Nearly Half of European Business Leaders Uncertain About Staying With Companies over the Next Five Years, New Study Reveals

November 10, 2008

Catalyst and Families and Work Institute study identifies how companies
in Europe can confront unprecedented talent challenges

Zug, Switzerland —  With turbulent markets and talent challenges facing companies in Europe, a new study identifies compelling talent management practices that will help companies engage top talent more effectively, reap the benefits of under-utilized leadership and remain competitive. Otherwise, according to the study, European employers are at risk of losing hard-to-replace and valued business leadership, possibly to competitors.

Reporting on the attitudes and mindset of current and future business leaders in Europe, Leaders in a Global Economy: Talent Management in European Cultures, by Catalyst and Families and Work Institute, surveyed over 4500 senior and pipeline (future) business leaders in three cultural regions: Anglo, Germanic and Latin Europe.   Notably, the study revealed that nearly one-half of leaders intended to leave or were uncertain about staying with their current employer over the next five years. The study highlighted specific cultural challenges and barriers across gender and region which impact leaders, particularly women leaders who perceive less access to talent management practices.

“Not surprisingly, our study reveals few women currently in senior leadership but many women in the pipeline, suggesting a different future reality,” said Nancy Carter, PhD., Vice President, Research, Catalyst and co-author of the study. “We heeded the call to help senior executives improve talent management systems and enhance potential for all talent – essential in tough economic times.  We hope that companies will seize this opportunity to advance women leaders as they do men and lay the foundation for future success.”

According to the study, focused talent management practices can reduce barriers across region, rank and gender and counter the downward spiral of job/company dissatisfaction, lessened commitment and greater intent to leave. The study underscored that when women and men leaders are satisfied with access to talent management practices, they are more likely to view their jobs and companies more positively, feel greater responsibility to do a good job and, ultimately, are less likely to leave.

Among the study’s critical findings:

  • There was no difference between what men leaders and women leaders plan to do if they leave their current employer. Of women and men leaders who intend to leave, 82 percent said they planned to stay in the workforce; nearly 60 percent of that group intended to seek a job at a similar organization.  And there was little evidence that women were more likely than men to leave large multinational companies for smaller ones or to start their own businesses.
  • Women and men leaders in Anglo Europe were most at risk of leaving their current employers within five years. Women and men leaders in Germanic Europe were least likely to leave their current employers within five years.
  • Women and men leaders in Latin Europe reported lower satisfaction than Anglo and Germanic European leaders about company commitment to talent diversity.
  • Women leaders were less likely than men to receive constructive feedback and to see promotion and work assignment decisions as fair.  Women leaders in Latin Europe were least likely to perceive work assignments and promotion decisions as fair, while women under 30 were more likely to perceive work assignments and promotion decisions as fair.  Women leaders also reported having less ‘line of sight,’ an understanding of how their job impacts company success.

 “We saw in our last study that, although women and men hold nearly identical workplace values, men find a better workplace fit than do women.  This study shows that women face greater career barriers and perceive less access to helpful talent management practices,” said Ellen Galinsky, President, Families and Work Institute and co-author of the study.  “Now we’ve identified ‘power practices’ that can reduce those barriers and increase commitment, with significant benefits for talent and employers.”

According to the study, barriers to career advancement include lack of access to champions and mentors, limited knowledge of company politics, few role models and limited access to job opportunities.  The study points to specific talent management practices with greatest impact on reducing career barriers.  Those powerful practices include:

  • Constructive feedback which can lead to increasing a positive view of job and greater intent to stay.
  • Support from supervisors which can lead to increasing a positive view of job and greater intent to stay.
  • Fair and just decision-making in allocation of work assignments which can lead to increasing a positive view of company and commitment to doing a good job.
  • Fair and just decision-making in promotions which can lead to increasing a positive view of job and of company and greater intent to stay.
  • Line of sight – understanding company goals and how one’s job links to those goals — which can lead to increasing a positive view of job and of company, commitment to doing a good job and greater intent to stay.

Specifically, leaders surveyed recommended that their organizations:

  • Make valuable job opportunities available for leadership development that will increase breadth and depth of knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  • Offer mentorship and guidance to leaders that will help them acquire skills needed to succeed in their roles and advance to the next level.
  • Provide supervisory support as well as manager accountability.
  • Engage in more constructive feedback on an ongoing basis that is tough, direct and honest.
  • Listen to employees and build transparency, equity and consistency.
  • Create a culture that offers options for getting work done without neglecting personal lives, using skills and abilities in a more efficient manner.

The Leaders in a Global Economy:  Talent Management in European Cultures is the third in the landmark Leaders in a Global Economy series which explores talent management systems in the global marketplace.  Sponsors of the study include:  BP p.l.c., Citigroup Inc., Henkel, Hewlett-Packard Company, IBM Corporation, Johnson & Johnson; JPMorgan Chase & Co., Total S.A. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. To learn more about this report, as well as the other reports in the Leaders in a Global Economy series, please visit and  For media inquiries, please contact:  Susan Nierenberg at 646-388-7744,; or Kelly Sakai at 

About this study
BP, Citigroup, Fluor, Henkel, Hewlett-Packard Company, IBM Corporation, Infosys, Johnson
& Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, Total, and Wal-Mart sponsored and/or participated in the current
study. The sample analyzed for this report includes 4,585 senior and pipeline leaders from five global companies in three regions of Europe: Anglo (United Kingdom, Ireland); Germanic (Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria) and Latin (Spain, France, Switzerland [French language] Italy, French Polynesia, Haiti, Reunion). Companies determined who qualified as senior and pipeline leaders, with leaders then completing an online survey.

About Catalyst
Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit membership organization working globally with businesses and the professions to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and more than 400 preeminent corporations as members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women’s advancement with the Catalyst Award.

About Families and Work Institute 
Families and Work Institute (FWI) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that studies the changing workforce, family and community. As a preeminent think-tank, FWI is known for being ahead of the curve, identifying emerging issues, and then conducting rigorous research that often challenges common wisdom, provides insight and knowledge, and inspires and leads to change. Its purpose is to create research to live by.

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