COO to CEO pipeline remains strong

The chief operating officer role — despite being in a period of flux this year — is still a strong springboard to the helm, according to a recent report from Crist Kolder Associates. 

The executive recruiting firm examines the backgrounds and measures turnover of C-suite executives in a portfolio of 674 Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies, 9.9 percent of which are healthcare organizations. Analysts tracked data from Jan. 1, 1995, through Aug. 15, 2023, to compile this year's Volatility Report. 

Five notable takeaways on the COO role's health — and the pipeline it provides for CEOs. 

  • The percentage of companies utilizing COOs dropped from 39.6 percent in 2022 (its peak) to 36.4 percent in 2023. Roughly 27 percent of healthcare companies currently have a COO.

  • Healthcare sports a low COO turnover rate compared to other industries, at 7.4 percent
  • Forty percent of 44 CEO turnovers noted this year were replaced by the companies' COOs.

  • Of the 81 COO departures in 2023, 82 percent of companies left the role vacant. Eighteen percent of those COO departures transitioned into a CEO position.

  • Nearly 50 percent of current CEOs were promoted from a COO or president position. 

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