Slow recruitment is costing UK companies both time and money as a new survey finds that it typically takes more than four months to fill an executive vacancy.
Research by recruiter Executives Online has found that while four months is the normal time taken to fill senior posts, the process takes at least six months in a quarter of organisations.
The study involved interviews with 102 HR managers and line managers who are actively involved in the recruitment of senior personnel and who work for UK organisations across a range of industries and with turnover in excess of 25 million.
With the average company needing to hire six senior executives each year, the study suggest that around two full years (6 x 4 months) of senior executive time is lost to each company because of the time taken to fill vacant posts.
What is more, this problem is significantly exacerbated in bigger companies, which need to recruit twice as many senior executives each year and tend to take longer to find each one.
One in five of the largest companies taking part in the study reported that they hire between five and ten execs each year, while a further seven per cent recruit between 11 and 20.
The top jobs Ė managing directors and CEOs Ė are the hardest to fill. But as research published earlier this month by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) highlighted, they are also the most critical.
FTSE 350 companies which replaced their CEO but did not immediately announce a replacement saw their share prices fall by 2.1 per cent more than their peers with planned succession processes, the CEBR found.
On average, companies performed 9.6 per cent worse than their competitors over the three years for each change of CEO.
The Executives Online research, meanwhile, also revealed that IT recruitment is a much more significant issue in larger organisations, with 14 per cent reporting that senior IT personnel are the hardest to find, double the figure of smaller companies.
In contrast, smaller organisations are almost three times as likely to struggle to find the right calibre of finance director than their larger counterparts (14 per cent vs 5 per cent).
One in five interviewees said that the easiest executive roles to fill are in sales and business development.
But given that one in five companies also find that their senior managers typically stay with them for less than four years, it is clear that companies need to speed up the recruitment process when vacancies do arise.
"There is a painful cost attached to having to wait while the traditional recruitment process kicks in," said Norrie Johnston, MD of Executives Online
"During such delays opportunities are missed, decisions are stalled, corporate direction is lost and staff morale can really suffer. That's why an increasing number of clients are looking to us to rapidly supply an interim manager, to plug the gap while they find their permanent senior appointee."