June 1, 2023

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Even CEOs Are Burning Out and Joining the Great Reshuffle

  • CEO turnover spiked in the first half of 2021 with 1,095 companies appointing a record 103 leaders.
  • The new way of working and communicating virtually was exhausting for CEOs.
  • Companies are also more confident about their prospects this year and are changing up leadership.

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It’s not just rank and file employees: CEOs, too, are joining the Great Reshuffle, a study from US recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles found.

In the first half of the year, turnover for CEOs spiked, the study found: 1,095 companies appointed 103 new chief executives. The study analyzed information from large publicly listed firms in 24 countries including the US, China, Germany, the UAE, South Africa, Mexico, and Singapore. The 103 new appointees in the first half of this year vastly outnumbered the 49 new CEOs appointed in the second half of last year.

The study did not examine how many of those CEOs left on their own or were replaced.

The phenomenon is due in part to burnout.

While CEOs didn’t have to travel as much, which helped them preserve physical energy, communicating virtually in a new way was “exhausting,” Jeff Sanders, co-managing partner of Heidrick’s global CEO and board practice, told Reuters.

However, the changes in companies’ top ranks aren’t fully driven by resignations.

Companies are also more confident about their prospects this year amid a global economic recovery and are actively changing up their leadership, according to the report. Last year, most companies kept their CEOs in place to deal with upheaval from the pandemic, Sanders told Reuters.

As the world has changed significantly since the departing leaders took office, “it is perhaps no surprise that CEOs appointed over the past year differ significantly from the CEOs they replaced,” said the report.

Of the new CEOs appointed in the first half of this year, 13% were women — doubling from 6% the year before. New CEOs were also more likely to be non-nationals and to have cross-industry experience.

Sanders said the great reshuffle is likely to continue gaining pace. “Our belief is that it will only accelerate going into next year as people have delayed their retirements,” he told Reuters.

Millions of workers have quit their jobs in recent months, sending resignations in the US to a two-decade high.