It turns out that a large number of executives around the world question whether they’re investing in their ideal future leaders.

Korn Ferry found that 51 percent of respondents doubt whether their companies have correctly picked “the potential future leaders” in which they should be investing, according to its latest survey. Adding to the concern, executives said they typically include only 13 percent of skilled professionals and 38 percent of midlevel managers in succession management programs.

As many as 63 percent said that an absence “of well-suited traits and dispositions” is the top cause of worry in failed promotions, according to the survey of companies ranging from 500 to more than 50,000 employees in 54 countries. Hanover Research conducted the survey for Korn Ferry, which elicited more than 1,000 responses, the bulk of which came from C-suite and VP/SVP/EVP-level executives.

Stu Crandell, senior vice president of global offerings at Korn Ferry and the Korn Ferry Institute, said in a statement that the results show companies rely more on promoting employees and future executives based on what they can do, rather than also considering who they are as people.

“It’s critical to take a whole-person perspective, particularly drivers and traits, as otherwise you run the risk of identifying the wrong talent,” Crandell said.

Jim Peters, senior partner and global lead for succession management at Korn Ferry, wrote in the report that “there are very different challenges and capabilities required at different leadership levels.” He said leaders frequently overrate the performance of those that directly report to them, “precisely because they are confusing performance with potential.”

Peters added that potential must matter as much as performance in grooming executives of the future.

“Being promotable or ready for that next job after this one is about having the ability to develop the qualifications needed for the bigger jobs further down the road,” Peters said. “It’s all about those who have what it takes to go the distance.”

Here are some factors Korn Ferry recommends when considering who is worthy of promotion to a senior executive level:

  1. A track record of formative experiences
  2. Learning ability
  3. Self-awareness
  4. Leadership traits
  5. The drive to be a leader
  6. Aptitude for logic and reasoning
  7. Managing derailment risks

Crandell said these factors are all able to be assessed and quantified and can help predict who has the biggest chance of rising through the executive ranks. To maximize this, Korn Ferry recommends identifying employees in their late 20s and 30s who have the biggest potential, and then manage their development for the long haul. As well, companies should still zero in on high-performing professionals who can be nurtured in their areas of expertise, because they still contribute great value to corporations, Korn Ferry said.

Source: Korn Ferry