Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Determinants of Repatriate Turnover Intentions: An Empirical Analysis

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

The Determinants of Repatriate Turnover Intentions: An Empirical Analysis

Article excerpt

This study examined how the factors of repatriation adjustment, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction affect Taiwanese repatriates' intent to leave the organization and how these factors can predict their turnover intentions. The results of multiple regression analysis indicated that repatriation adjustment was the strongest predictor of intent to leave the organization for Taiwanese repatriates after repatriation. The repatriates who perceived a higher level of repatriation adjustment had a lower intent to leave. In addition to repatriation adjustment, regression analysis also found that organizational commitment significantly related to intent to leave upon repatriation. Organizational commitment was the second most important predictor in explaining the variance of intent to leave. However, the effect of job satisfaction was not significant as an effective predictor of intent to leave the organization. With the globalization of economies, the large amounts of capital invested in international personnel, the repatriation process requires further attention. This study was evidence about the difficulty of repatriation process and reports that repatriation adjustment and organizational commitment are two major factors influencing repatriates' turnover intention. As a result, the model in predicting repatriates turnover intentions can be modified by eliminating the variable of job satisfaction. The remaining two predicting variables, repatriation adjustment and organizational commitment, can still explain a significant portion of repatriates' turnover intentions.

Introduction

With the pressure of globalization, international job mobility is becoming a more common experience for a growing number of employees (Bonache, 2005). Moreover, it is critical for multinational organizations to remain competitive in the area of international human resource development and management. In reviewing international human resource management studies, much attention is given to the process of expatriation, much less attention is given to repatriation, the final link to the completion of the international assignment (Bonache, Brewster, & Suutari, 200 1; Riusala & Suutari, 2000). The multinational organizations always assume that the re-entry to the parent country is non-problematic or even an non-issue (Black & Gregersen, 1998). However, research indicates that repatriation can be more difficult adjustment than expatriation (Forster, 2000).

Given the fact that 25% of repatriates leave parent companies within one year of coming home and more than 50% of the executives in a survey of US corporations said they experienced social re-entry problems upon repatriation, returning home can be hazardous to the organizations and repatriates (Bland, 2002). Most organizations have not been very accommodating and repatriate turnover continues to remain high even top-down interventions have been implemented to reduce repatriate turnover (O'Sullivan, 2002). Sending talented managers on foreign assignments and successfully integrating them upon their return seems to challenge even the more astute human resources professionals (Jassawalla, Connelly, & Slojkowski, 2004).

A lack of respect for acquired skills from overseas assignment, loss of status, and reverse culture shock are continuing problems in many organizations ( Stahl, Miller, & Tung, 2002). Organizations risk losing all of the investment in sending the employee abroad if the repatriation process is not handled smoothly and the employee leaves the company (Nelson, 2005). Due to such problems, organizations have a stake in finding ways to facilitate a smooth transition for repatriates through the development of a better understanding of the repatriation process.

Therefore, understanding the role of repatriation adjustment, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment in the repatriation process should give organizations an edge to use these factors for successful adjustment and retention of repatriates.

The majority of management theories and models are framed within the U.S. culture. Concepts that are replicable both in the U.S. and other cultural contexts may be more enduring and important than those only receiving support in the U.S. Therefore, this study applied those variables, which research efforts in international human resource management and international business have suggested are related to the repatriates' intent to leave the organization, to a different culture setting. The results identify factors important internationally to hopefully enhance understanding of the impact of culture on various management theories and models.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to examine how the factors of repatriation adjustment, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction affect Taiwanese repatriates' intent to leave the organization and how these factors can predict their turnover intentions.

Research Questions

This study aims to answer the following key research questions:

1. Does the level of repatriates' adjustment, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment affect their intent to leave the organization?

2. How well does the level of repatriates' adjustment, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment predict repatriates' intent to leave the organization?

Literature Review

Researches on repatriation found that the culture shock of coming home is usually more difficult than the culture shock of going overseas (Adler, 1981 ; Black, Gregersen, Mendenhall & Stroh, 1999). Poor repatriation is costly, reduces the effective utilization of human resources, and often leads to a loss of talented personnel ( Adler, 1991, Black & Gregersen, 1991, Black, Gregersen, & Mendenhall, 1992). Furthermore, poor repatriation could possibly represent the number one reason for employee hesitancy to accept overseas assignments (Feldman & Tompson, 1993). Repatriates are an underestimated resource within an organization. If their knowledge is fully employed, repatriates can play a rare, hard to imitate role in helping their organizations sustain competitive advantage (Fink, Meierewert, & Rohr, 2005).

Whitman (1999) stated that "the issues of repatriation have been discussed in the literature since the 1950s, and serious problems were identified by studies of returning expatriate managers in the 1970s." Several of these studies (Clague & Krupp, 1978; Murray, 1973) highlighted problems of readjustment to the corporate structure, personal finance problems, and re-acclimation to life in the home country as significant factors for repatriates. Almost thirty years later, the same repatriation issues plague companies and repatriates today.

Cross-Cultural Adjustment

The concept of "cross-cultural adjustment" 'began with earlier work on culture shock. Culture shock was defined as the period of anxiety before an individual feels comfortable in a new culture (Oberg, 1960). Subsequent research found that not all sojourners experience the same level of anxiety, or experience anxiety for the same length of time (Church, 1982; Stening, 1979). This resulted in the study of cross-cultural adjustment as an individual difference criterion, which could potentially be predicted, rather than as a fixed period of anxiety that all sojourners will necessarily experience when they enter a new culture (Black, 1990).

Over the past thirty years of research on this topic, a large number of substitute definitions of "cross-cultural adjustment' have been used. Some researchers have used job satisfaction (Abe & Wiseman, 1983), life satisfaction (Cui & Van den Berg, 1991), acquisition of language or cross-cultural skills (Bochner, Mcleod, & Lin, 1977), and ratings of depression (Armes & Ward, 1989) as surrogates for cross-cultural adjustment.

Others suggest that, while adjustment may be an antecedent of some of these variables, it is a separate construct (Black, 1990; Searle & Ward, 1990). Cross-cultural adjustment is "the individual's affective psychological response to the new environment and its variables" (Black, 1990). Therefore, the cross-cultural adjustment is an internal, psychological, emotional state and should be measured from the perspective of the individual experiencing the foreign culture (Black, 1990; Searle & Ward, 1990).

Repatriation Adjustment

Repatriation adjustment issues were identified in the literature in the 1950s and 1960s (Gullahorn & Gullahorn, 1963). Ogberg (1960), the anthropologist who popularized the term "culture shock," initially referred to cultural adjustment. Ogberg viewed culture shock primarily from a stress and coping perspective and presented four stages through which sojourners pass: the honeymoon stage, the hostility stage, the recovery stage, and the adjusted stage. Furthermore, he named a fifth stage when the sojourner returns home and experiences culture shock in reverse. Subsequent research produced similar findings (Clague & Krupp, 1978; Howard, 1980; Murray, 1973). In an important study of repatriation, Adler ( 1981 ) discovered that "employees found reentry into their home country and home company more difficult than the initial move to the foreign culture." Once the individual returns to the home country, the process of in country repatriation adjustment begins.

Cultural re-entry expectations are often dashed through a process known as "reverse culture shock." Reverse culture shock refers to a sense of isolation and a lack of current behavioral understanding of the home country. By going through the initial cultural shock of entering a foreign country, expatriates have changed their perception of the world and recognized different cultural values. This self-awareness may make individuals uncomfortable with previously accepted cultural norms that they experience once they get home. Most people experience a more severe culture shock when coming home than they did in the original international assignment (Black & Gregersen, 1998).

Black, Gregersen, and Mendenhall. (1992) state that the two most affected work areas of repatriation adjustment are performance and turnover. Based on their research and experience, they found that failing to pay attention to repatriation adjustment could reduce performance, and that "when expatriates adjust effectively during repatriation, they are better performers" (Gregersen & Black, 1995). High repatriation adjustment leads to high job performance. Furthermore, high commitment to the organization after repatriation leads to high intentions to stay with the firm" (Black et al., 1999).

Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction is simply how people feel about their jobs and different aspects of their jobs. It is the extent to which people like (satisfaction) or dislike (dissatisfaction) their jobs. As it is generally assessed, job satisfaction is an attitudinal variable. Job satisfaction can be considered as a global feeling about the job or as a related constellation of attitudes about various aspects or facets of the job. The global approach is used when the overall or bottom line attitude is of interest (Spector, 1997).

Worker attitudes, including satisfaction, are developed through interaction with other workers within the context of the work environment (Salanick & Pfeffer, 1978). The context of the work environment is multidimensional, with the major constructs being job/task characteristics, organization characteristics, and worker characteristics. The interaction of these constructs collectively results in an environment unique to a particular organization and set of employees. Thus, the worker attitude of particular interest in this study, job satisfaction, may result from the expatriate's characteristics in interaction with the job/task characteristics and organizational characteristics.

Repatriate Job satisfaction

Researchers have found several factors that negatively impact repatriates' attitudes toward home country job satisfaction. Of particular interest is the repatriates' view of the profound differences between their international job assignment and their assignment upon return to their home country (Black et al., 1992). Most expatriates experience high level positions when on their foreign assignments that exceed the position they used to hold. Researchers (Black et al., 1992;Oddou&Mendenhall, 1991;Tung, 1988) also discovered that the repatriates experience limited job choices and restricted career opportunities upon return from their international assignments.

Organizational Commitment

Organizational commitment focuses on employees' perceptions of their alignment with or attachment to their entire organization (Buchanan, 1974) and has been found to be negatively related to turnover (Cohen, 1993) and positively related to prosocial behavior (O'Reilly & Chatman, 1986), job satisfaction (Bateman & Stasser, 1984; Ford, Weissbein, & Plamondon, 2003), motivation (Mowday, Steers, & Porter, 1979), and attendance (Mathieu & Zajac, 1990). Details of a given change initiative, how it is managed, and its consequences can impact organizational commitment as they cause individuals to reconsider their personal alignment with the organization. (Hui & Lee, 2000; Judge, Thoresen, Pucik, & Welbourne, 1999) Thus, knowing that organizational change may signal alterations in the relationship between the individual and the organization (Caldwell, Herold, & Fedor, 2004), it Is important for management to understand how change initiatives may strengthen or weaken individuals' commitment to the organization.

Repatriate Organizational Commitment

"Organizational commitment is the critical factor for keeping high-performing repatriates in the firm after global assignments" (Black et al., 1992, p. 263). In their comprehensive research on American repatriation. Black et al. ( 1992) found 42 percent of repatriates had seriously contemplated leaving their organizations since returning home, and 74 percent did not expect to be working for the same company in one year. Also significant was the fact that 79 percent felt the market demand for their international skills was high, and they would be able to locate a job with another company. During repatriation, research suggests that multinational firms need to enhance expatriates' commitment to the parent organization and develop commitment to the new local work unit to facilitate the retention of these strategic human resources (Gregersen, 1992). Organizational commitment after repatriation is important because of the positive relationship between commitment and executive retention and the much higher turnover rate for repatriated executive compared to domestic counterparts. Furthermore, it is important because of high direct and indirect costs associated with repatriation turnover (Brewster, 1991 ; Gregersen & Black, 1995; Harvey, 1989; Oddou & Mendenhall, 1991). Black et al. (1992) argue that although both repatriation adjustment and organizational commitment would be expected to be positively related to both performance and intent to stay, organizational commitment is the most strongly related to intent to stay.

Turnover Intentions

Turnover is referred as an individual's estimated probability that they will stay an employing organization (Cotton and Tuttle, 1986). Therefore, the identification of factors that influence turnover intentions is considered as important and to be effective in reducing actual turnover (Maertz and Campion, 1998).

Repatriate Turnover Intentions

Empirical evidence strongly supports the position that intent to stay or leave is strongly and consistently related to voluntary turnover (Dalessio, Silverman & Schuck, 1986; Griffeth & Horn, 1988; Mathieu & Zajac, 1990). Researchers have found intent to leave or stay as the strongest predictor of actual turnover (Hendrix, Robbins, Miller, & Summers, 1999; Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982).

Turnover among domestic operations typically refers to the separation of the individual employee from the firm. This definition is too narrow for the international environment and must be broadened to include several other dimensions of turnover since expatriate turnover often involves internal transfers to the organization (Naumann, 1992).This situation is more common in international operations than in domestic situations (Tung, 1984).

Research has indicated that many expatriate managers find the repatriation process much more stressful and frustrating than the initial expatriation and repatriation experiences, and this may cause subsequent turnover (Adler, 1981 ; Harvey 1989). Many expatriates may develop an intention to quit while on foreign assignments and view the transfer home as an intermediate step to leaving the organization (Harvey, 1989). The formulation of intentions to leave or stay is inherently a result of affective attitudes toward the international assignment as well as perceptions of external employment alternatives.

Research Method

The purpose of this study is to empirically test whether repatriation adjustment, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment affect the Taiwanese repatriates' intent to leave the organization. This study examined relationships between a set of independent variables: (a) repatriation adjustment, (b) job satisfaction, (c) organizational commitment, and the repatriates' intent to leave the organization as the dependent variable.

Research Design

Quantitative research methods were used in this study. The purpose of this research focused on examining the relationship between independent variables and the dependent variable in the proposed model. All measurements of the independent and dependent variables were taken at a single point in time with a survey instrument. Multiple regression was used to predict intent to leave from three independent variables and explain the impact of predictors on intent to leave.

The population of this study was Taiwanese banking repatriates, who had been assigned to other countries. Random sampling was used in this study. The sample size of this study was 124.

Instrumentation

A questionnaire was developed to measure each variable in the study. Repatriation adjustment and job satisfaction items were adopted from Napier and Peterson's repatriates study in 1991; organizational commitment items were adopted from the nine-item Mowday, Steers, and Porter's ( 1979) organizational commitment questionnaire (OCQ) scale; intent to leave items were adopted from Liu's (2003) repatriate study.

Procedures for Collecting Data

An emailing survey method was used to collect data for this study. Prior to sending questionnaire, telephone calls were made to the human resource managers that would take part in this study. Based on the deadline for returning the questionnaire, follow-up emails were sent. Approximately two weeks after sending the initial emails, the follow-up invitation letters and follow-up questionnaires were sent. The follow-ups were taken to ensure a satisfactory response rate.

Results

This study assessed the intent to leave of Taiwanese banking repatriates and the factors related to it. In this study, intent to leave the organization was the dependent variable in the model, and the researcher examined evidence for how it was influenced by repatriation adjustment, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment.

In the multiple regression analysis, repatriation adjustment was found to be negatively related to intent to leave (B = -.583) and the results were significant (p = .000<.05). This indicates a significant negative relationship between the level of repatriates' adjustment and intent to leave the organization. The results show that repatriation adjustment had the greatest influence on intent to leave. In the multiple regression analysis, job satisfaction was found to be negatively related to intent to leave (B = -201) but the results were not significant (p = .375>05). There was no statistically significant relationship between the level of job satisfaction and intent to leave the organization. The multiple regression found a statistically significant negative relationship between organizational commitment and repatriates' intent to leave the organization (B = -.473, p = . 000<.05). The results, based on the regression model, were significantly related to intent to leave the organization, R^sup 2^ = .60; p = .000<.05, 60 percent of the variance of the intent to leave can be explained by the combination of the three predictors (repatriation adjustment, job satisfaction, organizational commitment).

Conclusions

The results of the multiple regression analysis indicated that repatriation adjustment was the strongest predictor of intent to leave the organization for Taiwanese banking repatriates after repatriation. The repatriates who perceived a higher level of repatriation adjustment had a lower intent to leave. In addition to repatriation adjustment, regression analysis also found that organizational commitment significantly related to intent to leave upon repatriation. Organizational commitment was the second most important predictor in explaining the variance of intent to leave. However, the effect of job satisfaction was not significant as an effective predictor of intent to leave the organization. Although job satisfaction was negatively related to intent to leave, it was not found to be significant on repatriates' intent to leave the organization in regression analysis.

While there is still much to be learned about repatriates' turnover intention and its antecedents and outcomes, this study has made several contributions. First, its results consolidate previous literature, by providing empirical evidence that repatriation adjustment and organizational commitment are negatively related to intent to leave the organization. Second, this study is the first research that identifies turnover intention among Taiwanese banking repatriates and it expands the repatriation research to a service industry. Third, the two variables, repatriation adjustment and organizational commitment, of this study account for a significant portion of the variance in predicting repatriates' turnover intention. Therefore, the conceptual framework of this study can be a guide to future research in repatriates' turnover intention.

With the globalization of economies, the large amounts of capital invested in international personnel, the repatriation process requires further attention (Arthur, 2004). This study provides evidence about the difficulty of repatriation process and reports that repatriation adjustment and organizational commitment were two major factors influencing repatriates' turnover intention. As a result, the model in predicting repatriates turnover intentions can be modified by eliminating the variable of job satisfaction. The remaining two predicting variables, repatriation adjustment and organizational commitment, can still explain a significant portion of repatriates' turnover intentions.

[Reference]

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[Author Affiliation]

Hung-Wen Lee

National Chiayi University, Taiwan

Ching-Hsiang Liu

National Formosa University, Taiwan

[Author Affiliation]

Contact email address: wayne@mail.ncyu.edu.tw

Hung-Wen Lee

School of Business

National Chia-Yi University

151,LinsenE. Rd.

Chia-Yi City

Taiwan 600

Ching-Hsiang Liu

School of Business

National Formosa University

64Wen-HwaRd,Yunlin

Taiwan

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