Academic journal article Journal of International Business Research

Strategies for Successful Repatriation

Academic journal article Journal of International Business Research

Strategies for Successful Repatriation

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

U.S. multinational corporations (MNC) primarily send their best employees on international assignments to grow new markets, maintain existing operations (Windham, 1999), or develop high potential employees who can both contribute to company strategy and craft a global view of the corporation's business (Derr & Oddou, 1991). Over a twenty year period researchers have consistently reported MNC problems with retaining returning employees, especially the high costs of international assignments associated with low retention rates of repatriates. The purpose of this examination is to present strategies for addressing the repatriate attrition problem. The two objectives for this paper are (1) to compile and categorize strategies from corporate and employee perspectives, and (2) to summarize researchers' theories and relate them to actual practice. This approach allows MNC human resources and other executives to customize practices to fit corporate strategic objectives and alleviate low repatriate retention rates.

INTRODUCTION

Multinational corporations (MNC) report problems with retaining employees who are returning to the home company and country from international assignments. These problems apparently arise because human resources departments poorly execute the repatriation process and fail to satisfactorily incorporate employees into the company upon their repatriation. The problems have recurred over a twenty year period with no appreciable change (Goss & Tucker, 2003).

This is an important matter. Over the past thirty years, the business world has expanded operations to a global scale. The trend is expected to continue into the future (Derr & Oddou, 1991), and MNC will require more expatriate employees ("How to Assist," 2001). Management will experience pressure to earn a greater return on investment from the cost of the expatriate assignments.

Companies place employees in foreign assignments for periods of time generally ranging from 3 months to 3 years. These assignments are costly to the corporations, and the investment in individual employees is high (Black & Gregersen, 1999). The problem that many multinational corporations face is the failure to retain employees for more than two years after they return to the home office.

A corporation usually sends employees to an expatriate assignment to develop new markets, to maintain existing operations (Windham, 1999), or to develop high potential employees who can both contribute to the company strategy and develop a global view of the corporation's business (Derr & Oddou, 1991). These employees are involved in the long term global strategy of a company (since they can be available for potential additional international assignments) and for the benefit of the company over the long term. Retaining their services is of great importance.

Problems arise, however, from poor execution of the process by human resources departments and failure to satisfactorily incorporate employees into the company upon their repatriation to the home country. The result is that employees suffer from reverse culture shock while resettling their families. In addition they are dismayed to find that they are not offered a position where they can use the knowledge and contacts gained while on the assignment (Black & Gregersen, 1999). Their dissatisfaction prompts repatriated employees to seek either another foreign assignment or a position where they can use their foreign training and experience. (Ferrar & Hug, 2001; Forster, 1997).

PURPOSE

The purpose of this examination is to review the literature over the past 20 years, identifying strategies for addressing the attrition problem. The two objectives for this paper are (1) to compile and categorize strategies from corporate and employee perspectives, and (2) to summarize researchers' theories and relate them to actual practice.

CORPORATE PERSPECTIVE

The corporate goal is to secure an acceptable return on investment while implementing the company's global strategy. …

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