What life will be like without work? Will your retirement involve cocktails, sunglasses and hotel swimming pools?

Will your retirement involve cocktails, sunglasses and hotel swimming pools?

ALMOST every senior leader will struggle with retirement - and less than 10 per cent of businesses are prepared for staffing changes in the top team.

That’s the latest findings of new research surveying 92 organisations across 10 countries which looked at how successful change in senior management is for companies.

The report also found that four in five businesses don’t put proper plans in place for top level changes, which can ultimately lead to reputational damage, lack of confidence amongst staff and even financial losses for companies.

The study was carried out by ‘Stepping Out from the Top Team’, a consultancy that specialises in succession planning for large firms.

Its founder is Belfast-born Oliver Johnston, who set the business up using his own experience of leaving a high-powered job just before the pandemic.

He spotted a gap in the market after leaving his own high-powered job at Penna plc in 2016 to embark on establishing a business centred around smooth transitions in the workplace.

Before becoming an independent consultant he was a partner in the James Black Partnership and Gilpin Black Management Consultants and head of the Covey Leadership Centre in Scotland and Ireland. He was also a director of the Runge Effective Leadership Programme held at Balliol College Oxford.

Oliver says top level changes have become more frequent now as workforces adjust post-Covid..

He said: “The New Year is a time when people reflect on the past and re-evaluate the future. Since the pandemic, people at all levels in the workforce are more unsettled about their working lives.

“Senior leaders are no exception. Many are quietly contemplating leaving the executive suite earlier than might have been expected. Yet what our research has found is that many firms have not addressed this looming problem and don’t have appropriate transition plans in place.

“Senior executives lead high-octane lives. They work under relentless pressure to deliver results. They commit long hours year-on-year to their jobs, and often find that they are called to make sacrifices in their personal lives.

“Yet, they love it. So, facing up to the end of their career can be bittersweet. It’s not only a matter of working out what to do next. It impacts on personal identity, lifestyle, family ties, finances, and daily routines.

“Many senior leaders are daunted by retirement and worry about what life will be like without work so it’s not surprising that many put off making the decision for too long.”

Stepping Out ( has a network of coaches in Britain, Ireland Europe and USA, and it has worked with major blue-chip companies including KPMG, CRH, Farrans Construction and Kingspan.

The survey - entitled 'Retiring Senior Leaders Can Look After Themselves, Can’t They?' - reveals:

  • Only 5 per cent of senior leaders are rated as ‘very well’ equipped for life beyond the organisation and 36 per cent are considered ‘poorly equipped’.
  • Only 23 per cent of organisations are rated ‘very supportive’ of senior leaders who are thinking of, and/or planning to exit the organisation.
  • Only 9 per cent of organisations have a formal approach to helping senior leaders exit the organisation successfully.
  • There is a strong business case for providing support to exiting senior leaders as part of the senior leader transition process.
  • Current succession planning processes need fixing.
  • Where support is made available to departing senior leaders it is often inadequate