African Journal of Business Management Vol.5 (9), pp. 3605-3613, 4 May 2011
Available online at http://www.academicjournals.org/AJBM
ISSN 1993-823 3©2011 Academic Journals
Full Length Research Paper
Succession planning and its effects on employee
career attitudes: Study of Iranian governmental
Ali Dehghanpour Farashah, Vahid Nasehifar* and Ahmadreza Sanjari Karahrudi
Department of Management and Accounting, Allame Tabatabai University, Tehran, Iran.
Accepted 16 February, 2011
This paper evaluates effects of succession planning as an organizational level intervening program on
career attitudes as individual level variables. Best practices of succession planning are selected from
literature and compliance of succession planning system of organization to these practices is defined
as extensiveness of succession planning. A 22-item questionnaire was developed to measure the
extensiveness of succession planning. Validity and reliability of questionnaire are confirmed by
appropriate tests. For career attitudes, 3 variables of promotion satisfaction, perception of career
success, and perception of job platitude selected. Then the correlation of the succession planning
extensiveness and three career attitudes examined by empirical data gathered from 152 managers and
key personnel in 23 large Iranian governmental organizations. Significant correlation exists between
succession planning extensiveness and career success and satisfaction of promotion process.
Perception of job plateau does not show correlation with succession planning extensiveness. This
paper recognized best practices that should be considered for design of succession planning. Also the
scale for measuring succession planning extensiveness developed. It can be used to gain a better
understanding of status quo of succession planning in organizations and gap analysis which is
generally one of the early stages of every organizational development project. The literature of
succession planning was enriched by studying the effect of succession planning on individual level
Key words: Succession planning, best practice, career attitudes, measure development, Iran.
Succession planning helps organizations manage their
talent pipeline (Guin, 2000). Its goal is to ensure that, the
quantity and quality of leaders are identified, fully
capable, and ready to contribute to the effective
performance of a business in future. Although, new
career concepts like boundary-less careers (Arthur and
Rousseau, 1996) and protean careers (Hall, 1996) em-
phasize individual responsibility in career development,
no successful business can stop career management
programs like succession planning to identify and
*Corresponding author. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tel: +98(21)88770011. Fax: +98(21)88770017.
develop the right people to ensure that the important
skills are present in the organization over the long term
(Barnet and Davis, 2008). Some business trends are in
favor of taking succession planning more seriously.
Demographic trend in workforce toward aging and
decrease in supplying workforce, tight labor markets
(Busine and Watt, 2005; Naris and Ukpere, 2010);
changes in values and attitudes of new generation
workers toward demanding more independent, and
flexible job with more training and learning opportunities
(Cascio, 2006); shifting the source of competitive
advantage from tangible assets to tacit knowledge stuck
to the minds of employees (Barnet and Davis, 2008)
which needs a mechanisms in place to avoid the risks of
lost valuable human resources and ensure continuity;
3606 Afr. J. Bus. Manage.
rapid changes in environment and need to quick
responses from inside which requires dynamic and
complex leadership capability (Busine and Watt, 2005)
are examples of these trends and consequences.
Also, a number of papers show direct evidence of effect
of SP on return of investment. Axelrod et al. (2000)
reported companies in the top quintile of talent manage-
ment practices were associated with a 22% higher return
to shareholders than their industries’ means. From non-
financial view, many researchers argue that succession
planning yields a return in form of internal operational
efficiency in variables like greater job satisfaction, higher
individual and departmental performance, and better
retention of high–performing staff (Garmen and Glaw,
2004). From risk management perspective, SP is a useful
practice to hedge against risk. In fact, organizations fare
better while they immediately appoint an internal
successor (Worrell and Davidson, 1987). Bernthal and
Wellins (2001) study in 14 countries showed that, succes-
sion planning increases satisfaction of future leaders and
is a prerequisite for retention. Rothwell (2010) mentioned
succession planning as a basic tool for organizational
learning because it keeps lessons learned in the
Employees are also in support of practice of SP. In a
survey conducted by Bernthal and Wellins (2001), it was
found that two–third of employees indicated that they
would rather grow inside their present organization than
leave. The study also revealed that the ultimate reason
that made employees leave an organization is that they
are not being developed and/or they do not have
meaningful work. Therefore, this is evident that effective
succession planning improves the organization’s chances
of retaining key personnel. In conclusion, succession
planning improves ROI, processes and organizational
behavior variables and can be considered as a critical
human resource system. But effects of SP on individual
level variables are less examined. Due to this
inadequacy, this paper focuses on relation of succession
planning with employee career attitudes.
Development of succession planning models consi-
dering antecedents and consequences of this plan is
lacking (Mayrhofer et al., 2004). This paper aims at
consequences by investigating the effects of succession
planning, an organizational level program on employee
career attitudes which is an individual level variable. By
this, we try to enrich the theoretical background of SP.
The larger the firm, the more likely it is to have a formal
succession planning program in place (McConnell, 1996).
As the firm size increases, the number of key or critical
positions increases, resulting in mounting pressure to
institute formalized procedures that plan succession
processes. Therefore, it is better if we study SP in large
organization context. Due to great share of government in
the Iran economy, the sample of this paper includes large
Iranian governmental firms.
This paper at first, offers a reasonably comprehensive
overview of best practices of SP and their influence on
business. Then variable of extensiveness of succession
planning defined as compliance of SP system of
organization with found best practices. For measuring the
extensiveness, a scale has developed and validated.
Then effect of SP extensiveness on career attitudes has
measured using empirical data. At the end, limitations of
research and further research have been discussed.
Succession planning defined as “deliberate and syste-
matic effort by an organization to ensure leadership
continuity in key positions, retain and develop intellectual
and knowledge capital for the future and encourage
individual” (Rothwell, 2010). Succession planning is no
longer limited to top managers, nowadays need to
successor for every job in the organization is evident,
specially with more involvement of employees to the
organization and distribution of decision making to
empowered employees across organizations. Literature
search will typically include articles that refer to
analogous such as: replacement planning –to plan who
will replace which key leaders in the firm; talent manage-
ment – selection of candidates for future leadership but
not for a specified position but for forming an acceleration
pool of appropriate candidates; and career development
–helping managers to plan their future in the organization
by themselves and be ready for taking responsibility.
In general, process of succession planning demands
three steps: 1) identifying and analyzing key jobs, 2)
creating and assessing candidates and 3) selecting the
right individuals who will fill up the key positions (Dessler,
2005). Top management
department based on the firm’s strategic goals identify
the company’s future key position requirements;
management looks into the jobs and assess candidates
for these jobs. This is followed by identifying potential
internal and candidates for future key positions, and
provide them with the developmental experiences they
require to fill up the future positions. Then, these people
will be assessed and selected to fill up the key positions
in the firm. The characteristics of samples in articles or
approaches of researchers to SP, form some streams in
SP literature. Many papers are case–based studies,
involving examination of effects of SP on organizations
and its characteristics in some companies thought to
have succession planning systems in place and prescribe
universal instructions (Garman and Glaw, 2004; Ip and
Jacobs, 2006). Another stream include research written
usually by practitioners with various backgrounds discuss
importance and general consideration and suggestions
during implementation of SP (Robinson, 2005); about
succession of museum managers; Dalton (2006) about a
and human resource
recipe for succession planning. Research on SP in SMEs
is another stream with a considerable volume. The
process of selecting successor for founder–CEO among
family members (Griffeth, 2006), factors behind the
selection (Tatoglu et al., 2008), and individual charac-
teristics of successor (Sharma et al., 2003) are examples
of subjects of research. In general, research on process
and operation of SP can be described as scattered.
Succession planning process includes three main
components. The first component is selection of
candidate based on previous experience and background
among and formation of talent pool (Rothwell, 2010). By
this, we make sure that each key position has alternative
potential successors and each talent has multiple
potential promotion paths (Byham et al., 2002). The trend
in scope of SP is expanding it to cover all the positions
not just top managerial positions. It has shown that
companies considering lower levels have better profita-
bility (Garmen and Glaw, 2004). In case of not including
all the organization, it is very important to identify critical
positions which are essential for the organization,
department, division, work unit, or team to achieve the
necessary work results (Ibarra, 2005). Strategic plan can
be a guideline for this aim. Beyond identifying what skill
sets and knowledge bases are required for key positions,
it is crucial that, the succession plan provides a method
or plan for providing employees the opportunity for
professional development. After selecting the talents, the
role of development of successor as a second
component of SP becomes clear.
Identifying development plan and follow–up is a
mandatory part of process (Rothwell, 2002). The plan
should be tailored to the individual needs and interests of
successor (Patton and Pratt, 2002). Best development
methods include 360–degree feedback, executive
coaching, mentoring, networking, job assignments and
action learning (Groves, 2007). The third component of
SP process is change management and process
management, including function and sub–processes like
strategic view of SP, management commitment, imple-
men-ation considerations etc. Succession plan makes
sure that, organization has access to required human
resource, quantitatively and qualitatively. This plan will
determine promotion opportunities and developmental
needs of candidates and build management commitment
(Christie, 2005). But the problem is that, while companies
may have SP in place, they may fall out of sync with what
the company needs to grow or expand into new markets.
Therefore, it is very vital to link succession plan to
business strategy to obtain need kind of people with the
needed set of skills for the future.
However, this linkage has not been achieved in real
world even in organizations with best succession
planning (Karaevil and Hall, 2003). Management
commitment like any other organizational–wide program
is critical for successful implementation of SP. Without
the support, SP is not executable even if design phase is
Farashah et al. 3607
done well (Diamond, 2006). Awareness and communi-
cation is another issue in process management of SP. It
seems that, the best state for both organization and
individual is that issue raise and discuss openly based on
a transparent posted process (Greer and Virick, 2008).
Continuous evaluation is important in process manage-
ment. Appropriate criteria for SP program include a
number of successors for a key position; percentage of
vacancies filled internally, average number of successors
for a key position, number of key positions that have one
or two developed candidate, satisfaction of successors,
and rate of change in succession pool (Greer and Virick,
2008; Fulmer and Conger, 2003).
Concept of extensiveness of succession planning
As mentioned, in literature there are many suggestions
for implementation of SP process and practice in
organizations. Trying to consider all of them in our
research, we made up variable of ‘extensiveness of
succession planning’ and defined it as the degree of
compliance of organization SP practice of best practices
mentioned in literature. Table 1 summarizes the best
practices for each component of SP.
Career attitudes and succession planning
Career is a very useful concept for connecting people
and organizations (Shein, 1978). Aligned with the aim of
this paper to measure the effect of SP on individual level,
we considered three career attitudes as our research
dependent variable. Career success is defined as
“positive physical and psychological outcomes of job
related experiences and activities” (Greenhaus and
Callanan, 2006). Objective career success is one
dimension and includes achievements visible to the
others like income and promotion. Another dimension of
career success is subjective success and reflects the
internal satisfaction and positive emotions. Theories of
organizational psychology and career choice focus on
fitness between individual
characteristics which lead to job satisfaction (Seibert,
Hypothesis 1: In organizations with more extensive
succession planning system including more extensive
process and change management of SP (H1a), more
extensive practices for selection of successor (H1b) and
more extensive practices for development of successor
(H1c), employees’ perception of career success is
Satisfaction of promotion process considered as emo-
tional and cognitive evaluation of events, plans, policies
of promotion system and perception of opportunities and
intensity of promotion build the satisfaction of promotion
3608 Afr. J. Bus. Manage.
Table 1. Best practices of succession planning.
Succession planning process
Best practices Source
Process and change management
Top management participation and support
Setting specific goals
Measuring real progress against goals regularly and defining correction plan
Designing SP based on internal needs assessment and external benchmarking
Centralized structure and formal approach
Having full–time responsible person for SP
Detailed SP planning including work breakdown and schedule
Evaluation of personal development of successors
Budgeting of SP
Considering motivations and rewards for successors
Considering motivations and rewards for mentors
Linking SP to business strategy
Extend SP to all organizational levels
Identification of critical positions and prioritizing them in SP
Periodical evaluation of employees
Establishing performance appraisal system
Establishing a system for employees’ competency gap analysis
Establishing a system to discover employee potentials vs. current performance
Developing career and personal development plans
Establishing system of identification of future job competencies
Linking SP to training plan
Linking SP to persona interests and careers
Extensive use of on the job training
Ley (2002); Conger and Fulmer (2003); Rothwell
(2010); Karaevli and Hall (2003); Diamond (2006);
Ibarra (2005); Waymon (2005), Jarrel et al.
(2007); Greer and Virick (2008); Wolfred (2008)
Selection of successor
Christie (2005); Diamond (2006); Burns–Martin
(2002); Byham et al. (2002); Larson (2005);
Development of successor
Greer and Virick (2008);
Patton and Pratt (2002); Ingraham and Getha–
Taylor (2004); Grove (2007); Saungweme and
process (Sanborn and Berger, 1990). Past
promotions and future opportunities lead to the
evaluation (De Souza,
planning makes employees able to decide about
their career and adjust their career goals with
satisfaction of promotion (Russel, 1991).
Hypothesis 2: In organizations with more
extensive succession planning system including
goals which lead to more
more extensive process and change management
of SP (H2a), more extensive practices for
selection of successor (H2b) and more extensive
practices for development of successor (H2c),
employees’ satisfaction of promotion process is
Farashah et al. 3609
Table 2. Reliability of questionnaires.
Process and change management
Selection of successor
Development of successor
Satisfaction f promotion process
Career success promotion
Perception of job plateau
greater. Feldman and Weitz (1988) defined perception of
job plateau as the likelihood of having more responsibility
and more challenge in future duties. They combined
structural and job content dimensions into one concept.
Structural plateau occurs when it is unlikely that an
employee will receive additional hierarchical promotions
and job content plateaus arise from frustrations with more
developmental aspects of jobs in that, it is the point an
individual (Heilmann et al., 2008). Development compo-
nent of SP tries to create opportunities of growth and
learning, thus decrease plateau perception of both
dimensions (Allen et al., 1999).
Hypothesis 3: In organizations with more extensive
succession planning system, including more extensive
process and change management of SP (H3a), more
extensive practices for selection of successor (H3b) and
more extensive practices for development of successor
(H3c), perception of job plateau among employees is
Due to Clark and Watson (1995), at the first step to develop precise
and detailed description of the concept of extensiveness of SP
system, we examined the approaches to the concept in the
literature. As mentioned earlier, majority of researchers approached
the SP by suggesting and prescribing best practices. Aligned with
their approach, we developed the concept of extensiveness of SP
and defined it as compliance of organization SP system with
recognized best practices. To measure this variable, a 24–item
questionnaire was developed. Each item measured the level of
maturity of best practices of Table 1 in a scale of 1 to 5. Questions
organized in three areas of succession process: process and
change management of SP with 14 items, section of successor with
4 items and development of successor with 8 items. For content
validation of questionnaire, three human resource instructors
validated the association of item to three components of SP.
State of each best practice evaluated in a 1 to 5 maturity level in
which level 1 means that best practice does not run in the
organization, level 2 means that best practice is in the stage of
need assessment and priority determination, level 3 shows that the
best practice is in the design process or it exists but with many
improvement areas, level 4 points out that best practice currently is
in a state of implementation or exists informally/explicitly with
acceptable functionality and finally level 5 of maturity demonstrates
perfect running of the best practice. At the end of the questionnaire,
a general question asked about overall maturity of SP system in the
organization. Questionnaires were filled in the presence of authors.
They answered respondent questions and described ambiguities of
respondents. Career attitudes questionnaire adopted from Quinn
and Staines’ (1979) promotion satisfaction measure, Cox and
Harquail’s (1991) career success measure and Milliman’s (1992)
job content and Structural plateau measure.
Divergent and convergent validity of measure of succession
planning extensiveness were tested by checking the correlation of
each question with its corresponding dimension and other dimen-
sions. The most correlated dimension for each question was its
proposed dimension therefore validity of questionnaire approved.
Reliability tested by Crunbach’s alpha calculation. Alpha coefficient
and correction has been shown in Table 2. To have an acceptable
alpha coefficient we deleted item 13, extend SP to all organizational
levels, and item 20, establishing system of identification of future
job competencies from the questions. Parallel technique also
confirmed reliability of extensiveness of SP. We compared the
results of extensiveness obtained from 24–item questionnaire with
one overall question about maturity of SP. The correlation of the
two groups of result was significant at a confidence level of 99%.
Data gathered in 30 organizations which were subsidiaries of one of
the ministries of the Iranian government. These organizations each
had more than 300 employees and had a strategic role in accom-
plishing the mission of the ministry. Human resource managers or
organization development managers answered the succession
planning extensiveness questionnaire
describing the best practices and were discussing the current
situation of best practice in the organization, to create a common
understanding of the questions and selecting the right maturity
levels. The data from 23 organizations used for hypothesis
analysis. 152 employees from 600 key position holders in these
organizations reported their career attitudes. The average work
experience of respondents with their current employer was 13.3
years and they had experienced 4 promotions during that period in
Correlation analysis and for further support of results, stepwise
linear regression analysis were used.
while authors were
3610 Afr. J. Bus. Manage.
Figure 1. Histogram of SP extensiveness in 23 sample organization.
The extensiveness of SP in 23 organizations has been
shown in Figure 1. The majority of organizations have
extensiveness between 2 to 3 in the scale of 1 to 5. The
least level of maturity of practice in sample belonged to
practices of linking SP to the strategy, budgeting of SP,
career workshop for guiding personal development and
career choice and considering motivations and rewards
for successors. Practices of appraisal system, involve-
ment and support of top level managers, usage of on the
job training and prioritizing positions for implementation of
SP had greatest level of maturity. To analyze the
hypothesis, we checked the significance of correlation
between dimensions of succession planning extensive-
ness and career attitudes, Table 3 shows the results.
Table 3 shows a significant correlation between SP
extensive and its dimensions of process and change
management and development of successor with three
career attitudes. Perception of job plateau does not show
any correlation with SP extensiveness. Career success
correlates to only one dimension of SP extensiveness,
development of successor. Therefore, we have empirical
evidence for supporting hypothesis H1c, H2, H2a, and
H2c and refuting other hypotheses. The relation between
variables has been demonstrated in Figure 2. To further
support the relation found in the correlation, we used
multiple linear regression analysis. Results are shown in
Tables 4 and 5. Regression analysis shows that, the
relationship between succession planning and career
success is significant (r = 0.26, p < 0.05) but SP
extensiveness describes only about 7% of variance in
career success. Results of correlation and regression
analysis partially support H1. Linear stepwise forward
regression analyses results shows that, only relationship
between SP process and change management and
satisfaction of promotion process is significant (r=0.19, p<
0.05) and supports H2c.
As outcome of this research, we offer practitioners some
useful tools. For implementation of succession planning
we recognized best practices that should be considered
in design phase of succession planning. Also, the scale
of SP succession planning developed and validated. It
can be used to gain a better understanding of status quo
of SP in organizations and gap analysis which is
generally one of the early stages of every organizational
development project. The effects of succession planning
on career attitudes as the main aim of research have
been shown in Figure 2. Job plateau is not correlated
with succession planning. This means developing a
process for managing progress and movement of
employees between jobs does not necessarily lead to
perception of challenge in the work. It seems content and
characteristics of the job and techniques like job
Farashah et al. 3611
Table 3. Correlation between SP extensiveness and career attitudes.
Perception of career
Perception of job
Succession planning extensiveness
Process and change management
Selection of successor
Development of successor
**Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (1–tailed). *Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (1–tailed).
Figure 2. Effects of succession planning on career attitudes.
enrichment and employee empowerment are more
effective for less perception of career and job plateau.
For a better understanding of this result, considering
structural dimension of job plateau separate from job
content dimension in further research and considering
fitness between strategy and SP and fit between people
and job was suggested. Relationship between satis-
faction of promotion and extensiveness of SP and its two
dimensions can be justified by concept of procedural
An extensive succession planning practice with
establishing formal procedure and open communication
persuade employees that limited resources, here, attrac-
tive positions and job distribute fairly. Lack of relation
between selection of successor and satisfaction makes
sense because being a candidate for future promotions
does not guarantee promotion
satisfaction according to expectancy theory. To satisfy
employees, candidates should be supported and deve-
loped according to their career interests and exploited in
real positions. Career success is correlated with more
extensive successor development. According to the
definition of career success, positive outcomes of job
related experiences and activities (Greenhaus and
Callanan, 2006), we conclude that personal development
and learning is a valuable reward for employees. By
founding and planning
development can help organizations perform better, both
organization and employees mutually can benefit.
According to Ingraham and Getha–Taylor (2004) who
situations that personal
3612 Afr. J. Bus. Manage.
Table 4. Results of regression of SP extensiveness and career success.
Model R R Square
Std. error of
R Square change
Sig. F change
0.037 1 0.258 0.067
Predictors: (Constant), SPExtensiveness, SPDevelop, SPSelection, SPPrc and ChangeManag; Dependent variable: Career success.
Table 5. Results of regression of SP extensiveness and satisfaction of promotion process.
1 0.189 0.036 0.029
Predictors: (Constant), SPDevelop, Dependent variable: Satisfaction of promotion process.
Model R R Square
Std. error of
R Square change
Sig. F change
declared that public and private organizations are going
to use similar techniques and methods of employee
development, we can suggest that our findings is
applicable in the context of large private organizations.
Considering similar practices like career management
and talent management on career attitudes, considering
perceived justice as a dependent variable, considering
intervening variables like sexuality and firm size in the
current research framework in future research can lead to
more precise results and enriching a antecedent and
consequent model for succession planning.
In conclusion, succession planning as a career
management technique is critical for creating perception
of career success and satisfaction of promotion process
among employees. From the perspective of career
attitudes and effect on employees’ perception, we
conclude that successor development practices are the
most critical part of succession planning and it should be
emphasized more in SP programs. New career concepts
like protean career and boundary-less career put the
responsibility for career development on the shoulders of
individuals; but systems like SP cannot be abandoned
and still play an active role in instilling positive attitudes
and emotions to employees alongside with managing risk
and ensuring continuity of performance of the firms.
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