recent survey by executive search firm Odgers Berndtson.

As the country’s top senior executives prepare for retirement, Canadian organizations are faced with a massive skills gap that has the potential to stifle innovation and productivity, found the Executive Outlook survey, which polled 300 senior executives.

Nearly one-half of all private and public sector organizations anticipate losing 20 per cent or more of their executive staff by 2017. This departure is further complicated by the reality that more than 90 per cent of respondents believe the next generation of managers is not ready to take over at the executive level.

Fifty-two per cent of those surveyed said their organization requires specific expertise that they do not currently have in their company staff. The most difficult qualities to find in new executive talent were emotional intelligence, people skills and strategic thinking.

And more than one-half do not have a formal plan in place to address the anticipated shortage.

“Dynamic leadership at the top is the corner stone of an organization’s ability to adapt to the complexities of the global market and ultimately to be its competitive best. However, the looming gap in leadership over the next five years poses significant challenges for organizations, especially for the public sector where the skills gap is more acute,” said Carl Lovas, chairman and CEO of Odgers Berndtson. “The real concern from a performance and productivity standpoint is that, despite being aware of this inevitability, the majority of organizations are doing little to prepare for it.”

When asked about the challenges of executive life, 83 per cent of senior executives said their jobs were more difficult today than they were two decades ago. Over one-half cited advances in technology as being the primary reason why it is more complex.

“The information age has created an environment whereby accountability is unavoidable at the executive level” said Lovas. “There is no place for executives to hide anymore as information regarding performance can be readily accessed by competitors, superiors, and stakeholders. This high level of scrutiny is another area that up-and-coming managers must learn to cope with before entering the C-suite.”

This lack of preparedness, coupled with the fact that one-quarter of those surveyed believe that the next generation of leaders may need five or more years of mentoring to prepare to take over an executive role, has left many business leaders grappling with conventional solutions. These include recruiting from overseas and targeting executives at competitive firms.

Nearly one in five believe that their next executive hire will come from outside the United States or Canada.

“Another more practical solution is to consider hiring an interim executive manager to help bridge the gap and overcome the skills shortage while the next generation gains the experience and skills needed to succeed,” said Lovas. “The demand for interim leaders, or super temps as some call them, has risen significantly in the last two or three years, and represents a major shift in the way companies think about their executive-level needs. In fact, this may be the bridge that will save many organizations in the long-term.”

Seventy-two per cent of those surveyed said that they believed interim leadership would grow significantly over the next five years and over one-half suggested that they would consider hiring an interim executive to help bridge the impending skills gap.

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