Academic journal article Management International Review

How Do MNC R&D Laboratory Roles Affect Employee International Assignments?

Academic journal article Management International Review

How Do MNC R&D Laboratory Roles Affect Employee International Assignments?

Article excerpt

Abstract Research and development (R&D) employees are important human resources for multinational corporations (MNCs) as they are the driving force behind the advancement of innovative ideas and products. International assignments of these employees can be a unique way to upgrade their expertise; allowing them to effectively recombine their unique human resources to progress existing knowledge and advance new ones. This study aims to investigate the effect of the roles of R&D laboratories in which these employees work on the international assignments they undertake. We categorise R&D laboratory roles into those of the support laboratory, the locally integrated laboratory and the internationally interdependent laboratory. Based on the theory of resource recombinations, we hypothesise that R&D employees in support laboratories are not likely to assume international assignments, whereas those in locally integrated and internationally interdependent laboratories are likely to assume international assignments. The empirical evidence, which draws from research conducted on 559 professionals in 66 MNC subsidiaries based in Greece, provides support to our hypotheses. The resource recombinations theory that extends the resource based view can effectively illuminate the international assignment field. Also, research may provide more emphasis on the close work context of R&D scientists rather than analyse their demographic characteristics, the latter being the focus of scholarly practice hitherto.

Keywords International assignments * Roles of R&D laboratories * R&D employees * Resource recombinations * Multinational corporations

1 Introduction

This article examines how Research and Development (R&D) laboratories of multinational corporation (MNC) subsidiaries influence international assignments that employees working in these laboratories undertake. The emphasis on R&D scientists and engineers is topical as these persons are the main agents in the discovery and improvement of novel forms of technological progression in the 'centres of excellence' of the modern MNC. In MNCs such as Siemens, R&D laboratories stand out as a 'key success factor for the company' since their scientists and engineers develop innovations that constantly shape the cornerstones of accomplishments of the firm, according to its Head of Global Innovation Communication (Akalin 2009). It appears that R&D employees are valuable to MNCs since their tacit knowledge is actively engaged in innovation and provides the basis for generating value to firms (Kyriakidou 2011; Donnelly 2008).

This tacit knowledge represents an idiosyncratic resource that the MNC subsidiary possesses to achieve its objectives. Closely allied to the resource based view, the theory of resource recombinations posits that the way the firm recombines and reconfigures its existing resources, especially those that bring innovation, can provide value creation (Galunic and Rodan 1998). Birkinshaw and Pedersen (2009) support the view that the examination of subsidiary level resources for MNC affiliates to gain competitive advantage should be accompanied by appropriate resource recombinations. In a similar vein, the relationships between effective intrafirm learning, global sources of competitive advantage and enhanced performance are contingent upon the MNC's ability to coordinate and imperfectly mobilise heterogeneous human resources within the entire MNC system (Caligiuri and Colakoglu 2007). International assignments provide these employees opportunities for training and development because they may offer them prospects to lead projects and offer chances to join fast-track technology programmes. It follows that international assignments offer major opportunities to MNC R&D subsidiary employees to refine, hone and recombine their knowledge. In the current study, we focus on short-term international assignments (lasting up to 12 months) as they are considered particularly useful when MNC knowledge-specific skills need to be transferred as rapidly as possible. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.