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Bersin & Associates Research Finds That Only 12% of Companies Have Integrated Workforce Succession Strategies; Lack of Focus on Talent Mobility Cripples Business Transformation Efforts

Top-Focused Succession Management Programs Leave Supervisors and Mid-Level Managers Underprepared

Oakland, CA – April 2, 2009 -- Bersin & Associates, a research and advisory firm focused on enterprise learning and talent management, today announced the release of its latest study, High-Impact Succession Management: Best Practices, Models, and Case Studies in Organizational Talent Mobility. This study is the first to take a comprehensive view of succession management and examine what companies are doing at all levels of the enterprise – not just at top executive levels. The study was conducted and written in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership, an internationally recognized provider of executive education.

The study found that while current economic conditions demand transformative business changes in all industry sectors, most companies are still using decades-old succession management processes that are highly rigid and top-focused. For instance:

  • More than half of research respondents said their companies implement succession management processes at only the most senior executive levels.
  • Only 12% of respondents said their companies’ succession management programs are integrated with talent management programs such as performance management and employee development.
  • Fewer than 40% of respondents said their companies include mid-level managers and skilled professionals in succession planning initiatives; only 11% included first-line supervisors. 

"It’s clear in our interviews with hundreds of executives that businesses need to focus on new approaches to succession management. Many organizations make layoff and staff reduction decisions in the dark – with no insight into the impact such decisions have on the loss of critical knowledge and management expertise,” said Josh Bersin, president. “Talent mobility – the ability to quickly and effectively reorganize and move talent into new roles and vacancies – is critical to business success. Without an integrated, top-to-bottom succession management program, organizations gamble future success on uninformed decisions."

"Depth of talent is extremely important for competitive advantage," said Kim Lamoureux, primary author of the study. "For instance, advanced engineering and technical sales support positions require years of experience. When companies make staff reduction decisions based on executive position and/or salary, highly paid and long-tenured personnel are often the first to go – even though they have invaluable product and industry knowledge." According to Lamoureux’s research, companies such as Accenture, Boeing, and Qualcomm include key positions, including technical and engineering jobs that are integral to ongoing innovation and product quality, in succession management programs.

"Organizations must critically examine decisions and investments related to top talent. Stakeholders are demanding proof that succession practices and systems are delivering leaders truly prepared and qualified for today’s challenges,” said Roland B. Smith, Ph.D., a senior faculty member and analyst for CCL. “The time is now for an aggressive audit of succession management systems to ensure they are aligned with business strategy and robust enough to deliver expected results."

High-Impact Succession Management is based on an extensive survey of 220 senior HR leaders with responsibilities for succession planning and management; in-depth interviews with more than 25 senior business executives and succession management program managers; and a quantitative survey of more than 100 business leaders who provided input on their perceptions of the overall effectiveness of their company’s succession management strategies.

The 217-page study serves as a detailed resource for business and human resource executives involved in all aspects of succession planning and management. The study includes a five-stage maturity model for succession management; ten best practices for maximizing business impact; actions to immediately improve current succession management processes, commonly used tools and technologies; case studies and examples from companies such as BASF Crop Protection, United Stationers, Knauf Insulation, and the The Kudelski Group; and more than 80 graphs, charts, and tables.

High-Impact Succession Management is available at no cost to all Bersin & Associates research members. Non-members can purchase the study for $1,495. For more details, including an executive summary and a table of contents, click here.

Bersin & Associates will host a special webinar on the study findings on Thursday, April 9, at 2:00 p.m. ET. The webinar will cover the critical elements of a high-impact succession management program and best practices employed by leading companies. Roland Smith and Michael Campbell, analysts for the Center for Creative Leadership, will co-present.

About Bersin & Associates

Bersin & Associates is the only research and advisory firm focused solely on research in enterprise learning and talent management. The company’s WhatWorks® research and research-based services are designed to deliver actionable and practical guidance and to improve operational effectiveness and business impact.

Bersin & Associates research members gain access to a comprehensive library of best practices, case studies, benchmarks, and in-depth market analyses designed to assist professionals in making fast and confident decisions. Research areas include planning and strategy, learning programs and delivery, talent management, leadership development, talent acquisition, technology and infrastructure, and measurement and analytics. Member benefits include strategic advisory services, briefings, forums, analyst interaction, and workshops. More than 4,000 organizations have used Bersin & Associates’ research to guide talent and corporate learning strategies.

Bersin & Associates is the host of the only research conference on enterprise learning and talent management, IMPACT 2009: The Business of Talent®, scheduled for April 14 -16 in St. Petersburg, Florida. This year’s conference features more than 60 senior HR and learning leaders; many sessions will highlight cost-cutting strategies and ways to improve business impact through innovative approaches.

For more information, go to or call 561 455 0622, extension 223.

About the Center for Creative Leadership

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) is a top-ranked, global provider of executive education that unlocks individual and organizational potential through its exclusive focus on leadership development and research. Founded in 1970 as a nonprofit, educational institution, CCL helps clients worldwide cultivate creative leadership - the capacity to achieve more than imagined by thinking and acting beyond boundaries - through an array of programs, products and other services. Ranked among the world’s top providers of executive education by BusinessWeek and the Financial Times, CCL is headquartered in Greensboro, N.C., with campuses in Colorado Springs, Colo.; San Diego, Calif.; Brussels, Belgium; and Singapore. Its work is supported by more than 450 faculty members and staff.