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Enhancing Opportunities for Expatriate Job Satisfaction

HR Strategies for Foreign Assignment Success

Deirdre McCaughey, Nealia S. Bruning, Department of Business Administration, /.H. Asper School of Business, University of Manitoba

I ncreasing globalization continues to drive corporate expansion into new foreign markets, requiring organiza-

tions to staff foreign manage- ment positions using expatriate employees. Incidents of expatri- ate failure are high, however, and can cause substantial loss- es for the organization. Although many organizations pursue varying strategies to minimize expatriate failure, more organizations should cap-

italize on synergies between expatriate programs, the tenets of job satisfaction, and, indi- rectly, predictors of turnover.

This article evaluates current expatriate research studies and builds upon that knowledge base by linking organizational support of expatriates to job satisfaction. Research has shown that many organizations have mastery of the tenets of job satisfaction with their domestic employees; thus, global organizations should extend similar practices to expatriate employees. Recommended strategies include organizational prac- tices to enhance the accultura- tion and adjustment of an expatriate, thereby increasing his or her job satisfaction, abili- ty to complete the assignment successfully, and reducing turnover potential.

Global corporations such as IBM., Exxon, Texacc iMcDonalds., and Hewlett Packard report deriving over 55 percent of their revenues from international operations (Forbes, 2000). In order to capitalize on these global bu.siness opportunities, organizations are conriniiously turning towards employee foreign assignments as a strategic human resource tactic (Brewster, 1997). The various types of foreign assign- ments include:

1. Relocating an employee and family to a target country (expatriates), 2. Developing management staff from the local country (inpatri- ates), or

3. Utilizing employees in frequent short-term assignments (flexpa- triates} to transfer area-specific knowledge (Brewster, 1997;

Mayrhofer, et al., 2004a; Mayrhofer, et al

, 2004b).

Although utilization of inpatriates and flexpatriates is increasing, most international organizations continue to pursue expatriates for foreign assignments (Harris, 1999; Welch, 2003). The costs of expatriate failure are substantial: Studies indicate fail- ure rates for expatriate assignments of approximately 25 to 40 percent (Hogan & Goodson, 1990; Solomon, 1994; Forster, 1997; Sanchez, et al., 2000). Estimates for expatriate relocation run from US $60,000 to US $250,000 to repatriate one executive with family prematurely

tion might gain insight into causes of expatriate failure by evaluating how its human resource practices toward expatriates enhance job satisfaction and ultimately increase the probabilit>' of assignment completion. Ratber than focus predominantly on rhe identification and estahlishment of various programs that specifically contribute to expatriate success, global organizations stand to gain tnore from an evaluation of their HR practices toward expatriates using the same job satisfaction lens as used with domestic employees (Harvey, 1997). Although international assignments have specific characteristics, successful domestic and international relocations are dependent on organizational support (Kraimer, et al., 2001). Additionally, many of tbe problems associated with relocating domestic employees are quite similar to those of international employees, namely inability of the family to adjust, family ties at the existing home location, potential impact on career, and disruption of a partner's employment/career (Runzheimer, 1998; Rushing & Kleiner, 2003; Mayrhofer, et al,


With the exception of foreign language and cultural training, many employee relocation challenges can be addressed by attention to job satisfaction dimensions. The incorporation of job satisfaction and utilization of domestic relocation experience will provide direction for international organizations in their establishment of expatriate programs. In the rest of this article, we detail the relationship between

An organization might gain insight into causes of expatriate failure by evaluating how its human resource practices toward expatriates enhance job satisfaction and ultimately increase the probability of assignment completion.

(Ioannou, 1995; Kraimer, et al., 2001). Expatriate failure is defined as either an expatriate's premature return from assignment or underper- formance while on assignment (Oddou, 1991; Baruch & Altman, 2002; Welcb, 2003). Although there are many reasons for expatriate failure, an average of 30 percent of US and UK expatriate placements end in failure because of a disconnect between human resource management policies and expatriate practices—a preventable cause of assignment failure. Some organizations fail to follow basic human resource practices when assigning employees and their families to international assign- ments. These neglected practices include failure to provide cross-cul- tural training, gender equity wben evaluating potential assignment candidates, employment assistance to the employee's spouse, a mentor and network access to aid career development, and sufficient pre- assignment training such as language and cultural skill acquisition (Lineban & Walsh, 1999, 2001; Baruch & Altman. 2002; Mayrhofer &: Scullion, 2002; Global Relocation Services, 2004). Ongoing pre- mature repatriation of employees from international assignments also damages an organization's ability to staff its foreign operations witb the best possible candidates. High levels of internal turnover dissuade employees from accepting foreign assignments (Harvey, 1997; Welch,


Research studies have demonstrated that expatriate job satisfaction bas a distinct influence on assignment completion (Grant-Vallone & Ensher, 2001; Culpan &: Wright, 2002). We suggest that an organiza-

job satisfaction and employee turnover and link organization-con- trol led |ob satisfaction facets to pre-assignment preparation, assignment support, and repatriation support. Finally, we create a theoretical framework that outlines organizational best practice strate- gies that managers can adopt in order to enhance expatriates' levels of job satisfaction and subsequently reduce assignment turnover.

Job Satisfaction and Turnover Intention

Job satisfaction's many definitions include tbe degree to which an employee is content witb his/bcr job, the difference between an employee's perceptions about what be/sbe expects to receive and wbat he/she actually receives at work, and tbe degree of fit between what an employee is seeking from an organization and what tbe organization requires from its employee (Mumford, 1972; Cranny, et al., 1992; Hellman, 1997; Spector, 1997; Pbillips & Connell, 2003). This defin- ition indicates that |ob satisfaction is multidimensional or multifaceted and subiect to the influence of the organization's human resource strategies (Cranny, et al., 1992; Spector, 1997). The five principal facets of job satisfaction, as derived from the Job Descriptive Index, are satisfying work, equitable pay, promotion opportunity, and satisfaction with supervisors and coworkers (Smith, et al., 1969; Smith, 1992; Phillips tk Connell, 2003). These facets of job satisfaction originate from a wide range of additional variables such as the supervisor's management style, personal growth, being treated with respect, interesting work, organizational commitment to

the employee, good workplace communication, work/family balance, workplace autonomy, employment market, welt managed company, trust in management, and type of employer (Ryan, et al., 1996; Spector, 1997; Abraham, 1999; Canadian Policy Research Networks, 2000; Johnson, 2000; Hom & Kinicki, 200 i; Trevor, 2001; Harvard Business Essentials, 2002). Clearly, employees are seeking meaningful employment, organiza- support,, work/family halancc, and career advancement as major determinants of their job satisfaction levels (see Exhibit 1). Although financial support is a factor in job satisfaction and in employee willingness to accept either a domestic or an overseas assign- ment, the influence of other factors, such as fulfilling work, spousal work, and work/family balance, are more central considerations (Runzheimer, 1998; I,inehan &c Walsh, 1999, 2001). Financial incen- tives are not being considered as a key factor in employee/expatriate job satisfaction.

A major finding in the job satisfaction literature is its linkage to

employee turnover or turnover intentions (Heilnian, 1997; Hom 6c Kinicki, 2001; Trevor, 2001; Nagy, 2002). Given that an expatriate relocates to a different area of the organization, takes on a different job, is in a foreign location, is effectively interviewed/hired for the position, requires training, and position socialization, the expatriate's job experience is similar to that of a new employee. Furthermore, if the expatriate returns early from an assignment, this action is akin to turnover.

In a meta-analysis investigating job satisfaction and intent to leave,

llellman (1997] found there was a significant negative relationship between job satisfaction and turnover intentions. The magnitude of this relationship is such that every unit of decrease in job satisfaction results in a one-half standard deviation unit increase in turnover inten- tion. Other studies have found similar results linking turnover to decreased levels of job satisfaction (Hom &L Kinicki, 2001; Trevor,


Given the experience corporations have with domestic relocation and managing employee satisfaction, global organizations can benefit by considering their expatriate programs from the basic premises of job satisfaction. Thus, the relationship between job satisfaction and


Workplace Satisfaction Variables/Facets Under Control of the Organization

Employees treated with respect

Sense of job accomplishment

Trust in organization/ management

Interesting/challenging work

turnover dictates that organizations must consider what facets influ- ence expatriates' perceptions of their international assignment. Exhibit 2 summarizes the known relationship of job satisfaction and turnover. Managers who acknowledge the job satisfaction-turnover relationship are more likely to be able to manage tbeir expatriates successfully.

Organizational Facets Influencing Expatriate Job Satisfaction

The variables related to expatriate assignment success tend to cluster into three major areas: individual adjustment, environmental issues, and position-related issues (Harvey, 1997). Individual adjust- ment considers what tbe expatriate brings to an assignment, such as maturity, life experience, personality, and previous international experience. Environmental issues revolve around the host culture, such as tbe culture's similarity to one's home culture and cultural/ government restrictions on employment, visas, and work permits. Finally, position-related issues are concerned with tbe impact of tbe assignment on the employee, the adjustment to the host-country office, assignment duration, and adequacy of training provided prior to departure (Harvey, 1997). Of tbese three areas, the one under tbe direct control of tbe organization is position-related issues. This area provides a foundation from whicb skillfully designed human resoLirce policies can increase expatriate job satisfaction (Tung, 1979; Black, et al., 1991; Harvey, 1997; Barucb & Altman, 2002). Position-rel a ted support actions are typically clustered as follows (see Exhibit 3):

1. Pre-assignment support (i.e., career development and training), 2. Assignment support (i.e., mentors and partner employment), and 3. Repatriation support (i.e., knowledge, skills, and abilities uti- lization).


Workplace Variables, Job Satisfaction, and Turnover Relation

Workplace Variables:

• Impact of assignment

• Assignment duration

• Adequacy ot training

• Work/family balance

Job Satisfaaion:

• Sarisf\'ing work

• Equitable pay

Good workplace

Career advancement

• Promotion opportunity



• Supervisor satisfaction


• Co-worker satisfaction

Productive co-worker/ supervisor relations

Work/family balance

Adapted from: Ryan, et al., 1996; Spector; 1997; Abraham, 1999; Canadian Policy Researcb Networks, 2000; Jobnson, 2000; Hom &C Kinicki, 2001; Trevor, 2001; Harvard Business Essentials, 2002.

Turnover Intentions

Adapted from: Smith, et al., 1969; Smith, 1992; Harvey, 1997.

(Harvey, 1997; Farid & Buda, 1998; Linehan & Walsh, 2001; Baruch 6C Altman, 2002; Mayrhofer & Scullion, 2002). These support strategies have heen shown to decrease employee depression and anxiety and improve overall health., which subsequently influence employee effectiveness, cultural adjustment., and job satisfaction—all of which improves the likelihood of assignment success (Grant- Vallone & Ensher, 2001). Specific successful practices include support for family-work balance, mentoring, networking, and partner assistance (Linehan &c Walsh, 2001). Overall, greater company sup- port equates to greater expatriate satisfaction levels and subsequent assignment success (Harvey, 1997; Kraimer, et al., 2001; Culpan &:

Wright, 2002). In determining what position-related strategies organizations can pursue to enhance expatriate adjustment, we can view rhe lifecycle of an international assignment as having three distinct phases: pre-assign- ment, assignment, and reparriation (see Exhibit 4). Each phase reflects different employee needs and therefore requires varying types of organizational support. The first phase in the international life cycle, expatriate pre-assignment preparation, has a profound influence on job satisfaction.

ExpatrJate Pre-Assignment PreparatJon Strategies

Pre-assignment support is the actions organizations take to enhance an expatriate's adjustment and coping skills in advance of a foreign assignment. Pre-asslgnmcnt support focuses primarily on help- ing the expatriate acquire the skills necessary to perform well on the assignment; such as language training to facilitate adjustment to rhe new environment and career counselling to integrate the assignment into the expatriate employee's long-term career development. Career Development. Career development is the sequence of relat- ed work activities directed at personal and organizational goals that the employee experiences (Hall, 2002). Companies that assist employ- ees in identifv'ing and developing their skills and abilities are rewarded with employees who show greater loyalty and are more adept at their work responsibilities, thereby Increasing organizational productivity


Expatriates' Best Practices



• Demonstrate value

of assignment

• Specific link to

employee career


• Language and

cultural training

• Identify deficit

KSAs, provide



language training,


• Confirmed

assignment length

Assignment Support


tty mentors








• Partner employ-

ment or career counselling



• Begin ahead

of assignment


• Position estab-

lished to utilize new KSAs

• Revised career plan


and re-integration

• Allow for

transition period

(Griffith, 1998; Welch, 2003]. Organizations with formal policies for career management that are supportive of employee development result in employee reports of higher loh satisfaction and improved career success (Orpen, 1994; Culpan He Wright, 2002). The role of a relocation assignment with respect to career development is a critical concern in both international and domestic relocations (Runzheimer, 1998). For expatriates to be satisfied with their assignment and its role in their career development, they must under- stand how the potential foreign assignment will influence their long-term career goals (Harvey, 1997; Baruch & Altman, 2002). Expatriate career planning includes the actions and plans related to how the expatri- ate's assignment will influence his/her future career (Earid & Buda, 1998; Welch, 2003). Eorty percent of expatriates in the GMAC

Global Relocation survey had no idea how an

international assignment would influence their

career (Global Relocation Services, 2004). Given that expatriates are being asked to relo- cate to a foreign country, remove themselves from the mainstream company, and take incredible risks with their established track record, tbis is unreasonable. Understanding tbe linkage between tbe assignment and career development facilitates acculturation and adjustment to the new position. Earad and Buda (1998) identified specific career strategies tbat lead to job satisfaction and organizational commitment including facilitation of the expatriate's continuous acqui- sition of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and


Expatriates' Best Practices Framework

Assignment Support:

• Host/Home Country Mentors

Repatriation Support:

• Career Linkage

KSA Utilization

Repatriation Plan

Partner Employment

Family Acculturation


Job Satisfaction

Pre-Assignment Support:

• Career Planning

• KSA Deficit Training

• Partner/Family Training

Assignment Completioti Intentions

behaviours valued by the organization. This enhances decentralized decision making by the expatriate and increases tbe expatriate's auton- omy. Organizational commitment to career development, as evidenced by tbese factors, moderates tbe relationship between expatriate selection and assignment completion (Earld & Buda, 1998). An empowered expatriate with a clear understanding of what he/she will gain from an international assignment will be effective at achieving corporate objectives, resulting in feelings of accomplishment and sub- sequent job satisfaction. Training. Training is another method by which organizations enhance employee job satisfaction. Training is an ongoing process that begins witb a new employee's orientation and continues with ongoing development of the employee's knowledge, skills, and abilities (Mauer & Rafuse, 2001). Training programs help to ensure employees bave rhe necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) to function

in tbe work environment {Cotton, 1993). Well-trained

employees work more effectively with fewer errors, require less super- vision, bave bigber morale, and lower attrition rates (Gutteridge, et al., 1993). Organizations sending employees on domestic or foreign assignments must recognize tbe need to provide training that is effec- tive in providing tbe employee witb the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities to function in his/her new assignment and, in tbe case of an expatriate, relevant to the country of assignment. Having the required job skills empowers the employee, aids in creating higb

•ffecrively {

Training in the host-country language is therefore key to the expatri- ate's ability to communicate with others and successfully interact with bost-country nationals, thereby aiding acculturation and adjustment (Mendenhall &i. Oddou, 1985). Citibank provides its expatriates with HR support for language and cultural training and the Chevron Overseas Petroleum C^ompany identifies cross-cultural issues as critical to an expatriate's success (Solomon, 1994). Otber noted areas of poor expatriate adjustment include personal things sucb as: use of personal space, pace of life, and ways of conducting oneself publicly (C^opeland &. Griggs, 1985). Problematic areas of workplace adjustment include: work attitudes, communica- tion, relationship roles, and power roles. Volard, et al., (1988) highlight a Japanese model of expatriation as a template for multina- tionals to adopt in order to enhance success opportunities. Japanese firms typically train their expatriates for up to a year in advance of the a.ssignnienr and heavily emphasize learning the customs and culture of the assigned country as well as the host-country language. Tailoring a training program to match tbe expatriate's KSA deficits, in addition to the requirements of rhe country and position of assign- ment, offers tbe best solution to prepare an expatriate effectively for a foreign assignment. Specific training programs facilitate expatriate acculturation to tbe new assignment, eliminate unnecessary frustra- tions, increase levels of job satisfaction, and aid in reducing incidents of premature repatriation.

With respect to international assignments, the partner and the family's cultural adjustment positively influences the expatriate's adjustment; this is critical, as lack of family adaptation is a major cause of expatriate failure.

morale, and engenders a belief that he/she Is capable of completing tbe assignment successfully, all of which directly influence )ob satisfaction (Grant-Vallone & Ensher, 2001; Rusbing Ik Kleiner, 2003). A major challenge for organizations is to identify exactly what t\'pe of training will provide their expatriates with the requisite tools. Pre-assignment training in areas of language skills, acculturation, company policies, technical skills specific to the expatriate's future position, and general skills related to managing in a remote location are beneficial (Volard, et al., 198S; Tung, 1998; Kraimer, et al., 2001; Mayrhofer &; Scullion, 2002). Pre-assignnient training has an effective and positive influence on expatriate cultural adjustment and subse- quent satisfaction with the assignment. Despite this fact, many com- panies (40% in one survey) provide no cross-cultural training to tbeir expatriates (Global Relocation Services, 2004). The need for training is evidenced as expatriate inability to adjust to the host-country is one of the top two reasons for premature repatriation (Tung, I 979; Stone, 1991; Cilobal Relocation Services, 2004). Acculturating to a foreign country typically involves operating in a new language to develop ways in which to establish work relations, cope with language-induced stress, and communicate with co-workers (Oddou, 1991). Expatriate managers frequently identify assignment problems as being cultural in nature (Culpan and Wright, 2002). Strong communication skills and language fluency resolves workplace problems and aids in managing the overall cultural experience.

Partner/Family Involvement. Organizations must recognize the influence of the family's adjustment to tbe success of an employee's new assignment. In the case of both domestic relocation and interna- tional assignment, studies bave shown tbat spousal resistance and family adjustment are major factors in employee relocation success (Lachnit &C Solomon, 2002; Rusbing & Kleiner. 2003; Global Relocation Services, 2004). With respect to internarional assignments, tbe partner and tbe family's cultural adjustment positively influences the expatriate's adjustment; tbis is critical, as lack of family adaptation is a major cause of expatriation failure (Tung, 1979; Stone, 1991; Selmer, 2001; Shaffer &: Harrison, 2001; Global Relocation Services,


Takeuchi, et al. (2002), interviewed expatriates regarding the effect of partner adjustment on tbe expatriate and found tbat tbe partner's general adjustment spilled over onto the expatriate's personal and work adjustment, resulting in a positive correlation witb both job and overall satisfaction. Higher levels of adjustment belped to prevent assignment failure and reduce desire for premature repatriation. Botb tbe Allen-Bradley Company and the Schering-Plough Corporation successfully involve family members in cultural and language training as part of the preparation of tbeir expatriates for foreign assignment (Solomon, 1994). Organizations tbat facilitate partner involvement in acculturation training enhance tbe employee's probabilit>' of assign- ment success (Lineban &; Walsb, 1999; Sbafer & Harrison, 2001;

Culpan & Wright, 2002; Takeuchi, et al., 2002|. We suggest that expa- triates who have well adjusted and satisfied families will aiso be well adjusted and satisfied with their foreign assigmiient, thereby reducing incidents of expatriate failure. Fatnily inclusion in the assignment process, the provision of language training as appropriate, and consideration of the family unit enhance the probability of assigmncnt success. Clearly, in these are areas organizational support strategies can augment the family's poten- tial adjustment and the subsequent job satisfaction of the expatriate. A well-prepared expatriate and family are now ready for the second phase of the international life cycle: the assignment itself.

Expatriate Assignment Support Strategies

Organizations face unique challenges with international postings in ensuring expatriates remain part of the organization's home-country culture, adapt to the new organizational culture as presented in the foreign work place, and are motivated to remain involved in the organization. Research has shown that organizational support predicts expatriate assignment adjustment (Cahgiuri, et ai, 1999; Shaffer, et al., 1999). Assignment support involves facilitating the expatriate's adjust- ment to the new work environment and the host-country through a mentor, maintaining strategic (inks with the head office, and aiding the expatriate's partner in pursuit of career opportunities.

Mentors. Meeting the challenges of involvement and organizational acculturation involves providing the expatriate with assignmept assis- tance. Baruch and Altman (2002) found that lack of organizational

happening in the home office, involve the expatriate in corporate decisions, provide a safe sounding board for the expatriate, offer advice in handling unfamiliar situations, and provide a iink into the corporate network (Mendenhall &L Oddou, 1985; Mayrhofer &c Scullion, 2002). Mentors are especially valuable when they have expatriate experience, that is, having a repertoire of international experiences from which to draw upon to aid the new expatriate (Downes, et al., 2002). Studies have demonstrated the value of attaining a mentor; expatriate man- agers clearly indicate that having a mentor is perceived to be a key component of assignment success (Linehan &c Walsh, 1999, 2001).

A home-country mentor's influence in facilitating the expatriate's adjustment, in keeping the expatriate in the loop, and in ensuring the individual is not "forgotten" while on assignment demonstrates the inherent vaiue of assigning a home-country mentor to an expatriate. Additionally, having a host-country mentor provides the expatriate with an individual who assists with the overall acculturation process and helps in the formation of new integrated relationships within the new office. This organizational support strategy of mentoring the expatriate is a critical intervention in keeping an expatriate motivated (Fontaine, 1997).

Partner Employment/Career Counseling. Given the changing work- place demographics, organizations have to manage the growing trend of dual career couples when considering employee relocation (Selmer &C Leung, 2003). Consideration of an employee's partner and his/her career prospects has been shown to be a major factor in the success of both domestic and international relocations (Runzheimer, 1998;

Home-country mentors are able to aid the expatriate's connec- tion with what is happening in the home office, involve the expatriate in corporate decisions, provide a safe sounding board for the expatriate, offer advice in handling unfamiliar situations, and provide a link into the corporate network

support, once the expatriate is in position, is a strong contributor to expatriate failure rates. A support strategy used by many organizations to aid ongoing employee acculturation in work and social environments is the assign- ment of a host-country national to the expatriate. This person provides assistance in learning and understanding the culture of the assigned country (Volard, et al., 1988). In the case of an international assign- ment, host-country nationals function in a mentoring capacity by providing the expatriate with hands-on training in cultural behaviour, introductions to valued business contacts, and assistance interpreting situations (Kraimer, et al., 2001). Additionally, a host-country mentor provides an arena for the expatriate to be involved in activities that encourage interaction with other host-country nationals (Mendenhall Sc Oddou, 1985; Oddou, 1991). Local interactions give expatriates an opportunity to develop relationships and encourages confidence in their communication skills, ultimately aiding their overall adjustment and acculturation process. Confidence in one's skills engenders a belief in one's ability to complete a task and results in increased job satisfaction.

In addition to host-country mentors, contact with the organization's home office through a home-country mentor enhances the expatriate adjustment process (Mayrhofer &c Scullion, 2002). Home-country mentors are able to aid the expatriate's connection witli what is


Rushing & Kleiner, 2003; Global Relocation Services, 2004). Expatriate managers reported that a major barrier to successful adjust- ment is the organization's lack of support for the trailing partner in securing employment (Linehan & Walsh, 1999, 2001; Selmer & Leung, 2003). The problematic nature of the trailing partner in secur- ing employment and achieving overall adjustment is highhghted by the fact that 20 to 25 percent of Expatriate spouses fail to secure employ- ment during the tenure of an international assignment (Harvey, 1997). Therefore, partners who agree to relocate and put their careers on hold will have difficulty adjusting to the foreign assignment if unable to attain viable employment (Culpan &c Wright, 2001). Organizational support in aiding the partner of a dual-career couple to secure employ- ment enhances expatriate and partner satisfaction with the foreign assignment, yet it is an area expatriates frequently report as poorly managed by their organization (Harvey, 1997; Yavas & Bodur, 1999; Selmer & Leung, 2003).

Support strategies adopted by ot^anizations must provide the part- ner assistance in seeking employment, facilitate the expatriate's adjust- ment to his/her new office, and provide a link to the home office through the assignment of mentors. With these actions, organizations will enhance the job satisfaction levels of expatriates and assignment success probability. The commitment to support an expatriate does not

stop at the assignment, as organizations must continue their support of their expatriates through the last cycle of an international assignment:

jhe repatriation process.

Expatriate Repatriation Support Strategies

Organizational career development for international employees is not only about career planning—it involves strategies for repatriation. Repatriation is an especially important component of an international assignment. The repatriation experience has the potential to undo all of the valuable development of the expatriate if he/she is not effectively integrated into the home environment. Repatriation planning is critical; studies evidence up to 40 percent of expatriates report having no clear- ly identified position in their parent corporation upon repatriation and 68 percent have no guarantee of a position upon repatriation (Oddou, 1991; Global Relocation Services, 2004).

Repatriation is frequently identified as one of the most stressful components of a foreign assignment (Sanchez, et al., 2000). Expatriates report struggling to cope with the lack of autonomy they have become accustomed to on assignment, feeling isolated by the lack of acknowl- edgement of their new multicultural identification, and having their expectations of being promoted upon return to the home-country unmet (Sanchez et al., 2000). Further, repatriation difficulties involve expatriates' becoming accustomed to prestige and elevated social status white on assignment and tihe subsequent struggle with their decreased roles upon returning to the parent corporation (Copeland 9c Griggs, 1985). These feelings of disconnect that the repatriated employee expe- riences can be a source of discontent causing job dissatisfaction and potentially leading the individual to seek employment elsewhere. An average of 20 percent of repatriated employees leave their companies within six months of repatriation (Adlec, 1997).

Successful repatriation planning includes ensuring the expatriate has confirmed assignment tenure, the organization has a specific plan to utilize the expatriate's newly developed KSAs, and the organization begins the repatriation process well in advance of assignment termina- tion (Oddou, 1991). A well-organized repatriation program bas as much value to an employee as a well-organized career development plan (Oddou, 1991). In Yan, et al's (2002) model of organizational expatriate alignment, repatriation is a key part of attaining assignment success. Their model includes the following stages of repatriation:

1. Continued expatriate development

2. Attractive future assignments

3. Promotion upon return

4. Enhanced employee responsibilities

5. Repatriated employee retention

6. Utilization of new expertise

7. Knowledge transfer of new skills into the organization

This model highlights concrete strategies to combat repatriation problems such as lack of autonomy, feeLings of redundancy, decrease in prestige, and frustration in not being acknowledged for newly developed skills. Resolving repatriated employee frustration aids his/her re-adjust- ment back into the head office, which ultimately increases job satisfac- tion and expatriate retention. A firm commitment on the part of the organization towards the expatriate with respect to a career trajectory and a home-country assignment that utilizes newly developed KSAs will help to ensure the expatriate concludes his/her international experience in a successful manner, ultimately enhancing overall job satisfaction and organizational commitment.


We have highlighted research findings linking job satisfaction to employee turnover intentions and identified a framework of best practices that organizations can utilize to improve their expatriate's assignment experience (see Exhibit 3). Considering potential organiza- tional actions, evidence identifies the need for support strategies in the areas of expatriate pre-assignment support, assignment support, and repatriation support. These strategies positively influence the ability of an expatriate to acculturate and adjust to his/her new assignment, resulting in increased job satisfaction and decreased incidents of premature repatriation (Linehan & Walsh, 1999, 2001; Culpan 5c Wright, 2002; Mayrhofer & Scullion, 2002).

Human resource managers who ensure their organizations establish an expatriation program that encompasses clear and distinct career planning will attain greater success with their expatriate programs. Having a repatriation plan for bringing the employee back into the home office capitalizes on his/her newly acquired skills, facilitates knowledge transfer back into the organization, and enhances post- assignment job satisfaction. Thus, employees realize the value of accepting a foreign assignment and will be more inclined to accept international positions, thereby aiding an organization's international expansion goals. The provision of extensive training programs, such as language, communication, and cultural awareness, to the expatriate and applicable family members prepares the individual for the new location and facilitates faster acculturation.

Providing for an expatriate's needs should continue during the assignment in order to facilitate acculturation. Host-country mentors are utilized as sources of language and cultural teaching, situational advice, and further introduction into the foreign business community (Kraimer, et al., 2001). Organizations must be aware of the isolating influence of being in a foreign country and facilitate the expatriate's need for involvement, communication, and socialization within the company through the assignment of home-country mentors. Finally, organizations must consider the inclusion of an expatriate's family as part of the expatriation process. Aiding the partner in secur- ing employment, in addition to providing family language and cultural training, enhances foreign assignment adjustment. Ultimately, a well- adjusted family will positively influence the expatrfete and help facilitate his/her acculturation and adjustment. Organizations must recognize that a well-prepared and well-adjusted expatriate is more likely to have greater job satisfaction and be less likely to repatriate prematurely.

Looking at expatriate practices through the lens of job satisfaction reveals successful strategies being used by organizations to support their expatriates and actions managers can adopt to influence expatri- ate job satisfaction directly and influence indirectly the probability of assignment success (see Exhibit 4). Employees, whether domestic or international, have a greater commitmeht to their organization and are less likely to leave their job/position/assignment when they are satisfied with the manner in which their organization treats them. As organizations continue to pursue global operating advantages, employees will increasingly be required to fill foreign assignments (Brewster, 1997; Mayrhofer, et al., 2004). To meet these needs, future strategic human resource management tactics should include both the successful management and support of expatriates and the considera- tion of alternative staffing options such as inpatriates and flexpatriates. The increasing prevalence of alternative approaches to global staffing identifies critical areas of future human resource focus that will ulti- mately enhance the global competence of an organization's workforce.




Deirdre McCaughey is a PhD candidate in organizational behaviour at the University of Manitoba. Her research interests include expatriate adjustment, the impact of employee-organizational vaiue congruence, workplace diversity, and cognitive decision making models. Her dissertation work involves the psychology of safety in the workplace and employee perceptions of work conditions. Deirdre has presented her work at numerous North American conferences, includ- ing the Academy of Management, and has received best paper and poster awards for her research. She holds an MBA and a Bachelor of Medical Rehabilitation, both from the University of Manitoba. Dr. Sue Bruning is a professor of business administration in the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba. She teaches courses in organizational behaviour, organizational change and analy- sis, training and development, research methods, labour relations, and leadership. Professor Bruning has studied organizations and conduct- ed training in areas related to assessing organizational effectiveness and health, monitoring effective change processes within organiza- tions, and developing effective organizational processes. Her research has been funded through a variety of university, provincial, and feder- al funding agencies. Dr. Bruning has presented and published over 60 articles in a number of academic and practitioner journals and at pro- fessional conferences. Her research has appeared in journals such as journal of Applied Psychology, Academy of Management journal, journal of Management, journal of Applied Social Psychology. She has also co-authored a textbook on organizational behaviour. Dr. Bruning has received local and international awards for both her teaching and research.


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