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INTERNATIONAL TALENT FLOW AND INTENTION TO REPATRIATE: AN IDENTITY EXPLANATION Helen De Cieri, Cathy Sheehan, Christina Costa, Marilyn Fenwick & Brian Cooper Working Paper 10/07 March 2007

DEPARTMENT OF MANAGEMENT WORKING PAPER SERIES ISSN 1327–5216

Abstract This paper examines the role of identity in knowledge workers’ intentions to repatriate after international work experience. Using a sample of 563 Australian professionals currently working overseas, we investigate the relationships between intention to repatriate and national identity, factors that ‘pull’ professionals to work outside Australia and those that would ‘push’ them to return home, and demographic characteristics. This research has implications for individuals, employers and government policy with regard to the management of talent flows of knowledge workers.

This paper is a work in progress. Material in the paper cannot be used without permission of the author.

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INTERNATIONAL TALENT FLOW AND INTENTION TO REPATRIATE: AN IDENTITY EXPLANATION

INTRODUCTION Globalization has brought many challenges and opportunities for the mobility of individuals and the development of their careers. The movement of labour, particularly the internationalization of professions and professional labour markets, has raised awareness of the importance of understanding the factors that influence individuals’ decisions related to their career development. . In line with the trend towards labour mobility, the present study investigates the factors that affect the decision of professionals engaged in knowledge work who are educated and trained in one country, to choose to develop their career elsewhere. The phenomenon has been referred to in the literature as ‘brain drain’ or ‘talent flow’ (Baruch, Budhwar & Khatri, 2006; Carr, Inkson & Thorn, 2005; also see Tung & Lazarova, 2006). Recognizing the apparent complexity and importance of the issue, research is growing in this area (see Baruch et al., 2007). The term ‘talent flow’ is now more commonly used, to provide a broader conceptualisation than brain drain or gain, as it is a more accurate representation of human mobility across geographical and cultural borders. Talent flow has been defined as “the migration of skilled people between countries. Talent flow is governed by human choice and is constituted from boundaryless global careers” (Carr et al., 2005: 387). The flow can benefit countries, provided it is reciprocal and at least balanced in terms of the direction of the talent flows. That is, talent exchange or talent circulation is in the interests of any nation seeking to engage in global business, and particularly in the global knowledge economy (Hugo, Rudd & Harris, 2003; Frey, 2004).

GLOBAL TALENT FLOW FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A SMALL ECONOMY The global knowledge economy has emerged as a challenging competitive environment for business and management (Considine, Marginson, & Sheehan, 2001; Doz, Santos & Williamson, 2001). As a nation with a small domestic economy that has sought to improve its international competitiveness by internationalising, outside any trading bloc, and participating in the global knowledge economy, Australia provides a fascinating backdrop to explore the importance of knowledge workers and global talent flows (Dick & Merrett, 2007; Australian Government’s Innovation Report, 2003-04; Vaile, 2000). The saying ‘knowledge is power’ has never been more applicable to Australian policy-makers and managers. At the national level, the term ‘diaspora’ has been used to describe the “ ‘scattering of a people’ beyond their homeland” who continue to identify with and cultivate connections between themselves and that homeland (Fullilove & Flutter, 2004: 3). This diaspora includes self-initiated expatriates, who travel overseas in search of employment (Suutari & Brewster, 2000), as well as individuals on international assignments initiated by multinational enterprises. Research suggests the main...
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