Nearly half of UAE finance directors admit to having no successor in place

Businesses admit to having no succession plan in place, with one of the main reasons is due to a shortage of skilled professionals

  • More than four in 10 UAE finance directors cite ‘lack of existing internal talent’ as the primary reason
  • Robert Half offers employers three tips for efficient succession planning within the workplace

Dubai, 24 June 2013 – Nearly half (45%) of UAE finance directors admit to having no succession plan in place in the event they choose to leave their current role, according to new research*from leading recruitment specialist Robert Half UAE.

Succession planning strategies are vital for ensuring organisations maintain a supply of well-prepared senior executives. Companies that fail to implement a succession strategy are left with the time-consuming and expensive exercise of replacement when someone vacates a critical role in the organisation.

The research reveals that more than four in 10 (41%) of UAE finance directors cite ‘lack of existing internal talent’ as the primary reason preventing them from identifying a successor, though this figures rises to more than half (56%) for Dubai-based companies, compared to 28% in Abu Dhabi. One in five (21%) cite ‘lack of time to develop and mentor’ as the primary factor, followed by ‘lack of time to identify their successor’ (15%), ‘lack of exposure to senior-level initiatives for employees’ (15%) and ‘lack of professional development opportunities for employees’ (6%).

When asked how they would foresee a successor being identified for their role, finance directors said local internal promotion (32%), external permanent hire (29%) and international transfer (26%) as the primary recruitment channels.

James Sayer, Director, Robert Half UAE said: “Succession planning is essential in any organisation, but particularly for finance leaders who play a critical role in providing sound financial management and strategic guidance. Failure to choose a successor, or at least developing a pool to choose from can put the future continuity and performance of the business at risk.

It’s a common misperception that succession planning is only for large companies. However, it is essential that businesses of all sizes prepare selected employees to later assume specific senior roles in the firm. In addition to implementing formal succession plans, employers should look at ways to help manage the process further, including offering managers with executive potential more training and development as well as exposure to key initiatives within the firm.”

75 UAE Finance Directors were asked, ’What primary factor is preventing you from identifying a successor? Their responses:

Lack of existing internal talent 41%
Lack of time to develop and mentor 21%
Lack of time to identify 15%
Lack of exposure to senior-level initiatives for employees 15%
Lack of professional development opportunities for employees 6%
Other 3%


Robert Half’s three tips for efficient succession planning:

1. Take both a linear and holistic approach

Determine which positions must never be left vacant in the firm starting at the top of your organisation: identify managers who have executive potential and offer them training and development opportunities. In the meantime, groom potential successors for these employees’ roles. Apply this strategy throughout the organisation, as deep into the business as necessary to ensure operations won’t be seriously disrupted in the event that one or more employees leave.

2. Look for talent throughout the firm

Keep in mind that the best future leaders may not always be the people next in line for promotion. This assumption is a common mistake many employers make that can result in talented workers leaving the firm because they perceive a lack of advancement opportunities.

3. Make succession planning part of your culture

Because it can take time — potentially, years — to help talented staff members develop into confident and well-prepared business leaders, it can be difficult to treat the succession planning process with the ongoing sense of urgency it requires. The effectiveness of a succession planning programme depends largely on active and visible support by top management. Their engagement sends a powerful message throughout the organisation that such efforts are essential to the firm’s long-term vitality.


Notes to editors

About the Survey

*The survey was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 75 finance directors in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 350 offices worldwide providing permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, human resources and legal professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and job seeker resources at