Reverse Expatriation - USYD Thesis - Thomas P Binetter 2010


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Reverse Expatriation - USYD Thesis - Thomas P Binetter 2010

  1. 1. Non-traditional Expatriate Practice, Knowledge Transfer and Organisational Learning An Examination of the Potential of Reverse Expatriation Discipline of Work & Organisational Studies University of Sydney Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) October 2010 Thomas P. Binetter
  2. 2. Declaration I hereby declare that this thesis is my own work and that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, it contains no material previously published or produced by another party in fulfilment, partial or otherwise, of any other degree or diploma at another University or institute of higher learning, except where due acknowledgement is made in the text. Thomas P. Binetter 29th October 2010 ii
  3. 3. Dedicated to my parents, who gave me this cherished opportunity. iii
  4. 4. Acknowledgements The author would like to express his gratitude to: Dr. John Shields, Associate Professor and Associated Dean of Postgraduate Studies in the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies, Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Sydney, who not only afforded me the privilege of supervision, but provided a level of guidance, advice and support of which I could have only dreamed. Dr. Suzanne Jamieson, Associate Professor in the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies, Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Sydney, Dr. Marian Baird, Professor in the Discipline of Work and Organisational Studies, Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Sydney and Stephen J Perkins, Professor at the Business School, University of Bedfordshire, for their encouragement and counsel throughout the year. My research participants who generously offered both their time and knowledgeable insights, and last but not least, to my friends and family for their love and support. iv
  5. 5. Abstract The relationship between acquired knowledge and its transfer between cross-border assignees and their organisations is a theme surprisingly under-explored in current IHRM literature. This study explores this relationship through a new variant of expatriate management known as reverse expatriation. Reverse expatriation refers to a process in which a home country national goes on an expatriate assignment to specifically gain knowledgeable insights that he or she will be able to integrate into their home organisation as 'returning nationals'. One of the claimed advantages of reverse expatriation is that it can facilitate organisational learning in multinational firms at all stages of their placement by means of systematic reflexive learning at both the individual and organisational level. In recognition of this bi-directional process, this study examines the direct relationship between expatriate practice, knowledge transfer and organisational learning, as well as the influence of a number of proposed moderating factors: national cultures; organisational characteristics (structural barriers/facilitators and communicative openness/inhibition); and use of e-technologies. To investigate these mediated and moderated relationships, the study draws on evidence obtained by means of 23 semi-structured interviews with individual expatriates. Results generally support the view that new forms of non-traditional expatriation, including reverse expatriation, are able to enhance organisational learning by overcoming the 'stickiness' of bidirectional knowledge transfer associated with traditional expatriate practice. The evidence is also used to test eight additional hypotheses relating to the multifaceted internal and external environment in which expatriate knowledge transfer occurs. Results here support the finding that knowledge transfer is mediated rather than assured, with closer consideration of organisational and wider cultural characteristics reflecting important implications for IHRM theory and practice. v
  6. 6. Table of Contents Declaration ii Dedication iii Acknowledgements iv Abstract v Table of Contents vi List of Abbreviations ix Chapter One Introduction 1.1 Introduction 1.2 Research Aims 1.3 Chapter Structure 1.4 Conclusion 1 1 2 4 5 Chapter Two Existing Propositions, Evidence and Interpretations 6 2.1 Introduction 6 2.2 Knowledge and Knowledge Transfer 6 2.2.1 Knowledge and International Human Resource Management (IHRM) 2.2.2 Definitional Constraints and Implications for Theory and Practice 2.2.3 The Emergent Literature on Knowledge Management in IHRM 2.2.4 Types of Knowledge: Tacit & Explicit 2.2.5 Insights Offered by the "Knowledge-based View of the Firm" 2.2.6 Internal 'Stickiness' 2.2.7 Expatriates, Repatriates and Knowledge Transfer 2.3 Reverse Expatriation - An Under-examined Dimension of IHRM 14 2.4 The Knowledge Gap on Reverse Expatriation and Knowledge Transfer 18 2.5 Moderating Influences on Knowledge Transfer 20 2.5.1 National Cultures and Power Distance 2.5.2 National Cultures and Adjustment 2.6 Organisational Characteristics and Knowledge Transfer - Organisational 23 Culture and Communicative Openness / Inhibition 2.6.1 Organisational Culture 2.6.2 Organisational Culture and Learning Development 2.6.3 Organisational Culture, Learning and Communicative Openness 2.7 Organisational Characteristics - Structural Barriers / Facilitators 26 2.8 Communicative e-Technologies 29 2.9 Conclusion 32 vi
  7. 7. Chapter Three Research Hypotheses and a Proposed Integrative Model 33 3.1 Introduction 33 3.2 Key Hypotheses 34 3.2.1 Reverse Expatriation, Knowledge Transfer, Organisational Learning and Competitive Advantage 3.2.2 National Cultures 3.2.3 Cross Border Placement and Organisational Characteristics Structural Barriers/Facilitators Communicative Openness 3.2.4 Communicative e-Technologies 3.3 Towards an Integrative Model 40 3.4 Conclusion 42 Chapter Four Research Methodology 4.1 Introduction 4.2 Research Design and Method 4.3 Interviewee Recruitment 4.4 Interviewee Sample 4.5 Interview Process 4.6 Informant Anonymity 4.7 Conclusion Chapter Five The Relationship Between Expatriate Practice, Knowledge Transfer and Organisational Learning: Results and analysis 5.1 Introduction 5.2 Evidence on Cross-Border Placement in General, Knowledge Transfer and Organisational Learning 5.2.1 Respondent's Commentary on Knowledge Arising from Cross-Border Placement Generally 5.2.2 Overcoming 'Stickiness': Organisational Initiatives Concerning The Transfer of Knowledge 5.3 The Specific Value of Reverse Expatriation in Knowledge Transfer and Organisational Learning (H1a and H1b) 5.4 Conclusion Chapter Six The Influence of National Culture, Organisational Characteristics and e- Technology: Results and analysis 6.1 Introduction 6.2 National Cultures (H2a and H2b) 6.2.1 National Cultures and Expatriate Practice 6.2.2 Cross-Cultural Training Between National Cultures 6.2.3 Findings Relating to the Role of National Culture 6.3 Organisational Characteristics 6.3.1 Structural Barriers/Facilitators (H3a and H3b) 44 44 44 45 45 48 49 50 51 51 51 58 62 63 63 63 68 vii
  8. 8. 6.3.2 Organisational Characteristics - Communicative Openness/Inhibition (H4a and H4b) Organisational Culture and Communicative Openness Organisational Culture and Reflexivity 6.4 Use of e-Technologies 76 6.4.1 The Potential Value of e-Technologies in Expatriate Practice 6.4.2 e-Technologies Used in Cross-Border Assignments 6.4.3 e-Technologies and Face-to-Face Contact 6.5.4 e-Technology, Knowledge Transfer and Organisational Learning 6.4 Conclusion 82 Chapter Seven Conclusion 7.1 Introduction 7.2 Major Findings 7.3 Implications for IHRM Theory 7.4 Implications for IHRM Practice 7.5 Limitations and Scope for Further Research 7.6 Conclusion 83 83 83 86 87 88 90 Bibliography 91 Appendix Appendix A - Interviewee Data Appendix B - Interview Schedule 103 106 viii
  9. 9. List of Abbreviations HR Human Resources HREC Human Research Ethics Committee HRM Human Resource Management IHRM International Human Resource Management IT Information Technology MNC Multi-National Corporation NGO Non-Governmental Organisation PD Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimension of Power Distance PDI Geert Hofstede's Power Distance Index VoIP Voice over Internet Protocol ix
  10. 10. Chapter 1 Introduction 1.1 Introduction While the management of expatriate employees is now one of the central concerns of human resource management in multinational firms, the treatment of acquired knowledge and its transfer between returning cross-border assignees and their organisation is a dimension of expatriate management that warrants closer consideration. This transfer of knowledge is of considerable importance to expatriate effectiveness since it stands to maximise the employing firm's return on investment from cross border placement. A survey of recent studies in the IHRM literature suggests a considerable degree of fragility in this relationship, with organisational learning initiatives designed to fully adopt, transfer and utilise the knowledge gained from expatriates seemingly falling well short of expectations. This study examines the phenomenon of expatriate-related knowledge transfer, highlighting the factors that may influence the effectiveness with which knowledge is transferred, the issues surrounding knowledge dissemination and integration, and the ramifications this has for expatriate management more broadly. This thesis draws together two hitherto distinct conceptual orientations, namely theories on expatriate practice and organisational learning, with the aim of proposing new possibilities that result from this re-conceptualisation. The study pays particular attention to the phenomenon of reverse expatriation, a practice which has so far attracted only limited research interest. Reverse expatriation, the most recent instance of non-traditional expatriation, explores the role of 'returning nationals' (Rego 2008:1) who are able to utilise and integrate their gained global knowledge back into 1
  11. 11. their home (i.e. place of origin) organisation. This form of expatriation promises to widen the possibilities for knowledge transfer by way of a reflexive, bi-directional approach to the knowledge that is gained from the various stages of assignment, from pre-departure through to formal repatriation. This, in turn, stands to extend the capacity of non-traditional expatriation by opening new avenues by which knowledge may be transferred and integrated to the benefit of the multinational organisation. 1.2 Research Aims All research is itself a journey of learning, and this thesis is no different in that respect. The study originally intended to examine the use of reverse expatriation in practice, however the concept's infancy and relative obscurity as a documented practice necessitated an alteration in research focus to discussion of the significant potential of reverse expatriation. Despite this, the study offers relevant insights into the phenomenon, as our sample consists of a diverse range of non-traditional expatriate practitioners who were able to offer valuable insights into the latent potential of reverse expatriation. As such, the study helps to illuminate the challenges of reverse expatriation by connecting its (still limited) conceptual treatment in the academic literature with current IHRM practice. Additionally, by exploring reverse expatriation as a developing practice, this study sheds new light on its role in the dissemination of knowledge and the role this has for IHRM effectiveness in broader contexts. This thesis also connects a number of typically detached conceptions pertinent to a study of knowledge transfer and its relevance to the use of non-traditional expatriation in contemporary IHRM. In exploring the role of knowledge transfer as a mediator between 2
  12. 12. expatriate practice and organisational learning, we investigate a number of hypothesised moderators of this relationship, including the roles of national culture, organisational structure, culture and use of e-technology. This approach allows for a stipulation of some of the environmental conditions that may be most (or least) conducive to effective knowledge transfer. In turn, this permits identification of the particular organisational environment, or environments, that may be best suited to the use of non-traditional expatriate practice. Specifically, the main aims of this thesis are:  to consider the potential of reverse expatriation as a tool to overcome the 'stickiness' of knowledge transfer in contemporary IHRM theory and practice;  to explore the role of national culture as a moderating influence on cross-border knowledge transfer;  to analyse the effect that certain organisational structures have on expatriate practice, knowledge transfer and organisational learning;  to investigate the importance of communicative 'openness' as a moderating influence on knowledge transfer; and  to survey the contemporary use of e-technologies as an additional mechanism of knowledge transfer. These key aims are considered through the utilisation of nine research hypotheses that serve as the core research component of this thesis. 3
  13. 13. 1.3 Chapter Structure The following chapter reviews the key literature relevant to the study. Beginning with an examination of scholarly approaches to knowledge, that chapter addresses the existing literature on knowledge transfer and its role as a key link between expatriate practice and organisational learning. The chapter also provides a discussion of the potential of non-traditional forms of expatriation, specifically reverse expatriation, as a means of enhancing the organisational benefits of cross-border placement. This is followed by an analysis of the literature related to key ancillary factors that may influence this relationship, namely national culture, organisational characteristics (structural barriers/facilitators and communicative openness/inhibitors) and e-technology. Building on existing ideas and evidence, Chapter 3 draws the key variables together into a tentative explanatory model. This model depicts the mediating relationship between expatriate practice, knowledge transfer and organisational learning, and the moderating influences which may impact these elements. The chapter also specifies our key hypotheses and research aims. Chapter 4 describes the methodology used to generate evidence to test the above hypotheses. This includes discussion of the chosen semi-structured interviewing qualitative approach, the sampling procedure used, data relating to the interviewees, (including placement, country of origin, other country experience, job roles and other relevant demographics), and the manner in which data was recorded and analysed. 4
  14. 14. Chapters 5 and 6 present the results of the research and discuss its relevance to answering our key research hypotheses, with Chapter 5 addressing our primary hypotheses (H1a and H1b) and Chapter 6 addressing the remaining hypotheses. Results indicate significant support for the use of reverse expatriation as a mechanism to overcome the 'stickiness' of knowledge transfer in cross-border placements, and evidence the most ideal conditions that may assist in making this transfer as seamless as possible. The concluding chapter entails some concluding remarks, limitations and scope for future research. The concluding remarks contain a summary of collected findings and discussion of implications for IHRM theory and practice. Additional suggestions include encouraging the use of reverse expatriation as a useful form of additional cross-border knowledge transfer and promoting certain organisational environments in which reverse expatriation may best operate. Limitations of the study are described, creating an opportunity for further research. 1.4 Conclusion This introductory chapter established the key focus of this thesis. The following chapter explores the relevant literature associated with these core issues, which will serve as a basis for its empirical research. 5
  15. 15. Chapter 2 Existing Propositions, Evidence and Interpretations 2.1 Introduction An examination of the developing literature on knowledge transfer and its potential role in organisational learning demonstrates that this is a complex and multifaceted area of study. This chapter examines the existing literature on knowledge, including its management and transfer, expatriate practice, including novel forms of expatriate management and discussions on relevant organisational characteristics (particularly structural barriers/facilitators and communicative openness/inhibition, national culture and use of e-technologies). This review of current research will also serve to highlight critical gaps and ambiguities in existing concepts and evidence on the association between crossborder placement, knowledge transfer and organisational learning. 2.2 Knowledge and Knowledge Transfer 2.2.1 Knowledge and international human resource management (IHRM) This section examines existing studies of the nature and significance of knowledge and its transfer in contemporary IHRM. Consideration is given to conceptual discussions of knowledge, its variants, uses, and the problems associated with its application in traditional expatriate management. Complementing this analysis will be a consideration of reverse expatriation, including its fragmentary treatment in the literature and its recent application to IHRM practices. This will then enable the formulation of a number of key propositions 6
  16. 16. regarding where the literature may be furthered with a view to developing new insights for knowledge transfer and its role in expatriate management and, ultimately, organisational learning. 2.2.2 Definitional constraints and implications for theory and practice While one does not have to go far in the literature to see knowledge management regarded as "one of the key organisational strategies of the firm" (Beaverstock, 2004:157), what is surprising is the variety of interpretations and vagueness that surrounds its precise definition. Bonache and Zarraga-Oberty note that whilst the term knowledge management is "widely used by practitioners and academics, it is usually relatively loosely defined in the literature" (2008:157). Brown and Duguid expand on this to suggest that the literature "presents a sharply contrasting and even contradictory view of knowledge"(2001:198) while Bonache and Brewster label knowledge management as "context generalisable" (2001:149). Kostova's definition regards knowledge management as representing "particular ways of conducting organisational functions that have evolved over time under the influence of an organisation's history, people, interests and actions and that have become institutionalised in the organisation" (1999:5). Though broad, Kostova's definition provides a useful starting point encompassing the input, output and throughput processes (Bonache and ZarragaOberty, 2008:5) that constitute the management of knowledge in contemporary organisations. 7
  17. 17. 2.2.3 The emergent literature on knowledge management in IHRM An analysis of existing treatments of knowledge transfer in international assignments suggests that the issue is under-scrutinised by researchers. Riusala and Suutari have noted that the increasing global integration of business activities has created a situation where requirements for learning effective knowledge transfer methods and processes have become even more important than in the past (2004:743). Yet, despite this, these authors comment that the expatriate's role in this process remains largely misunderstood (Ibid.). This is also noted by Tahvanainen who adds that "the research literature in this area is scarce" (2000:268), and also by Beaverstock, who described progress in the field "slow" (2004:157). Further, Bonache and Brewster comment that the "area has long been criticised as lacking analytical rigor" (2001:146). Brewster, Sparrow and Harris suggest that this could be due to an initial IHRM focus on the management of expatriates rather than their use as drivers of knowledge transfer (2005:950). These authors also suggest that increasing reliance on strategic partnerships and joint ventures, coupled with trends towards localisation, has made the need to understand how IHRM is delivered in different country contexts increasingly important (Ibid). The treatment of knowledge in the IHRM literature has lead the way for new applications to take place, including its potential to be applied to expatriate management. Bonache and Brewster's seminal 2001 article examines the relationship between knowledge transfer and expatriate management at a conceptual level. These authors suggest that since characteristics of knowledge directly affect expatriation policies, "the transfer of expatriates can be hypothesized as a form of knowledge transfer" (2001:162). They support this claim by suggesting that of the three elements transferred within multi-national enterprises 8
  18. 18. (product, capital and knowledge), knowledge bears the closest connection to human resources (Ibid:146). The connection established by Bonache and Brewster acknowledges knowledge transfer as a natural fit and suitable as a mechanism for use in international assignments (Ibid). In turn, these considerations have opened new possibilities for further study of knowledge and its relationship to expatriate management in HRM. 2.2.4 Types of Knowledge: Tacit & Explicit The developing literature on knowledge has in recent years focused on a breakdown into two distinct categories, each with ramifications for its potential transfer and role in IHRM. Tacit knowledge represents that which is "embedded in the experience and skills of the organisation's members and is only revealed through its application" (Bonache and Zarraga-Oberty, 2008:7).This can be contrasted with explicit knowledge which is "highly codified and transmittable in formal, systematic language" (Dhanaraj et al, 2004:430), making it more resistant to the potential integration problem that may affect tacit knowledge due to the former's "inherent communicability" (Grant, 1996:379). Although Nonaka and Takeuchi's "knowledge conversion" model (1995:643) acknowledges the possibility of transfer between the two knowledge forms, expatriate management is largely concerned with tacit knowledge, since it is deeply rooted in the individual's experiences gained from his or her international assignments (2001:149). This quality, however, makes tacit knowledge less visible and demonstrable, creating an environment where interpersonal communication and sharing is difficult (Ibid:149). As such, it has been characterised in the literature as a "slow, costly and uncertain [process that] may require numerous individual exchanges" (Riusala and Suutari, 2004:747-748) and 9
  19. 19. hence, as being largely unusable. Even so, tacit knowledge has considerable potential in cross-border assignments due to its interconnectedness with an expatriate's learned and/or gained experience. 2.2.5 Insights offered by the "knowledge-based view of the firm" The "emerging view of the multinational firm as an institution for integrating knowledge" (Riusala and Suutari, 2004:748) has also been conceptualised in what has now become known as the "knowledge-based view of the firm" (Grant, 1996:109). The concept broadens the traditional "resource-based view" (Wernerfelt, 1984:171) associated with strategic management practice and incorporates the cross-border dimension of knowledge, which can be correlated with expatriation. Bonache and Zarraga-Oberty note this possibility by suggesting that the resource-based view is itself open to the use of knowledge, as "international strategy is dictated less than market opportunities than by the organisation's own knowledge " (2008:6). This is because knowledge itself can be classified as valuable, rare, inimitable and non-substitutable, qualities that, according to the resource-based view, can form an essential component of sustained competitive advantage for a firm (Wright et al, 1994:301). The advantage conferred then allows firms to "develop knowledge in one location and exploit it in other locations, implying the internal transfer of knowledge from the source to the recipient unit" (Bonache and Zarraga-Oberty, 2008:6). Such potential advantages thus suggest that the resource-based view of the firm may hold salience to IHRM theory in the form of the knowledge-based view. Riusala and Suutari highlight the importance of the knowledge-based view of the firm by emphasizing the firm's capacity to integrate and transfer knowledge (2004:743). 10
  20. 20. This firm-specific knowledge can then be utilised as a form of competitive advantage, not only in the present and future but also across multiple markets. Bonache and Brewster suggest that the process of internationalisation will expose the company and allow it to apply its specific developed knowledge to generate new expertise (2001:149). From here, knowledge is justified as representing an "organisation's most strategically significant resource" (Riusala and Smale, 2007:17) and a source of distinct competitive advantage. More broadly, the knowledge-based view of the firm has allowed a new conceptual approach to the treatment of knowledge in firms. Grant sees knowledge as residing within the individual rather than the organisation as a whole, with the latter presumed to be primarily knowledge applicators rather than knowledge creators (1996:109). By focusing on the role of the individual as a key knowledge transmitter, the process of expatriation has greater potential and strategic importance as a potentially highly effective knowledge transfer mechanism (Riusala and Smale, 2007:19). This approach creates new possibilities for expatriation processes to align with knowledge management. With this in mind, a detailed examination of new expatriation processes also promises to generate new insights into the treatment of knowledge at the multinational level. 2.2.6 Internal Stickiness One of the key issues surrounding the treatment of knowledge in HRM is that of 'internal stickiness' (Brown and Duguid, 2001:198). A dimension that, up until recently, has received "little systematic attention" (Szulanski, 1996:27), internal stickiness examines factors which may inhibit successful knowledge transfer. These factors have been categorised according to characteristics of knowledge, including "codifiability, teachability, 11
  21. 21. complexity" (Kogut and Zander, 1993, 1995, cited in Riusala and Smale, 2007:16) and relationship factors. Szulanski notes the recipient's lack of absorptive capacity, causal ambiguity and an arduous relationship between source and recipient (Szulanski, 1996:27) as potential barriers to successful implementation of internal knowledge, which may prevent firms from achieving competitive advantage associated with the knowledge-based view of the firm. Yet however it is approached, Riusala and Smale note that "stickiness has come to represent an aggregate measure of multiple factors that impede transfer" (2007:17) and, further, that such internal transfers are more often than not unsuccessful (Riusala and Suutari, 2004:745). This difficulty creates a challenge to international approaches to knowledge transfer as new factors such as external or cross-border stickiness may come into play. In contrast, a reflexive approach may assist organisations in overcoming difficulties associated with knowledge 'stickiness'. Brannick and Coghlan define reflexivity in terms of an organisation's "upstream and downstream reflection" (Brannick & Coghlan, 2006:152). The authors suggest that reflexivity represents the "realness of learning action" (Ibid:153) as a means of building on gained knowledge and the integration of that newly acquired knowledge into the learning development strategies of a firm. A learning organisation may be able to utilise devices such as "feedback loops" (Argyris, 1977:115) as a responsive tool that is able to integrate this gained knowledge into the practices of the firm, thereby helping to address the problem of internal stickiness through the process of ongoing reflection and improvement. In this light, a reflexive approach may assist in the transfer of tacit knowledge as it is able to reduce the stickiness of knowledge transfer through dynamic, responsive learning strategies and systems. 12
  22. 22. 2.2.7 Expatriates, Repatriates and Knowledge Transfer The process of repatriation is a fundamental component in deriving additional competitive value for multi-national corporations through knowledge transfer. Regarded as having an "irreplaceable role in organisational learning, [repatriates can] accelerate the transfer of knowledge because they possess first-hand knowledge of particular cultural contexts" (Stroh, 1995:453, Lazarova and Caligiuri, 2000:389). Tacit knowledge benefits from specificity and primary experience based on the repatriate's completed international assignments and, if utilised, this process has the potential to help accelerate the transfer of knowledge between home and host country (Lazarova and Caligiuri, 2000:390). An inspection of the empirical literature, however, suggests that such a transfer is not always so seamless, as the issue of repatriate turnover creates a barrier to full integration of learned knowledge (Kraimer, Shaffer and Bolino, 2009:27). Jassawalla and Sashittal note high levels of post-assignment dissatisfaction among repatriates, with "a significant percentage leaving the firm within a year" (2009:769). These authors suggest that this could be the result of differences in expectations between organisation and repatriate, and since most expatriates return to their old jobs or to lateral available positions when they return, "their re-absorption sharply discounts their newly gained experiences" learnt whilst on assignment (Ibid:769-773). As such, the repatriation process can be seen as potentially damaging to knowledge transfer unless repatriates are given an opportunity to integrate their newly acquired knowledge into the organisation. Numerous remedies have been proposed in the literature to address the issue of repatriate failure. Kraimer et al note the now commonplace offering of career advancement 13
  23. 23. as an expectation that will positively "affect the repatriate's perceived underemployment and turnover intentions" (Kraimer, Shaffer and Bolino, 2009:27). Yet whilst this may boost the morale of the repatriate, it may also constitute a barrier to knowledge transfer, since opportunities to integrate the repatriate's tacit knowledge may be suppressed or even removed by new work roles. An alternative prescription proposed by Lazarova and Caligiuri is that organisational support is key to the retention of repatriates (2000:394). These authors have commented that in order to capitalise on repatriate's skills and knowledge "MNC's need to cultivate a global vision and corporate culture that... values international experience and its contribution to the strategic development of the company" (Ibid:398). With this in mind it can be suggested that a receptive, reflective and reflexive learning organisation would be the most suitable environment to integrate the knowledge gained during expatriate assignments and transform this into competitive advantage. 2.3 Reverse Expatriation - An Under-examined Dimension of IHRM The preceding review of the literature on knowledge transfer and its relevance to cross-border placements has taken into account many of the recognised variants of expatriate management. Recently, however, a new approach has begun to gain momentum; an approach which may overcome some of the applied issues surrounding knowledge transfer and its role in both expatriate and repatriate failure. This dimension is 'reverse expatriation'. Reverse expatriation is an innovative concept and practice extending the capacity and capabilities of traditional expatriate management. Despite its apparent contemporary relevance, however, very little academic research has been undertaken on the subject. First 14
  24. 24. referred to in the academic literature in the early 1990s (Yates, 1992), reverse expatriation allows for new insights to be gained for both home and host country nationals wishing to improve their own work and organisational processes through a dynamic, reflexive medium. In its current form, reverse expatriation refers to a process in which a home country national goes on an expatriate assignment to a host country, not to establish a settled presence in that destination, but rather to gain knowledgeable insights that he or she will be able to bring back to the home country in order to improve the organisational processes of the home country organisation (Rego, 2008:1). These 'reverse expatriates' can be thought of as "'returning nationals' [who benefit from] utilising their gained global experience outside of their home country" (Ibid.) in the hope of improving their own home organisation's capacities and HR strategies. The term itself has undergone considerable development since its first mention in academic literature and, considering its relative newness, this reflects a significant shift in attitudes towards expatriate management in an increasingly globalised world. Identified by means of survey feedback undertaken by Yates in the early 1990s (1992:1), reverse expatriation was first conceived as a supplement to repatriation and although the concepts are still closely related, the former has opened up new potential for the treatment of knowledge. Feist's (1999) analysis clarifies the concept's essence, that being the "inculcation of a local manager with the cultural values of [another nation's] organisation [which can] prepare the local manager to become a potential global manager" (Feist, 1999:75). This reflects a transfer of intrinsic tacit knowledge, a capability that goes beyond the capacity of other forms of expatriate management by way of closer global integration. 15
  25. 25. As reverse expatriation has received little academic coverage overall, there have been calls for its inclusion in the literature. Bonache, Brewster and Suutari's study highlights what they consider to be the future of expatriate management by making predictions as to where the field is heading (Bonache et al, 2001). In their study, the authors note Gregersen et al's observation of the "increasing internationalisation of business," (Gregersen, Morrison and Black, 1998) and the subsequent shift in the nature of employment which has created a new operational environment where innovative approaches to expatriation are both possible and needed. Until now it has been suggested that "most studies in the expatriate literature fail to analyse the relationship that exists between expatriation policies and the international strategy of the company" (Bonache, et al, 2001:3). These authors also allude to the lack of a dynamic bi-directional process of expatriation in the current literature, an element which reverse expatriation incorporates. Additional shortfalls in the literature, including a tendency to analyse dimensions of expatriation independently from one another and neglecting a strategic approach (Ibid:3-4), also point to areas warranting further examination. In this way, reverse expatriation allows for new approaches to these shortfalls in the hope of closing gaps in the expatriate management literature. Other authors have also supported the need for further study on reverse expatriation. Bartlett and Ghoshal (1992) have argued that international companies and their strategic objectives must pursue three complementary aims beyond the realm of non-international organisations to maximise effectiveness: (i) local responsiveness; (ii) global integration; and (iii) innovation through a learning organisation (Bartlett & Ghoshal, 1992). These three objectives each have features which overlap with, and could be enriched by, the developing concept and practice of reverse expatriation. These also have relevance for the study of knowledge and its transfer in international organisations. For instance, a firm with a high 16
  26. 26. level of local responsiveness (Luo, 2001:451) would benefit from having employees that can build on their local knowledge with alternate viewpoints that they may have gained from outside the organisation's more traditional or domestic operations. Similarly, global integration, seen as a growing phenomena (Kim et al, 2003:327), could be further enhanced through the use of reverse expatriates who are able to go beyond the scope of traditional expatriation by creating a two-way responsive body of international tacit knowledge. Individuals could bring the newfound knowledge and experience acquired abroad to their organisations and use this to help spur on innovative developments within it (Dodgson, 1993:375). Such progress, however, could only be made possible in a learning organisation that is receptive to the expansion of knowledge and the development of reflexive learning practices. In light of this, it can be suggested that firms will not all equally be able to gain from the benefits of additional knowledge transfer via reverse expatriation; it may be that only those with such openness will benefit. Reverse expatriation has also been considered by authors who assert its potential suitability in certain environments where use of traditional expatriates would be ineffective. Nohria and Ghoshal (1994:492) comment that "in specific situations, such as when there is political or cultural risk, companies can choose to send an expatriate who will help the central organisation to understand local conditions and to control subsidiary operations". Although this early comment predates discussion of the term "reverse expatriate", this scenario is one where its use would be highly appropriate. Reverse expatriates would be able to assist their home organisation in adjusting to new host-country challenges by integrating their tacit knowledge learnt abroad. While, Harvey, Speier and Novicevic (1999:461) have suggested that inpatriation could address such a transfer, this would lack 17
  27. 27. the reflexive dimension that a reverse expatriate could offer. Inpatriation may be characterised by one-way knowledge-transfer towards the organisation whereas transfer in reverse expatriation has more potential to be bi-directional, utilising both tacit learned experience and explicit written knowledge from multiple perspectives and combining these in such a fashion to best benefit the organisation's organisational learning aims. In this fashion, reverse expatriation is able to build on the potential of non-traditional expatriation typologies, such as inpatriation, repatriation and flexpatriation (Mayerhofer et al, 2004:646). 2.4 The Knowledge Gap on Reverse Expatriation and Knowledge Transfer The preceding analysis has identified a multitude of issues within the fields of knowledge and expatriate management. In doing so, several gaps in the literature have been identified, including the under-utilisation of knowledge in cross-border placements and the possibilities opened up by use of reverse expatriation. Bonache and Brewster (2001) have specified a set of unanswered research questions that have significant relevance to the study of knowledge transfer and its role in crossborder placements. This includes questions surrounding the rise of expatriation, despite increasing and cheaper information technology and e-technologies (Ibid:145), the overemphasis of technical capabilities as a recruitment criterion (Ibid:148) and the varying impacts of international assignments on repatriated careers (Ibid). Such questions seem to suggest that knowledge transfer may have a more substantial role to play in expatriate management than has hitherto been acknowledged. Certainly the rise of expatriation in an increasingly complex environment, points to the value that tacit knowledge may bring to 18
  28. 28. IHRM. However this can be contrasted with the under-prioritisation of tacit knowledge as a key career driver upon repatriation. With a view to addressing these important questions, this thesis examines the possibility that a stronger focus on the potential of tacit knowledge may serve to enhance organisational learning and value at all stages of cross-border assignments. This is a similar expectation to that put forth by Riusala and Smale who point to the "multifaceted, crossfunctional and personally changing" (2007:34) dimensions of expatriate management with implications for future research. They comment that "there still exists a need for more empirical research into factors that can hinder or enhance the value-adding activities of expatriates when viewed as mechanisms of knowledge transfer" (Ibid:35). Despite the breadth of literature on the subject, the authors suggest that knowledge transfer has the capability to open up new research into cross-border placements and help to address some of the issues surrounding this field. Reverse expatriation may also contribute further to the unanswered questions of cross-border assignments. Makela suggests that we must look beyond repatriation to better understand expatriate relationships (2007:113). Bonache, Brewster and Suutari echo this by suggesting that we need additional research into new patterns of expatriation (2007:12). This is more specifically addressed by Minbaeva and Michailova, who comment that "what remains under-researched is whether different types of expatriate assignments influence knowledge transfer in different ways" (2004:663). They comment that the current "literature is silent on whether and how the new forms of international working influence knowledge transfer" (Ibid) leaving open possibilities of new research into these alternate forms, such as reverse expatriation, to address this void. 19
  29. 29. The unanswered questions concerning the relationship between new forms of expatriation, specifically reverse expatriation, and the knowledge transfer mechanism, certainly warrant further theorising and closer empirical investigation. 2.5 Moderating Influences on Knowledge Transfer The preceding sections have highlighted the emerging treatments of knowledge, knowledge transfer and reverse expatriation and their overarching potential to serve as latent new sources of organisational development and competitive advantage. Yet attention must also be paid to ancillary factors that may create both barriers and opportunities for these learning synergies to be maximised in both the origin and destination country. The following sections examine the existing treatments of the potential influence of three such factors, namely (i) national culture, (ii) organisational characteristics (structural barriers/facilitators and communicative openness/inhibition) and (iii) use of e-technologies in cross-border settings. A consideration of existing work on these additional influences may allow us to formulate testable propositions regarding the extent to which these factors moderate the influence of expatriate practice on organisational learning in both home and host location. 2.5.1 National Cultures and Power Distance National culture, "the collective mental programming of the people in an environment" (Hofstede 1991, in Perkins and Shortland, 2006:55), is a key consideration in cross-border placement that warrants consideration in any study of the relationship between 20
  30. 30. knowledge transfer, cross-border placement and organisational learning between home and host country. Beechler and Yang (1994, in Liu 2004:502) note that "it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to transfer some practices between two countries with different national cultures". However, this also suggests that it may be crucial to gauge the influence of national cultural differences in the process of knowledge transfer. Fortunately, there are a number of widely used models and measures which may assist in an analysis of national cultures' influence on knowledge transfer, expatriate practice and organisational learning. One of the most prominent models of cultural differences is that formulated by Geert Hofstede (1983). Hofstede identifies five dimensions of national culture: power distance; individualism/collectivism; masculinity/femininity; uncertainty avoidance; and long/short term orientation (1983:75). Of these five dimensions, that which appears to have particularly strong salience in relation to cross-border knowledge transfer is power distance (PD). Power distance has been defined as "the extent to which a culture accepts inequalities in the distribution of power" (Perkins and Shortland, 2006:56). As such, it allows for a gauging of national attitudes towards phenomena such as equality, upward mobility and societal constructs, such as class based divisions (Tsai, 1992:441). This will assist in an examination of expatriate placement and the knowledge transfer that results because "the prospects for transferring employment relations and work practices between economies are influenced not so much by the forces of competition as by the legacy of national practices" (Perkins and Shortland, 2006:209). With this in mind, PD, as a measure of national culture, appears to be a factor of potentially high importance to expatriate practice and the treatment of knowledge. 21
  31. 31. 2.5.2 National Cultures and Adjustment Of specific relevance to national cultures and IHRM is the concept of cross-cultural adjustment, a "multidimensional phenomenon [that] can be identified in psychological, socio-cultural and work domains" (Aycan, 1997:434). Cross-cultural adjustment can be defined as "the extent to which individuals are psychologically comfortable living outside of their home country" (Caligiuri, 2000:63). Aycan (1997) suggests that cross-cultural adjustment is likely to be "influenced by both the expatriate manager's characteristics and the organisational approach to expatriation" (1997:434). Thus, as well as the degree of difference between home and host national cultures (i.e. the 'gap'), an individual's adjustment may be influenced by the destination organisation, as well as the individual's own characteristics. Cross-cultural adjustment can be considered a vital component that provides a gateway for effective expatriation and consequently, the success and/or failure of cross-cultural adjustment to a new host or home national culture will have ramifications for knowledge transfer and any potential it may play in organisational learning more broadly. Building on this qualification, it can be suggested that effective knowledge transfer between expatriates and organisations requires management that appreciates the role that cross-cultural adjustment may play in both intercultural/expatriate training programs and wider organisational culture. Cross-cultural adjustment may be of critical importance for expatriate and organisational managers in facilitating cross-border placement, and consequently, assignment effectiveness in the short, medium and long term. Further, it can be postulated that cross-cultural adjustment, by increasing the chances of effective 22
  32. 32. knowledge transfer, may lead to sound IHRM practice and ultimately, organisational learning. 2.6 Organisational Characteristics and Knowledge Transfer - Organisational Culture and Communicative Openness/Inhibition 2.6.1 Organisational Culture Organisational cultures present researchers with both significant challenges and promising opportunities for further theoretical development. The challenges are associated, in large part, with the concept's definitional ambiguity (Smircich, 1983:339, cited in Gordon, 1991:396). Nevertheless, efforts have been made to present working definitions which highlight the agreeable elements that shape organisational environments. Wilcoxson and Millett suggest that "cultures are based in history, developing over time as groups establish patterns of behaviour and belief that seem effective in helping them to interpret and interact with the world in which they find themselves" (2000:92). Gordon conceptualises organisational culture as an "organisation-specific system of widely shared assumptions and values that give rise to typical behaviour patterns" (1991:397). Further, Wilcoxson and Millet theorise organisational culture as being "born within the context of broader cultural contexts such as national or ethnic groupings" (2000:91). With this definitional interconnectedness in mind, it seems intuitive to suggest that organisational culture, IHRM and organisational learning are very closely interlinked. This connection assumes further validity when one considers the actors that instigate change in organisational cultures in cross-border contexts. Starting with a surface-level link, 23
  33. 33. Altinay and Altinay note that leadership should undertake the role of creating a 'positive culture' where new ideas are encouraged and supported (2004:336). This posits that leaders, as 'agents of change' (Weick & Quinn 1999:361), can assume the role of drivers of organisational learning and development. Building on this, and the notion that human resources represents the "guardian of culture" (Sparrow et al, 2003:27, cited in Farndale et al, 2010:48), leading expatriates and expatriate managers can be stipulated as 'global culture ambassadors' (Connelly, 2009:39) - 'change agents' that play a fundamental role in instigating and developing organisational development across borders (Farndale et al, 2010:48 and Schein, L., 1998, cited in Smith and Guarnizo, 1998:291). 2.6.2 Organisational Culture and Learning Development Collings et al (2010) suggest that inpatriates may be an important means of facilitating organisational development. They comment that "flows of inpatriates will facilitate the transfer of knowledge to the HQ, while reinforcing corporate culture among the assignees, who can transfer this to the subsidiary on their return" (Collings et al, 2010:582). This adds weight to the notion of bi-directional knowledge, a key approach that expatriates (and potentially reverse expatriates) can use to bring about resolute global organisational development. Yet bridging expatriation and organisational learning should certainly not be considered a seamless transition, especially as there appear to be considerable challenges and barriers at the level of organisational culture that may inhibit knowledge transfer. Li and Liu suggest that organisational culture "varies, sometimes significantly, in different companies even if they are located in the same national culture environment" (2002, cited in 24
  34. 34. Liu, 2004:503). This suggests that HR professionals must be mindful of organisational culture, including departmental and typological sub-cultures and their respective influences. Such challenges have prompted some researchers to examine new methods by which organisational culture can be replicated across borders. Liu (2004) suggests that both direct and indirect transfer mechanisms can be utilised as part of an overall strategic approach to shift knowledge throughout the entire multinational corporation and emphasises the use of expatriates as agents of this multi-tiered approach (Ibid:508). With this in mind it can be suggested that the use of expatriates in the facilitation and transfer of knowledge is a key opportunity to promote and develop enterprise-wide organisational learning strategies. 2.6.3 Organisational Culture, Learning and Communicative Openness A firm's level of communicative openness may be a key indicator of an organisation's culture that may directly impact any latent potential for the transfer and incorporation of knowledge. 'Communicative openness' can be thought of as "the diverse set of elements that are brought together to form the communications network" (Lea, O'Shea and Fung, 1995:465) and as a measure of supportiveness in the firm, i.e. "the free exchange of information that equalises power relationships" (Eisenberg and Witten, 1987:418). In this sense communicative openness reflects a key disposition of organisational culture. As such, it may also be a key influence on expatriate success, as any potential knowledge transfer from an assignment will rely on the clear, comprehensive and receptive communication strategies of a firm (Goh, 2002:23). 25
  35. 35. Communicative openness may also have an impact on a firm's learning and development practices. Adsit et al (1997) note Ludeman's use of 'upward feedback' as a means of managing appraisal and organisational development (1993 in Adsit, 1997:385). Such a method, which involves subordinates rating their supervisors, may also have flow on benefits for expatriate coaching and succession planning by way of better utilisation of interpersonal relationships as an additional source of knowledge transfer (Adsit, 1997:385). This accords with the proposition that organisational learning practices are key to MNC success and sustainability (Ruigrok and Wagner, 2003:64). By utilising novel development techniques such as 'upward feedback' in a culture of communicative openness, new learning possibilities associated with traditional methods of managing organisational culture across borders (such as intercultural training) are made possible. This is due to the synergy that results from the inclusion of organisational cultural practices in a firm's training and development learning initiatives. 2.7 Organisational Characteristics - Structural Barriers / Facilitators Other organisation-level factors may also influence the association between IHRM and organisational learning. The structure of an organisation is one further factor that may also have significant influence on an expatriate's ability to adjust and may also directly affect the possibility that an organisation may gain knowledge from an expatriate assignment. Covin and Slevin define organisational structure as the "arrangement of relationships within an organisation" (1990, cited in Altinay and Altinay, 2004:334). Yet organisational structure is not homogeneous (Deresky 2000, cited in McGraw, 2004:542), with Farndale et al noting that "the level of centrality can evolve over time as operating conditions change" (2010:48). Further, Wilcoxson and Millett note the existence of "distinct 26
  36. 36. sub-cultures" within organisational structures, such as distinct group teams or departments (2000:96). It can be suggested that organisational structure should be viewed within its operational context, one which may be dynamic and functioning within interdependent spheres. These features make organisational structure a key variable within IHRM and may have significant effects on organisational success and the knowledge transfer that may result. Yet despite its conceptual fluidity, organisational structure can still be hypothesized as having an important role to play in the functioning of a multi-national corporation. Burns and Stalker conceptualise structural builds as either 'mechanistic' or 'organic' (1994:104) and have indicated that certain structural tendencies will have ramifications for innovation, entrepreneurship and, ultimately, knowledge transfer. Arnold and Russell (1991 and 1999 respectively, both cited in Altinay and Altinay, 2004:334) suggest that a "decentralised and informal structure would assist in empowering level managers, initiating increased participation from team members and promise innovation" (Ibid:334). In contrast, Selmer et al (1994) suggest that a more "hierarchical structure of interpersonal relationships dictates authoritarian patterns of interactions between superiors and subordinates" (1994:50) Altinay and Altinay also suggest that the centralised structure will "slow down decision making, limit international expansion and [work to] demotivate organisational members" (2004:334). With this in mind it can be proposed that structure may serve as a crucial component in any multinational corporation, and the degree of structural 'openness' inherent in 'organic' structures (Burns and Stalker, 1994:104) may assist managers to maximise the integration of expatriate knowledge. 27
  37. 37. Organisational dependency will also affect the manner in which organisational structure will influence IHRM. Farndale et al (2000) go beyond a mere categorisation of organisational structure to view multi-national subsidiaries as also being independent or interdependent, with important implications for expatriation and knowledge transfer. These authors comment that "where interdependent HQ-subsidiary structures are adopted, the complexity of the organisational structure increases, and the usefulness of formal control mechanisms become limited. Here again, informal mechanisms, such as culture management, become more important" (2000:48). This association between new variants of organisational structure and culture highlight additional pressures for human resource and expatriate managers wishing to coordinate IHRM practice, specifically the endeavour to balance organisational culture and manage global perception, effectiveness, and ultimately, competitive advantage. Bartlett & Ghoshal (1989, in Liu, 2004:503) identified four types of organisational structures that operate across borders, namely 'multi-domestic', 'international', 'global' and 'transnational' (Ibid:503). These additional sub-categories compound the complexities that face organisations that operate globally, and the structures that hold them in place. Transnational structure is perhaps the most applicable to this study, as it presents several of the key features necessary in any possible mediation between IHRM and organisational learning. Adler and Martholomew suggest that "unlike their predecessors, transnational managers need cross-cultural skills on a daily basis throughout their career, not just during foreign assignments" (1992:53). Importantly, these authors note that in this arrangement "structural and cultural dominance are minimised, with cross-cultural interaction no longer followed by any pre-defined 'passport hierarchy'" (Ibid:55). Yet most relevant here is the author's assertion that "it is for these firms that transnational human resource strategies are 28
  38. 38. now being developed that emphasise organisational learning" (Ibid:55). Critically, Adler and Martholomew recognise that firms with organic structural characteristics will be in a better position to utilise novel strategic HRM practices. In order to maximise the amount of innovative and productive knowledge that stems from cross-border placement, structures must be open enough to suitably integrate newfound learning within and throughout the organisation. The mechanism that may allow for this to take place could well include crossborder knowledge transfer. 2.8 Communicative e-Technologies In an increasingly modernised and globalised world, questions must also be asked as to what role new technologies may play in the facilitation of cross-border knowledge transfer. The literature highlights some of the potential that new technologies, such as videoconferencing, VoIP and mobile e-mail, may bring to cross-border assignments yet importantly also notes their limitations. Budhwar and Sparrow (1997) deem technology to be one of the key contingent variables that influence organisational HRM practices and policies (1997:477), whilst Doktor et al comment that "technology has been a leading force in bringing about enhanced integration around the globe" and further, that "information and communication technology have increased our knowledge of the people of other nations" (1991:259). With this in mind, the possibility that technology may serve as a key vehicle for the transfer of expatriate knowledge warrants closer consideration. The drivers of the diffusion of new technologies in global expatriation are each diverse and distinctive. Brewster and Sparrow see technology uptake as the consequence of "a variety of changes in the international business environment [with] global organisations 29
  39. 39. being forced to become more competitive" (2007:48) while Donahue points to cost-cutting as a key proponent, commenting that "given the economy, many meeting planners are looking toward a tech solution to help cut meeting spend" (2010:S6). Doktor et al also see new technologies as being able to increase their economic efficiencies by learning about and then obtaining inputs of material, human power and capital from most cost-effective sources around the globe" (1991:259). An analysis of these viewpoints suggests that new technologies offer organisations and senior managers new strategic options for cross-border assignees as both a cost-cutting measure and a real-time competitive edge. Video-conferencing is one key technology that, in recent years, has emerged as a potentially valuable new approach to knowledge transfer and traditional cross-border assignments, and notably, its treatment summarises many of the strategic approaches to new technologies that face modern organisations. Lloyd remarks that "one of the big advantages of video is much more frequent contact [with] the big growth area [being] ad hoc video meetings" (Lloyd, 2010 in Regout, 2010:22). Yet some authors remain unconvinced by the new mediums. For example, Arvey notes that "there really is no alternative to personal contact" with research data indicating that "the use of face-to-face meetings has a variety of valuable psychological as well as business outcomes" (Arvey 2010, in Donahue 2010:S7). Reinforcing his point, the author writes that "it is my belief, given this data, that eliminating face-to-face meetings as an option in communicating with employees would be a mistake" (Ibid:S7). With this in mind managers, particularly those involved in cross-border assignments, must be aware of the limitations as well as the opportunities of such technologies when considering them as primary or support based tools. 30
  40. 40. A number of authors have raised further concerns relating to the use of new technologies in knowledge-focused expatriation assignments. Cerdin argues that "information technology can relay HRM knowledge to subsidiaries, but it cannot transfer know-how" (2003 in Liu, 2004:508). Liu furthers this argument by suggesting that "it is often left up to the expatriate to put into full and efficient practice the knowledge acquired at parent companies and demonstrate transfer know-how" (2004:508). In considering these arguments, it can be suggested that despite the influence of new technologies, the expatriate still retains a critical role as a key knowledge transferor. Whether this is a result of premature technology or not remains to be seen, with Brewster and Sparrow noting that "the use of new technologies has created an awareness of the need for change on the part of HRM specialists, but no one claimed they had yet got it right" (2007:48). Thus, new technologies present managers and expatriates with a range of novel communicative options. However, how to best utilise these tools for the sake of competitive advantage and organisational learning, remains to be seen. For present purposes, the use of e-technology may be an important intervening variable in the relationship between crossborder placement, knowledge transfer and organisational learning. 2.9 Conclusion Today's expatriates face the tremendous task of harmonising a wide variety of organisational and cultural pressures in the effort to contribute to an organisation's competitive advantage. Several of these key pressures, namely knowledge transfer, organisational/national culture, structure and technology, are recognised in the existing 31
  41. 41. literature as having a potential role to play in the pursuit of sustained organisational learning strategies. The preceding review of the literature suggests considerable potential for expatriates to build on established best practices and navigate many of the new possibilities made available by MNCs. Whether any new variation of traditional expatriation practice, such as reverse expatriation, is able to have any influence on this possibility remains to be seen. However, as this review has demonstrated, the potential for the enhancement of organisational learning by this means, particularly in combination with the strategic management of knowledge, national cultural adaption, organisational and cultural structural facilitation and supportive e-technology, is enormous. Building on these points, the next chapter outlines a conceptual model regarding the possible harmonisation between expatriate practice, knowledge transfer and organisational learning. This will also include the mediating factors that may influence this relationship, namely the 'gap' in national culture, organisational characteristics (structural barriers/facilitators and communicative openness/inhibition) and use of e-technologies. This will be complemented by a set of research hypotheses that are informed by insights offered in the extant and emerging literatures in these areas. 32
  42. 42. Chapter 3 Research Hypotheses and a Proposed Integrative Model 3.1 Introduction The preceding chapter considered how new IHRM phenomena, such as reverse expatriation, may affect the relationship between expatriate practice, knowledge transfer and organisational learning. It also outlined the potential of reverse expatriation as a latent source of competitive advantage. This was accompanied by an examination of the propositions associated with the phenomena of national cultures, organisational characteristics and use of e-technologies, elements which may have a bearing on the efficacy of expatriation-related knowledge transfer in enhancing organisational learning. Building on the propositions advanced in the previous chapter, this chapter elaborates a number of key hypotheses that serve as the focus of empirical inquiry in this study. This is followed by elaboration of a proposed integrative model that draws these hypotheses together and seeks to expound the influence that cross-border placement may have in the transfer of knowledge, and on broader organisational learning efforts. The hypotheses and model also canvas the possible influence that national culture, specific organisational characteristics (structural barriers / facilitators and communicative openness / inhibition), and technology, as moderators of knowledge transfer, may have on the latent relationship between expatriate practice and organisational learning in both the home and host context. 33
  43. 43. 3.2 Key Hypotheses 3.2.1 Reverse Expatriation, Knowledge Transfer, Organisational Learning and Competitive Advantage Although the existing literature appears to be largely silent on the potential benefits that reverse expatriation may bring to applied IHRM, this void appears to warrant further inquiry. Recent developments in IHRM practice, including utilisation of novel forms of cross-border placement, such as reverse expatriation, promise to widen the range of learning and development options available to expatriate managers and other organisational representatives (Rego 2008;1). Such practices also promise new sources of competitive advantage for MNC's by overcoming the 'stickiness' problem associated with the transfer of knowledge (Brown and Duguid 2001;198). Further, it is possible that reverse expatriate assignments may serve to reduce the high costs of underperformance and failure commonly associated with IHRM assignments (Dowling et al 2008;112). For these reasons, it may be that an organisation's effectiveness can be positively enhanced through the use of such variants of cross-border placement. Equally, it is plausible to suggest that well-managed reverse expatriate assignments may also confer significant human capital benefits on individual assignees. To this end it can be hypothesised that: H1a: Well-managed non-traditional expatriation, including reverse expatriation, can enhance organisational learning by overcoming the 'stickiness' of bi-directional knowledge transfer associated with more traditional expatriation practices. 34
  44. 44. H1b: Well-managed non-traditional expatriation, including reverse expatriation, can provide an additional source of competitive advantage by enhancing organisational learning. 3.2.2 National Cultures National cultures of both home and host organisation are likely to be key moderators of the relationship between expatriate practice and organisational learning. Utilising one of Hofstede's key dimensions of culture, Power Distance (1983;75), it can be suggested that national culture will have a moderating influence on the transfer of knowledge by affecting the level of receptivity in cross-border communication and interaction. The Power Distance Index, or PDI (Ibid) may be a suitable measure in which cross-cultural responsiveness to knowledge transfer can be measured. This is since PDI may reflect national attitudes towards mobility, equality and opportunity, elements that can be considered key in crossborder placement (Lee and Li 2008;604), and relevant to a study of expatriation and IHRM (Muenjohn and Armstrong 2007;265). For example, countries with high PD may exhibit a societal system in which it is less apposite for subordinates and superiors to interact due to the uneven distribution of power. This high PD setting may inhibit knowledge transfer as there may be a lack of suitable mechanisms in place to support a free flow exchange of information within an organisation. In contrast, countries with low PD may promote societal norms in which it is more acceptable for superiors and subordinates to engage each other due to a more equal distribution of power, and thus knowledge transfer is more open and promoted. With this in mind, this dimension of the Hofstede model may be appropriate in considerations of cross-cultural placement and the impact that home and host country 35
  45. 45. culture (Hofstede et al 1990;286) may have on the transfer of knowledge in these assignments. On this basis, it is further proposed that: H2a: A placement in an organisation with a national culture of high Power Distance will negatively moderate the relationship between expatriate practice and organisational learning. H2b: A placement in an organisation with a national culture of low Power Distance will positively moderate the relationship between expatriate practice and organisational learning. 3.2.3 Cross-border Placement and Organisational Characteristics Structural Barriers / Facilitators As noted in Chapter 2, organisational culture and structure characteristics may also influence the relationship between expatriate practice and organisational learning. In this light, it is appropriate to consider whether specific organisational characteristics may have an effect on the relationship between expatriation, knowledge transfer and organisational learning, and to what extent. A firm's level of structural rigidity, including its operational framework categorisation as 'mechanistic' or 'organic' (Burns and Stalker 1994;104), may play a key role in the generation and treatment of new ideas and practices via cross-border assignments. Thus, it may be important for managers to appreciate the structural 36
  46. 46. characteristics which shape, direct and influence the transfer of new-found expatriate knowledge. Similar issues over the management of tacit knowledge, such as the treatment of 'internal stickiness', may be influenced by an organisation's structure, such as via barriers that inhibit knowledge from being transferred throughout the organisation, or via rigidities, disconnections and breakdowns in organisational communication channels. Taking these points into account, it can be supposed that organisations with rigid, bureaucratic and hierarchical characteristics - i.e. 'mechanistic' structures (Burns and Stalker 1994;96) - will face considerable difficulty in enhancing organisational learning via expatriate transfer because of the many barriers which may prevent tacit knowledge from being effectively transmitted. In contrast, an organisation with less rigid, more open and flatter structural characteristics - i.e. an 'organic' structure (Ibid;137) - may be more conducive to effective knowledge transfer in the IHRM context. This may be because the reduction in formal barriers and organisational levels which may otherwise inhibit or distort knowledge are less pronounced, and because the more fluid and multi-directional modes of internal communication may promote more continuous and better-informed communication and decision making processes. In such an environment, structural characteristics may provide far less distortion and interference in the transfer of knowledge. Accordingly, it is proposed that: H3a: A placement in an organisation with a mechanistic structure will negatively moderate the relationship between expatriate practice and organisational learning. H3b: A placement in an organisation with an organic structure will positively moderate the relationship between expatriate practice and organisational learning. 37
  47. 47. Communicative Openness Much like structure, a firm's approach to a culture of communicative openness may also play an important role in the management of traditional and non-traditional expatriates and the knowledge that is attributed to their functions. Of the many elements of organisational culture (Willcoxson and Millett 2000), communicative openness (Eisenberg and Witten 1987;418) may bear specific importance as a moderating influence on the links between expatriate practice and organisational learning as successful knowledge transfer will necessitate clear and comprehensive communication strategies (Goh 2002;23). Openness may be a critical moderating condition in determining knowledge transfer success and/or failure and may also purport implications for entrepreneurship, leadership and innovation possibilities at both an individual and organisational scale (Sun and Scott 1997;79). A second organisational component, 'reflexivity', may subsist as a key element in a 'learning organisation'. Reflexivity, as part of a firm's adaptive capacity (Staber and Sydow 2002;412), may have a profound effect on the ability for reverse expatriation to succeed, and for newly gained knowledge to be suitably implemented in an organisational culture's aims, actions and outcomes. This is not only due to the bi-directional nature of knowledge, but the approach a learning organisation must take in order to capitalise on any newfound gained knowledge by allowing newfound ideas and concepts to build on and influence previously established practices (Bonache and Brewster 2001;148). It is supposed that in order for a phenomenon like reverse expatriation to succeed, communicative openness and reflexivity may well be fundamental moderating qualities, of which their presence in 38
  48. 48. organisational cultures could produce valuable outcomes in a reflexive, learning organisation. Thus: H4a: An organisational culture that encourages communicative openness will positively moderate the relationship between expatriate practice and organisational learning by facilitating knowledge transfer in both the origin and destination location. H4b: An organisational culture that encourages reflexivity will positively moderate the relationship between expatriate practice and organisational learning by facilitating knowledge transfer in both the origin and destination location. 3.2.4 Communicative e-Technologies Contemporary expatriate practice in an increasingly globalised world also highlights the importance that new technologies play in IHRM. Specific e-technologies such as videoconferencing, VoIP and Skype have profound importance as communication mediums in contemporary organisations (Brewster and Sparrow 2007;48), yet further analysis is required as to whether they serve as appropriate mediums of knowledge transfer. These new tools are seen as offering substantial value to new forms of expatriate management by expanding the methods of communication, overcoming distance barriers and altering the requisite, frequency and duration of cross-border assignments (Welch, Worm and Fenwick 2003;95). In the case of reverse expatriation, e-technologies may be a valuable mechanism in the multi-directional transfer of knowledge and its incorporation into an organisation's 39
  49. 49. culture and structure. These tools may help navigate some of the barriers in an organisation's structure or even help alleviate some of the communicative pressures associated with its culture, thereby allowing for additional knowledge transfer to take place. Further still, these aforementioned new technologies present distinct value as tools of organisational learning, the latter able to take on new, dynamic forms that may contribute to newfound expatriate practice itself. Thus, it is supposed that: H5: High use of communicative e-technologies will positively moderate the relationship between cross-border placement and organisational learning by providing additional new means of effective knowledge transfer. 3.3 Towards an Integrative Model The preceding hypotheses capture the central research propositions of the thesis. In light of these explorations, linkages between core concepts and hypotheses can now be described in a more holistic way. These concepts, namely the interrelated relationships between expatriate practice, knowledge transfer and organisational learning are anticipated as offering new potential and possibilities to the study of expatriate management. Moderating factors that may influence these relationships, namely national culture, organisational characteristics (including structural barriers/facilitators and communicative openness/inhibition), and use of communicative e-technologies, are also considered as elements that may influence any possible mediation that knowledge transfer may serve between expatriate practice and organisation learning. Figure 1a overviews the multi-faceted relationship hypothesised above: 40
  50. 50. Figure 1a: Knowledge transfer and the relationship between expatriate practice and organisational learning. As Figure 1a suggests, knowledge transfer serves as the key bridge or mediator between expatriate practice and organisational learning. At the same time, the intensity and extent of knowledge transfer is itself conditioned by key contextual mediators in both the home and host organisation, including gaps in national cultures, organisational characteristics (structural barriers/facilitators and communicative openness/inhibition), and use of e-technologies - key moderators that may have a substantial influence on the outcomes of this relationship. Further, the influence of these moderators may also impact the knowledge transfer dimension of expatriate practice, leading to an environment in which the moderators may enhance organisational learning and allow for new approaches to expatriate practice, such as reverse expatriation, to operate . 41
  51. 51. Figure 1a also highlights the possible medium-to-long-term outcomes that may result from an open learning organisation utilising the aforementioned process in both the home and host setting. It may well be the case that organisational learning arising from knowledge transfer associated with expatriate practice will lead to new, more effective approaches to expatriate practice being implemented in the medium-to-long-term. This in itself may shape the organisational characteristics and use of technology within this 'learning organisation'. The result of this process may be a more encompassing reflexive relationship in which organisational learning has a direct influence as the start of enterprise wide learning as well as the ongoing end result, by way of a feedback loop. In the case of reverse expatriation, utilisation of this new approach to expatriate practice may find knowledge transfer to be a useful medium to contribute to newfound organisational learning, which could then, in turn, influence a firm's expatriate approach and the moderators that influence their use. 3.4 Conclusion The hypotheses and conceptual model foregrounded in this chapter seek to demonstrate the key causal relationships examined in this study. Specifically, it is suggested that knowledge transfer is the key mediator of the relationship between expatriate practice, and organisational learning. Further, it is proposed that knowledge transfer is itself moderated by three key sets of factors: (i) national cultures; (ii) organisational characteristics (structural barriers/facilitators and communicative openness/inhibition); and (iii) communicative e-technologies. These intervening factors are hypothesised as providing key potential as new sources of competitive advantage and organisational value. It is supposed that these are the key elements in the knowledge transfer process, and with regard 42
  52. 52. to reverse expatriation, it is suggested that these particular contextual factors may maximise the learning potential of cross-border placement. 43
  53. 53. Chapter 4 Research Methodology 4.1 Introduction The preceding hypotheses reflect the primary focus of this dissertation. This chapter will outline the methodology involved in answering these key hypotheses, including research design and chosen method, sample and process. 4.2 Research Design and Method Data was collected using a series of semi-structured interviews with a chosen sample of traditional and non-traditional expatriates, expatriate managers and expatriate consultants. This qualitative method was deemed most appropriate for the purposes of this study due to its malleability, especially in terms of creating context-specific questions and responses (Bryman and Bell, 2003:474, Yin, 1984:90). The richness associated with descriptive responses of interviewees also deemed this study more appropriate for qualitative, rather than quantitative research. The significant research time necessary to comprehend impressions of IHRM from an observer level also rendered this method the most appropriate. This was also reflected in the chosen method of semi-structured interviewing, allowing closer interaction with individual respondents, rather than using collective approaches such as focus groups. The desire to interviewee participants across a broad range of industries also meant that organisational case studies were inappropriate for this particular study. 44
  54. 54. 4.3 Interviewee Recruitment Recruitment was undertaken in line with HREC approvals and protocols. Interviewees were recruited based on a combination of access and availability, akin to Bryman and Bell's categories of purposive and convenience sampling (2003:198, 500). This included utilising networks of friends, family, social media and online research where available. Interviewees were also recruited through a cascading approach (Ibid.) in which human resource professionals were used as an intermediary on the understanding that participation is entirely voluntary, and only included once written consent had been obtained. Those agreeing to participate were asked to nominate others that they felt may be suitable additional interviewees and in turn provided cross-referenced contact details. The international nature of these networks meant that it became quite innate to recruit interested participants with significant expatriate experience. More surprising was the eagerness of the participants, who were very willing to share their experiences and hear about new approaches to expatriation and offer related commentary. This in turn rendered the recruitment and research process both satisfying and rewarding. 4.4 Interviewee sample In sum, 23 individuals of 6 countries of origin (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, United States, United Kingdom) were interviewed having been currently placed in 10 countries (South Africa, Australia, China, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Italy, Saudi Arabia, France and the United States) with many interviewees having substantial traditional and non-traditional expatriate experience in many other 45
  55. 55. countries throughout their international careers. This number was deemed sufficient to reflect a degree of generalisability amongst contemporary expatriate practitioners. Expatriates with significant global experience were specifically targeted in order to gauge their tacit knowledge and comprehension of IHRM theories, policies and practices. Similarly, expatriate managers were valued for their experience in a variety of international placements and ability to evaluate these from an organisational/managerial standpoint. Likewise, expatriate consultants and coaches were sought for their awareness of best practices, IHRM trends and industry knowledge. Although the original intention of this study was to include categorical 'reverse expatriates', the notion's infancy and relative obscurity meant that such individuals were not forthcoming in the sample. The interviewees' current job roles were in organisations that stemmed from a wide variety of industries - twelve in total - namely telecommunications, IT, energy, finance, publishing, construction, engineering, beverage/food production, consulting, media, hospitality and NGO's. This demonstrates the profound dissemination of expatriation across many parts of the developed and newly-industrialised world. Of particular relevance is variation in the ways in which organisations in these industries have approached traditional expatriation and international expansion and the result of this which has now resulted in the form of a variety of expatriate and cross-border organisational cultures. Further to this point are the job roles of interviewees. Although the majority of the interviewees identified with being either expatriates (all types), expatriate managers or expatriate consultants, their actual job titles were quite wide-ranging. These included general managerial and consultant positions to communications managers, heads of 46
  56. 56. marketing, investors, technical experts, expatriate coaches, journalists and editors. This variety is useful for context-setting purposes, which will help to explain some of the differing approaches each interviewee takes in discussions of our key research questions in the forthcoming results portion of this dissertation. This variation also assists the generalisability of findings, as the diverse array of interviewee participants allows for a level of generalisation to the wide populations of expatriates and organisations engaging in cross-border placement. In light of this, interviewees were able to be categorised into two comparator groups allowing for a cross-comparative analysis of data, namely 'traditional expatriates' and 'nontraditional expatriates'. Traditional expatriates will include those currently engaged in, with significant experience in, or managing traditional expatriation, i.e. those sent from their home organisation to conduct business operations in a host country (Harzing 2001;366). The second comparator group, non-traditional expatriates, are those outside the conventional framework, and include flexpatriates (Mayerhofer et al, 2004, 646), inpatriates (Dowling et al 2008; 97-98, 137-138) and those with limited experience in reverse expatriation (Rego 2008;1), whose specific tasks may be more wide ranging. With these typologies in mind, the sample was able to be divided into eight traditional and fifteen non-traditional expatriates. Appendix A summarises these demographic traits and characteristics, and follows the bibliography section of the thesis. 47
  57. 57. 4.5 Interview process Interviews were conducted by telephone, VoIP and Skype at mutual convenience. Interview length was between 35 and 180 minutes, with an average of around one hour. This great discrepancy was due to the time availability of interviewees, depth of discussions and the number of designed questions. Interviewees were asked a set of semi-structured questions (see Appendix B for a list of indicative questions). Questions were organised according to theme, level of expatriate experience and position within the organisation. Attention was also paid to distinguishing between the practical and more theoretical questions. Questions ranged from specific knowledge-transfer practices within the organisation of the interviewee to discussions relating to the influence of culture, structure and use of technology on these practices. Although studies have shown there to be as many as 54 variables (Miller & Friesen 1980 in Milliman et al, 1991:327) within broader strategic IHRM, for the purposes of this study the three aforementioned key mediators were prioritised for their direct relevance to the links between expatriate practice, knowledge transfer and organisational learning (national cultures, organisational characteristics structural barriers/facilitators and communicative openness/inhibition, and use of etechnologies). Broader questions were also asked, relevant to developing IHRM discourse and theory. This was in case the interviewees demonstrated any interest in the literature; to my delight, many of them did. 48
  58. 58. From this point, interviewees were given the opportunity to discuss additional matters most relevant to their specific circumstances. Opportunity was also given for interviewees to suggest how the practices and processes of their organisations could be improved, and what additional factors may also be of importance. Questions were designed to be broadly applicable from entry-level expatriates and expatriate managers, through to senior managers, expatriate professionals and 'career expats'. In this fashion, the semistructured nature of the questions allowed interviewees to 'fill in the blanks' with the issues and answers most pressing to them. This also allowed for a certain degree of reflection and overview which allowed key issues to naturally present themselves from both current and previous assignments. 4.6 Informant Anonymity In line with ethics protocols, and in the interests of anonymity, a series of coded pseudonyms will be used to protect the identities of interviewees and their organisations. Interviewees are designated as "Interviewee A" through to "Interviewee W" based on a randomised allocation. Organisations are not named, only identifiable by industry and relevant geographic region(s). Although no sensitive information was provided nor sought, anonymity was deemed to be the most appropriate means of protecting individual and organisational confidentiality. Anonymity also furthered the opportunity for forthrightness in responses. 49
  59. 59. 4.7 Conclusion The preceding discussion reflected the key methodological approach of this study. This included discussion of chosen research method, breakdown of chosen sample and the process in which data is to be collected. The following two chapters will outline the results stemming from this method and the discussion that ensues. 50
  60. 60. Chapter 5 The Relationship Between Expatriate Practice, Knowledge Transfer and Organisational Learning Results and Analysis 5.1 Introduction The interview evidence generated for this study offers some fascinating insights into the world of contemporary IHRM. This chapter, the first of two empirical chapters, reports and analyses the evidence relating to the first set of hypotheses specified in Chapter 3, namely those dealing with expatriate practice - specifically reverse expatriation and knowledge transfer (H1a), and between expatriate-driven knowledge transfer and organisational learning (H1b). The next chapter builds on this by examining the evidence relating to the remaining hypotheses, namely those to do with the role of our three hypothesised moderators - national cultures (H2a, H2b), organisational characteristics (structural barriers/facilitators (H3a, H3b) and communicative openness /inhibition (H4a, H4b)) and use of e-technologies (H5). 5.2 Evidence on Cross-border Placement in General, Knowledge Transfer and Organisational Learning. 5.2.1 Respondents' commentary on knowledge arising from cross-border placement generally Despite the breadth of issues underpinned by the concepts 'knowledge' and 'knowledge transfer', interviewees of both comparator groups demonstrated similar impressions regarding the difficulties surrounding the term's use and applications in cross51
  61. 61. border placement. This chapter focuses on the relevance of knowledge and knowledge transfer to the core hypotheses (H1a and H1b), that being as mediators of the relationship between expatriate practice and organisational learning in both the home and host context. In doing so, we will also address our first hypothesis: that well-managed non-traditional expatriation, including reverse expatriation, can enhance organisational learning by overcoming the 'stickiness' of bi-directional knowledge transfer associated with more traditional expatriation practices (H1a). Discussion will also be offered on creative approaches to the transfer of knowledge, as detailed by respondents. Expatriate interviewees of all types enthusiastically supported the notion that knowledge transfer has a fundamental role to play in cross-border placement practice. Interviewee T noted: "There's got to be this knowledge sharing that you bring back, that's [number] one." Interviewee M saw knowledge transfer as a natural fit, commenting: "It just made sense for it to happen... it brought a richness to what we did and furthered the goals of the organisation". This accords with interviewee B's remarks: "A business can't pretend it knows everything". Interviewee I viewed knowledge transfer as a necessity in cross-border placement, noting: "There's just so much you can learn from a book, it's the richness of someone's actual experiences that I think are so helpful". Interviewee P went further, exclaiming that knowledge transfer was "an untapped goldmine" and interviewee G similarly claimed "you can lead the market - [though] not easily - if you get into these kind of processes". Significantly, this last comment highlights the difficulty associated with knowledge transfer, and this is perhaps a reason why it is still frequently considered an incomplete process. 52
  62. 62. Interviewees also discussed the implicit nature of knowledge transfer, with Interviewee M commenting that: "A lot of what took place for me was very unconscious". This was reinforced by interviewee U who saw knowledge as "probably a more implicit thing than anything else". Interviewee N added that implicit tacit knowledge was "the reason why it [transfer] doesn't happen overnight, the reason why it takes time". Further, on the topic of knowledge theory, interviewees expressed views in line with the bi-directional, multi-directional nature of knowledge transfer. Interviewee M claimed that "knowledge both ways happens, because it kind of has to." Interviewee V's comments support this notion: "I think there is a tremendous opportunity for knowledge transfer here [Singapore] from a western to an Asian perspective. I think that westerners can also learn a lot from the Asians, it shouldn't just be one way. These comments reflect a natural disposition, that knowledge is either bi- directional, or multi-directional. Further, the collected data supports the potential that reverse expatriation may bring to this process. Yet despite overwhelming general support for the importance of knowledge and knowledge transfer, interviewees suggested that most firm's took the opposite approach. Interviewee V noted: "Companies tend to look at knowledge transfer as being a very generic thing", whilst Interviewee S commented: "They don't value it [knowledge] highly". Interviewee O added: "If the company is really serious about mobility they will want to take advantage of that better". Interviewee Q's organisation characterised this approach: "I wouldn't say that we have a formal way of capturing that knowledge... no we haven't really got a grasp of that one". Interviewee U suggested that this may be the result of a lack of mechanisms in which to integrate knowledge, commenting: "I think there's that sort of difficulty there, because obviously they don't know how to get it all to come together, they just assume that it's going to work, and I still think that sort of difficulty is there now". This 53
  63. 63. suggests that to capitalise on the knowledge-generating potential of cross-border placement, organisations must have strategies and practices that help facilitate the transfer of knowledge. In terms of specific organisational strategies, Interviewee S claimed: "I think the situation is much worse than even what you are proposing, where there aren't formal programs to extract this knowledge, there really isn't, in most cases there isn't even an acknowledgement of it". Interviewee A noted that in her experience knowledge transfer was left to individual's and their teams, asserting "It was pretty much [done] person to person...but there would be an expectation that they would spend some time de-briefing with their team, talking about the knowledge that they've gained, but it was left to the individual team's division to handle and some people did it better than others". Interviewee K simply explained why she felt the organisation was unable to transfer knowledge: "It is difficult". Interviewee Q added that in his experience "I haven't seen any company do a fantastic job at that [knowledge transfer], we do a very poor job of it". Interviewee H agreed, noting: "I think there is no winning formula, it is a very difficult thing to do." With this in mind it can be suggested that a lack of clear strategic initiatives is preventing firms from transferring effective knowledge into their learning capacities. 5.2.2 Overcoming 'stickiness': Organisational initiatives concerning the transfer of knowledge (H1a) Interviewees offered recommendations as to how firms could best facilitate the transfer of knowledge as a way of harmonising expatriate practice and organisational learning at both the home and host level. Interviewee J suggested that: "On a very micro 54