Formal Succession Planning Decreases in U.S. Organizations

Jun 16, 2011

Formal Succession Planning Decreases in U.S. Organizations

Alexandria, Va. – The number of U.S. organizations with a formal succession plan in place decreased during the past five years from 29 percent in 2006 to 23 percent in 2011 according to a poll from the Society for Human Resource Management.

While less than a quarter of businesses have a formal plan in place, the numbers improve when informal plans are considered. More than one-third, or 38 percent, of HR professionals said their organization currently has an informal succession plan or process in place (up from 29 percent in 2006).

The number who said their organization has no intentions to develop a plan remained roughly unchanged from 16 percent in 2006 to 17 percent in 2011.

Sixteen percent said their organization’s staff size is too small to create a formal succession plan.

“The number one reason organizations are not developing formal succession planning is because more immediate projects are taking precedence—not surprising given that organizations are focusing their energies on dealing with an uncertain economic outlook,” said Evren Esen, manager, Survey Research Center at SHRM. “Still, succession planning has significant strategic implications for organizations and should not be put on the back burner, especially during times of economic volatility.”

While roughly four in 10 HR departments lead the organization’s succession plan initiatives, 21 percent of efforts are lead by the organization’s president or CEO. Thirteen percent of efforts are lead by executives such as the chief financial officer or the chief operating officer. Only four percent are lead my middle managers and three percent by the board of directors.

“This is an area that HR should lead in organizations,” said Esen. “Currently only 40 percent of HR departments lead succession planning efforts,” she noted. “Maybe planning would increase if HR ran the programs.”

For details, visit the survey section of SHRM Online at Follow SHRM Research on Twitter @SHRM_Research.

Media: For more information or to schedule an interview with a human resource expert, contact Julie Malveaux of SHRM Media Relations at 703-535-6273 or Jennifer Hughes at 703-535-6072 and

About the Society for Human Resource Management
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at or follow SHRM on Twitter @SHRMPress.


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