CEO Turnover Jumps 22% in July

Are CEO Skillsets in Hot Demand During a Talent Shortage?

PUBLISHED August 12, 2021

As job openings hit a record high in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, and companies hold tight to their talent, 127 CEOs left their posts in July, the most CEO changes in 18 months. That is up 22% from the 104 who left their posts in June, according to a report by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

CEO departures by month 2020 - 2021

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Last month’s total is virtually unchanged from the 125 CEOs who left their posts in July of 2020. So far this year, 770 chief executives have left their posts, down 2.3% from the 788 CEOs who left their posts in the first seven months of last year.

CHALLENGER ANALYSIS

“CEOs were likely leaving for very different reasons last July than this July. Leaders have a slew of unique issues to navigate now in terms of talent management, retention, hiring, and reimagining the workplace post-COVID,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

WHAT INDUSTRIES HAD THE HIGHEST TURNOVER?

CEO turnover is led by Government/Non-Profit entities, which include charities, foundations, school systems, transportation authorities, and other government-funded entities. This sector announced 26 CEO changes in July for a total of 148 this year.

Technology announced the second-most CEO exits in July with 23, the highest monthly total for the sector since January 2020 when 35 CEOs left their posts. In nearly half of these instances, the CEO remained with the company in some capacity as it entered a new phase of growth. Five of these exits occurred because the CEO had another opportunity last month.  

LEADERSHIP CHANGE CAUSES

In fact, so far this year, 93 CEOs have left for new roles in completely different companies or in different companies within the hierarchy of their current organizations, with 25 occurring last month. This is compared to 68 CEOs who similarly found new roles through the same period in 2020. 

“Companies are increasingly reporting talent shortages at every level of their organizations. The skill sets that many CEOs have are in high demand. A quality candidate could get poached even from within,” said Challenger.

Top Reasons for CEO Departure in July 2021

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Another 17 CEOs left Hospitals last month for a total of 59. Nine CEOs left Entertainment/Leisure companies and 8 exited from Food & Beverage companies in July.

So far in 2021, 221 CEOs have stepped down into other roles within the same company, typically on the Board or into another C-Level role, compared to 194 who did so through July last year. Another 187 retired, 46 saw their interim periods end, and 25 left after an acquisition or merger.

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