Academic journal article International Review of Management and Business Research

Factors Affecting the Success of Malaysian Expatriates on Foreign Assignments

Academic journal article International Review of Management and Business Research

Factors Affecting the Success of Malaysian Expatriates on Foreign Assignments

Article excerpt


Expatriate employment has become part and parcel of Multi-National Corporation (MNC) business organizations as a way to improve their Human Resource (HR) to international standards level (Osman - Gani & Tan, 2005, 2009; Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart & Wright, 2006). Expatriates are referred to as employees who work in foreign locations with the approval of the laws of the particular countries (Richardson & McKenna, 2002). Globalization of businesses has caused international migration of labor in multinational corporations depending on labor situation of the host country (Takeuchi, Tesluk, Yun, & Lepak, 2005; Carpenter, Sanders, & Gregersen, 2001; Pires, Stanton, & Ostenfeld, 2006).

Increased labor shortage and competition has made it open for human resource systems to boost and utilize foreign human resources who might have global competencies and understanding of the diversity of foreign markets and cultures (Adler & Bartholomew, 1992; Black & Gregersen, 1991).

Due to lack of specific knowledge and expertise in countries where firms or organizations are set up, expatriate employment becomes a significant issue for multinational corporations to bridge the gap on lack of the required skills to maintain their daily operations (Shephard, 1996). In countries where expatriates are increasingly in demand mostly due to lack of the needed expertise, citizens normally prefer working in the public sector because of higher salaries, better employment conditions, greater job security and often shorter working hours (Chew & Debowski, 2008). For expatriates to be successful, their desire to work abroad and motivation are necessary and they should possess good social skills in order to live harmoniously with their colleagues (Kaye & Taylor, 1997).

Inclined to be an industrialized nation, Malaysia has enhanced and increasingly expanded its markets towards globalization of its goods and services. Malaysia is one of the South East Asian countries that has been at the forefront of international trade with many multinational companies all over Asia and other parts of the world. The international presence has boosted employment of Malaysians as expatriates in various subsidiaries where they are located in order to gain international business skills. These multinational companies employ competent, experienced and qualified Malaysians to work as expatriates in their foreign subsidiaries or work for other companies abroad.

Travelling overseas and exposure to other cultures offer a different lifestyle and set of experiences for the expatriates. They face numerous challenges and have to make essential adjustments in order to survive working and living in a foreign country. Such challenges might include language barriers, cultural differences and behaviors (Adler, 2008; Shin, Morgeson, & Campion, 2007). This means that the selection of expatriates should be appropriate for that environment, the preparation of the expatriates both physically and emotionally, knowing their compensation before they leave and also being in contact with Headquarters when they are abroad would be of much help to them. Even these do not guarantee success, as some firms had experienced a certain percentage of expatriate failures in the form of shortened contract assignments, resignations, adjustment problems, non-performance and even family breakdowns. These failures can be very costly both to the company and the expatriate monetarily as well as emotionally.

Literature Review

According to the literature, there are several factors that influence the success of expatriates in their foreign assignments. Among such factors that have been noted are the selection of the right candidates (Stroh, Black & Mendenhall., 2005; Holopainen & Björkman, 2005; Stewart, 1999; Shaffer, Harrison Gregerson, Black & Ferzandi, 2006), the preparation of expatriates before their departure for the foreign assignments, the emotional intelligence training (Templer, Tay & Chandrasekar, 2006; Goleman, 1998), and the support from the Headquarters. …

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