B. Sebastian Reiche & Anne-Wil Harzing
Version September 2008
Published in A.-W.K. Harzing, & A. Pinnington (Eds.), International Human Resource Management (3rd ed.). London: Sage.
Copyright © 2007-2010 Sebastian Reiche and Anne-Wil Harzing. All rights reserved.
B. Sebastian Reiche, PhD Assistant Professor IESE Business School Department of Managing People in Organizations Ave. Pearson, 21 Barcelona 08034, Spain Tel: +34 93 602 4491 Fax: +34 93 253 4343 E-mail: email@example.com
Chapter 7: International Assignments
B. Sebastian Reiche and Anne-Wil Harzing
1. Introduction 2. Staffing policies PCNs, HCNs or TCNs: (Dis)advantages and statistics Factors influencing the choice between HCNs and PCNs 3. Motives for international transfers Why do companies assign employees abroad? Edström and Galbraith’s typology Coordination through international assignees: Of bears, bumble-bees and spiders International assignees as knowledge agents 4. Alternative forms of international assignments Inpatriate assignments Short-term assignments Self-initiated assignments Virtual assignments 5. The international assignment process Selection and preparation Selection criteria: prescriptions for good practice Expatriate selection in practice Preparation Expatriate adjustment during the assignment Repatriation
6. Dimensions of assignment success Expatriate failure: Is it just a myth? Multidimensional nature of assignment success 7. Summary and Conclusions 8. Discussion Questions 9. Further reading References
Learning Objectives After reading this chapter you will be able to Understand and evaluate different staffing options that are available to MNCs Differentiate between the main motives for using international assignments in MNCs Identify different forms of international assignments and assess their distinct advantages and disadvantages Explain why the selection, preparation and repatriation form an integral part of the international assignment process Critically evaluate the success of an international transfer, both from the perspective of the individual assignee as well as the company
50-Word Summary The chapter reviews the various staffing options in MNCs in general and then discusses different corporate motives for using international transfers as well as the different forms of international assignments available to MNCs. It also gives a detailed overview of the assignment process and presents a set of criteria for assessing assignment success.
This chapter deals with several aspects of international assignments. First, Section 2 reviews different staffing policies and looks in some detail at the factors influencing the choice between host country and parent country nationals. Subsequently, Section 3 takes a strategic perspective on international transfers and looks at the underlying motives that MNCs have to transfer international assignees between MNC units. We review two of the motives for international transfers – control and coordination, and knowledge transfer – in detail. Section 4 then deals with alternatives to expatriation, including the use of inpatriate, short-term, selfinitiated and virtual assignments. In Section 5, we examine the international assignment process which consists of the pre-assignment phase, the actual assignment and repatriation. Here, we review recruitment and selection issues associated with international assignments, discussing both the prescriptive models found in the expatriate literature and the circumstances that seem to persist in practice. We also consider expatriate adjustment during the assignment and describe organizational support upon repatriation. The final section critically reflects on the concept of expatriate failure and outlines a multidimensional perspective on assignment success.
2. Staffing policies
In his seminal work, Perlmutter (1969) identified three different international...
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