Globalizing Human Resource Management

By Paul Sparrow; Chris Brewster et al. | Go to book overview
7
Managing international mobility

Introduction
One common feature of organizations operating in international arenas is the need for increased mobility of staff. The strategic and practical aspects of expatriation have been a favored topic of study for many IHRM scholars. Indeed, at one time, the topic of IHRM dealt mainly with the management of expatriation. Yet, amongst the larger and more established international players there have been significant changes, notably a much more competitive environment (D'Aveni, 1994) forcing an increasing attention to cost reduction and cost-effectiveness. Since expatriates are amongst the most expensive people any organization employs, and the measurement of expatriate performance is, to say the least, uncertain, this has had a direct effect on the way organizations view their expatriates and the challenge of international mobility. This has been made more problematic by the reorganization of MNCs in Europe and the consequent reduction in the size of headquarters (Scullion and Starkey, 2000). The strong trends towards decentralization and downsizing over the last decade, mean that many MNCs have lost the central expertise in the management of expatriates built up over many years, as the numbers of expatriates increases (Scullion and Starkey, 2000). New approaches are required that
• link developments in the management of expatriation with the broader international strategy
• look at the strategic positioning of mobility in international organizations and the implications for individuals of various forms of this mobility.

From a strategic perspective we have already noted the role of expatriates as one vehicle for global knowledge transfer in Chapter 5. The international assignment is also seen as the main process through which organizations can develop global leadership. For example, Novicevic and Harvey (2001) cite the example of Gillette where 85 percent of its global assignees come from twenty-seven countries outside the US and the implicit policy is that 80 percent of its top management team have extended international experience. However, it is important to take a wider view of mobility. Nowadays, mobility takes many forms, including short-term and commuter assignments and frequent flying. Managing both the organizational and the personal implications of mobility is a critical task for both HR and line managers.

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