Academic journal article Review of Business & Finance Studies

Repatriate Adjustment and Turnover: The Role of Expectations and Perceptions

Academic journal article Review of Business & Finance Studies

Repatriate Adjustment and Turnover: The Role of Expectations and Perceptions

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

International placements, particularly of executives, have increased with the globalization of business. Although many global organizations have established procedures to help their employees adjust to their stays abroad, and some have established practices to provide support for returning employees, repatriate turnover continues to be a challenge for organizations. Organizations lose the skills and knowledge that repatriates gain through their foreign assignments when repatriated employees leave their jobs. With the substantial costs of training and salary for each employee sent abroad, repatriate turnover also represents a significant financial burden. This paper reviews current repatriate adjustment and turnover literature and presents a model incorporating the findings of recent research. The proposed model suggests repatriate adjustment and turnover intentions are related to the following key factors: employee expectations upon repatriation, employee perceptions of organizational repatriation support practices, and employee perceptions of the appropriateness of both job content upon return and the availability of external career opportunities based on the employee's new found expertise. Recommendations for future research are outlined as well as suggestions for improving organizational repatriation support practices.

JEL: M12, M16

KEYWORDS: International Management, Repatriation, Turnover, International Human Resource Management, Reverse Culture Shock, Re-entry Culture Shock

INTRODUCTION

International placements, particularly of executives, have increased with the globalization of business. The number of foreign assignments has grown at an exponential rate. Multi-national corporations send their managers abroad for a variety of reasons including the objective to develop their knowledge of international economic environments and increase their ability to manage in a global context (Tung, 1998). One way organizations build a pool of global knowledge and skills is to transfer their managers from country to country (Paik, Segaud, & Malinowski, 2003). The foreign assignments can provide first hand understanding of local markets, encourage cross-fertilization of ideas and practices, retain star performers in the organization by providing them with new challenges, and allow organizations to exercise control over their subsidiaries. An assumption is made that expatriate managers will return home with international expertise that will benefit the organization (O'Sullivan, 2002). Global assignments may create competitive advantage for both employees and for the companies that employ them (Carpenter, Sanders, & Gregersen, 2000). Not surprisingly, Stroh and Caligiuri (1998) found that effective management of people in the global arena positively affects the bottom line. According to Lazarova and Caligiuri (2001, pp. 389-390):

Repatriates, who have completed a global assignment, can help establish and expand an MNC's international business because they possess first-hand knowledge of particular cultural contexts, including information about specific markets and customers. ... Repatriates have an irreplaceable role in organizational learning, given that they can accelerate the transfer of knowledge from host countries to headquarters, and vice versa.

A foreign assignment can be thought of as consisting of three broad stages: 1) selection and pre-departure, 2) the foreign assignment, and 3) repatriation and career management (Bonache, Brewster, & Suutari, 2001). Repatriation is defined as the return to the home country after the completion of an international assignment (Dowling & Shuler, 1990). Researchers and practitioners alike have failed to adequately address the issue of repatriating or re-acclimatizing the employee returning from the foreign assignment Although many global organizations have established procedures to help their employees adjust to their stays abroad, and some have established practices to support returning employees (Lazarova & Caligiuri, 2001), the final phase in the expatriation process, repatriation, continues to be a difficult phase for both employees and companies (Vidal, Valle, & Aragon, 2008). …

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