Less Than a Third of HR Professionals are Confident They Have the Right Leaders for the Future, According to Global Korn Ferry Survey

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

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- 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?


29 percent


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?


98 percent


2 percent


Does your organization currently have a high-potential program?


55 percent


45 percent


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


91 percent


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


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?


66 percent


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?


72 percent


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.

Tracy Kurschner

Source: Korn Ferry