That’s as CEO turnover surged in the first half of this year. Out of 1,095 companies surveyed by the firm across countries including the United States, China, and Europe, there were 103 new incoming CEOs—meaning, of course, that 103 CEOs left their jobs (willingly or not wasn’t specified). In comparison, there were just 49 new top executives in the second half of 2020.
Why the sea change? Heidrick & Struggles’s vice chair Jeff Sanders told Reuters it could be due to a number of factors. Most companies wanted to keep leaders in place last year as they navigated the choppy waters of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, but after life appeared to stabilize with mass vaccinations, they felt steady enough to put new captains at the helm.
And for CEOs, the grim slog through the COVID gauntlet could be taxing. Communicating virtually in the new pandemic landscape was “exhausting,” Sanders told Reuters. It likely didn’t help that many had to make tough calls that completely redefined company strategy, or left thousands of workers jobless during a deep economic recession.
But despite recent tides of progressivism, the rapid turnover at the C-suite level hasn’t resulted in a significant increase in diversity, says the report. According to its data, of the Fortune 100 CEOs, 3% are Black, 4% are Hispanic or Latino, and 4% are Asian, well below their share of the U.S. population. There’s also less new blood; nearly two-thirds of the CEO hires were internal candidates. However, the percentage of women hired for the top job doubled to 13% from 6% in the same period last year.
While these figures write CEOs into the narrative of the Great Recession, media stories suggest the armies of workers quitting their jobs in recent months may not all sympathize with the executives’ plight. In fact, a spate of labor strikes at manufacturing plants, including Kellogg’s and John Deere, suggests some may be battling company policies drafted by these very executives and their high-level colleagues.