Less Than a Third of HR Professionals are Confident They Have The Right Leaders for The Future


-- Nearly Half Would Prefer to Promote Leaders from Within the Organization, Yet Many Do Not Have Programs to Identify and Develop High-Potential Talent -- 

A new Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) survey reveals that the majority of HR professionals don’t believe they have the right people to lead their organizations into the future, and nearly half admit they don’t have programs to identify and develop high-potential talent within their organization.

Only 29 percent of survey respondents say they are confident their organization has the right people to guide the company into the future. And while nearly half (48 percent) say they would prefer to promote people from within the organization, 45 percent say they do not have programs in place to help them identify and develop high-potential talent.

The good news is that the vast majority (91 percent) of leaders do see the benefit of creating high-potential programs, and 82 percent say that compared to five years ago, their organizations are placing greater emphasis on establishing ways to identify and prepare the leaders of the future.

Of those who do have high-potential programs, more than a third (38 percent) say participants are chosen based on nominations by a line manager or internal champion. Five percent say anyone can participate in the program through self-nomination.

“Our survey shows that only 14 percent of HR professionals are very confident that their organizations have selected the right people for their high-potential programs,” said Lisa Niesen, Korn Ferry vice president and general manager, Assessment. “It’s critical to take a look at the business strategy and the type of talent that will be needed to achieve goals, then properly and scientifically assess which people have the potential to grow and guide the company into the future.”

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents say their organizations would benefit from a consistent, science-based approach to identifying potential.

The survey also found that HR leaders think most programs are too top heavy, with 66 percent saying they are not looking deep enough in the organization to identify those with potential. Only 10 percent say their programs include entry-level/graduate talent.

“Your future CEO could be sitting in that small cube doing entry level work,” said Niesen. “If you don’t identify this future leader early on and help develop their talents, you can rest assured that they’ll leave and one day be leading another company, not yours.”

About the survey

The Korn Ferry global survey of talent acquisition professionals took place in late 2019 and garnered 1,009 responses. (note: due to rounding, responses may not equal 100 percent).

Survey Responses:

Are you confident your organization has the leaders it needs for the future?

Yes 29 percent
No 71 percent

Where does your organization find its leaders?

Mostly promoted from within the organization 31 percent
Mostly recruited from outside the organization 13 percent
An even mix of recruited from outside and promoted from inside 56 percent

Are you happy with your organization’s current balance of hiring leaders from outside vs. those promoted from within the organization?

We would prefer to promote more people from within 48 percent
We would prefer to bring in more outside leadership talent 21 percent
We are happy with the mix of internal/external hires/promotions 31 percent

Do you think that identifying high-potential employees is important for your organization’s success?

Yes 98 percent
No 2 percent

Does your organization currently have a high-potential program?

Yes 55 percent
No 45 percent

If not, do you think your organization could benefit from a high-potential program?

Yes 91 percent
No 9 percent

Compared to 5 years ago, how much emphasis does your organization place on its high-potential program?

Much more emphasis 50 percent
A bit more emphasis 32 percent
About the same emphasis 14 percent
A bit less emphasis 3 percent
Much less emphasis 1 percent

How does your organization select people for its high-potential program?

Nomination by line manager or internal champion 38 percent
Anyone can apply – individuals can nominate themselves 5 percent
Performance review data 28 percent
Science-based objective assessment 13 percent
Other 16 percent

How confident are you that your organization has selected the right people for its high-potential program?

Very confident 14 percent
Moderately confident 68 percent
Not confident 17 percent

To which levels does your high-potential program apply?

Entry level/graduates 10 percent
First-level leaders 18 percent
Mid-level leaders 27 percent
Business unit/functional leaders 25 percent
Senior leaders 20 percent

Do you believe your organization is missing out on identifying potential leaders by not looking deep enough in the organization?

Yes 66 percent
No 34 percent

If you don’t currently use a consistent, science-based approach to identifying potential, do you think your organization would benefit from this?

Yes 72 percent
No 28 percent

How satisfied are you with the return on investment that your high-potential program is delivering to your organization?

Very satisfied 11 percent
Moderately satisfied 70 percent
Not satisfied 19 percent

About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with clients to design their organizational structures, roles and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward, develop and motivate their workforce. And, we help professionals navigate and advance their careers.

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