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Publication: Journal of Global Mobility
Title: On Stakeholders and Their Stakes in the Expatriation Process
Type:Journal Special Issue
Editors:Thomas Hippler (University of Essex), Michael Morley (University of Limerick)
Deadline:September 30, 2017

The tremendous growth in foreign direct investment over the past three decades has resulted in a need to staff hundreds of thousands of foreign affiliates of multinational enterprises (MNEs) (UNCTAD, 2015) in increasingly diverse, under researched territories many of which may require polycontextually sensitive research approaches designed to unearth “multiple and qualitatively different contexts embedded within one another” (Shapiro, Von Glinow & Xiao, 2007: 129). The staffing needs in these MNE affiliates, especially at managerial and technical levels, have often been met through the deployment of company-assigned expatriate employees, i.e. “employees working for business organizations, who are sent overseas on a temporary basis to complete a time-based task or accomplish an organizational goal” (Shaffer, Kraimer, Chen, & Bolino, 2012: 1286). This development has been paralleled by a substantial and evolving body of literature on expatriate management (Dabic, González-Loureiro & Harvey, 2015) and international human resource management (Tung, 2016). This burgeoning literature has taught us much about the critical and expensive resource that are expatriate employees, including an understanding of all stages of the expatriate cycle, i.e. recruitment, selection, on-arrival and on-site support and repatriation.

Given their criticality as a talent pool and the expense involved, it is only natural that we concentrated most of our collective research efforts on these focal individuals, i.e. the expatriate employees themselves. However, in doing so, we often overlooked the fact that expatriates neither live nor work in a vacuum. Rather, they share their space and experiences with other stakeholders, who also have a legitimate interest in how the international assignment unfolds and its consequences. Thus families (partners/spouses, children and members of the extended family), who either join the employee on assignment or stay home, co-workers at various levels (superiors, peers and direct reports among host country nationals (HCNs), parent company colleagues and third country nationals), external business contacts (customers, suppliers, etc.), the HR and international mobility functions in the home and host countries, host communities and entire nations, among others, all have a legitimate, if varying stake, in the process. Consequently, our literature has been criticised for being overly expatriate-centric to the detriment of its empirical and theoretical advancement (e.g. Takeuchi, 2010) and calls have been made for the incorporation of greater stakeholder perspectives and accounts in the expatriate literature (Doherty & Dickmann, 2012; Takeuchi, 2010).

Freeman (1984: 46) defines a stakeholder as “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s objectives”. While some important stakeholders have been recognised, a systematic mapping of relevant and legitimate stakeholders and their stake in the expatriate management process is still outstanding, as is a detailed analysis of how each stakeholder influences and is influenced by expatriates. Where, for example, HCNs have been recognised as relevant actors, it was their impact on the expatriate that was the focus of attention rather than the other way round (e.g. Toh & DeNisi, 2007). Some studies that have recognised multiple stakeholders in the expatriate management process have nonetheless focused on the expatriate’s performance as the terminal variable of interest (e.g. Malek, Budhwar & Reiche, 2015) while others such as Bonache, Sanchez and Zárraga-Oberty (2009), in examining the effect of the perceived unfairness of expatriate compensation levels on HCNs have sought to inject a less expatriate-centric perspective into their inquiry.

Not only do other stakeholders influence expatriates and are being influenced by expatriates, but in each case this influence can be detrimental or benign. The stakeholder and expatriate can be a problem or a resource in each case, a fact that so far has been mainly recognised in the context of the expatriates’ work-family interface (e.g. Haslberger, Hippler & Brewster, 2015). However, this could arguably extend to several other stakeholders.

What constitutes ‘expatriate success’ is still subject to much debate; even the appropriate conceptualization of ‘expatriate performance’ is much contested (Haslberger, Brewster & Hippler, 2014). With regard to other stakeholders, this debate has hardly commenced. What constitutes assignment success for an accompanying spouse or partner? For an accompanying child? For a HCN peer? For a host government? What, exactly, is ‘at stake’ for them?

Haslberger et al. (2014) have drawn attention to the importance of a temporal perspective when assessing the success of an expatriate. This importance extends to other stakeholders. During the expatriate assignment, an accompanying partner might experience a career interruption (a cost now), but may gain valuable international experience that furthers his or her career upon return (a benefit later). Moreover, the various stakeholders may gain or lose salience at different points in time throughout the assignment. Expatriates may require extensive support from the foreign HR department immediately upon arrival until they have moved into their new accommodation, have registered with the relevant authorities and have obtained a bank account and insurance, but might require relatively little support after this initial phase. Moreover, the cost-benefit-analysis can change over time. HCNs may have to invest considerable amounts of time in supporting the expatriate in the early stages of an assignment (costs outweigh benefits), but gain valuable knowledge from the expatriate later on (benefits outweigh costs). We feel there is an urgent need to adopt a process view, establishing not only who the relevant stakeholders are, but when they emerge as salient and when they are beneficial for the assignment and/or benefit themselves and when they are detrimental to the assignment and/or themselves affected negatively by the assignment.

In addition, the literature has yet to investigate mediated effects to any significant extent. What, for example, is the effect of the knowledge gained from an expatriate on the HCNs’ performance, and through this, on the subsidiary’s overall performance over time? How does the social capital an HCN gains (‘knowing whom’) affect his or her individual career outcomes in the longer term?

Against the backdrop of these debates, for this special issue we are particularly interested in manuscripts that:

  • Access multiple sources of data, especially stakeholder-generated data; 
  • Adopt an interdisciplinary perspective and draw on theories outside the narrow confines of (I)HRM or I/O psychology, e.g. medicine, family systems, sociology, etc.;
  • Suggest or test relationships that go beyond the assumption of simple, direct and unidirectional causality;
  • Focus on the effect expatriates and expatriation have on other stakeholders, something which is a real lacuna in our current knowledge base, along with the effect of other stakeholders on the expatriate;
  • Integrate the consideration of various stakeholders including their sometimes opposing influences, challenges and interests, e.g. a host government’s interest in knowledge transfer versus the local population’s dislike of foreigners, or a host-country unit’s interest in keeping and localising the expatriate versus the parent unit’s interest in repatriating him or her;
  • Disaggregate stakeholders into constituent groups so that we might better understand who are the relevant stakeholders at the micro-level and how do effects aggregate, e.g. the interests of the parent company’s global mobility function may not be identical with that of the sending technical function, or the interests of HCN co-workers may not match with those of the host community at large;
  • Explicate the mechanisms underlying the effects expatriates and stakeholders have on each other rather than simply establishing the existence of an effect.

Potential questions that manuscripts for this special issue might address could include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • What theoretical lenses offer the prospect of unearthing and landscaping stakeholder priorities in expatriation?
  • How would the use of a stakeholder lens alter and shape the direction of academic enquiry in expatriation?
  • Who are the legitimate stakeholders in the expatriation process and what is the nature of their stake?
  • How do expatriates affect the parent company context, e.g. by rising through the ranks upon return and shaping strategy?
  • How do expatriates influence the foreign subsidiary where they are assigned?
  • What is the relationship between expatriates and HCN colleagues?  How do they influence each other?
  • How do country-level variables affect the expatriate experience, e.g. racism or nativism?
  • What are the short-term and long-term career consequences of international assignments for accompanying partners or spouses?
  • What are the consequences, beneficial and detrimental, of international assignments for accompanying children both medium (completing secondary schooling successfully) and long-term (life chances)?
  • How does the local population react to expatriates who feel they need to live separately from them, e.g. by being housed in guarded compounds?

Both conceptual and empirical contributions are welcome.

Submission Process and Timeline

Submitted papers must be based on original material not under consideration by any other journal or publishing outlet. The editors will select up to 5 papers to be included in the Special Issue, but other submissions may be considered for regular issues of the journal. All papers will undergo a double-blind peer review process and will be evaluated by at least two reviewers and a Special Issue editor.

To be considered for the Special Issue, manuscripts can be submitted anytime between April and September 2017 but no later than 30 September 2017, 5:00pm Central European Time. Final acceptance is dependent on the following:

  1. Theoretical contribution: Does the article offer novel and innovative insights and/or meaningfully extend existing theory in the field of global mobility?
  2. Empirical contribution: Does the article offer novel findings and are the study design, analysis, and results rigorous and appropriate in testing hypotheses or research questions?
  3. Practical contribution: Does the article improve the management of global mobility?
  4. Contribution to the special issue topic.

    Authors should prepare their manuscripts for blind review according to the Journal of Global Mobility author guidelines, available at www.emeraldinsight.com/jgm.htm. Please remove any information that may potentially reveal the identity of the authors to the reviewers. Manuscripts should be submitted electronically at: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/jgmob. For enquiries regarding the special issue please contact either of the two Guest Editors, Thomas Hippler at thippler@essex.ac.uk or Michael Morley at michael.morley@ul.ie

Important dates

Paper submission deadline: 30 September 2017

Acceptance notification: March 2018

Publication:  June 2018


Bonache, J., Sanchez, J. I., & Zárraga-Oberty, C. (2009). The interaction of expatriate pay differential and expatriate inputs on host country nationals' pay unfairness. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 20(10), 2135-2149.

Dabic, M., González-Loureiro, M.  & Harvey, M. (2015) Evolving research on expatriates: what is ‘known’ after four decades (1970–2012), The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 26:3, 316-337.

Doherty, N. & Dickmann, M. (2012). Measuring the return on investment in international assignments: An action research approach. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23(16), 3434-3454.

Freeman, R. E. (1984). Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. London: Pitman.

Haslberger, A. Brewster, C. & Hippler, T.  (2014)  Managing Performance Abroad: A New Model for Understanding Expatriate Adjustment. Studies in Human Resource Development. New York: Routledge. 

Haslberger, A., Hippler, T. & Brewster, C. (2015) 'Another Look at Family Adjustment.' In: Mäkelä, L. and Suutari, V., (eds.) Work and Family Interface in the International Career Context. Springer, pp. 53-70.

Malek, A.  M., Budhwar, P., & Reiche, B. S. (2015). Sources of support and expatriation: a multiple stakeholder perspective of expatriate adjustment and performance in Malaysia. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 26(2), 258-276.

Shaffer, M. A., Kraimer, M. L., Chen, Y. P., & Bolino, M. C. (2012). Choices, challenges, and career consequences of global work experiences: A review and future agenda. Journal of Management, 38, 1282-1327.

Shapiro, D.L., Von Glinow, M.A. & Xiao, Z. (2007). Toward polycontextually sensitive research methods, Management and Organization Review 3(1), 129–152.

Takeuchi, R. (2010). A critical review of expatriate adjustment research through a multiple stakeholder view: Progress, emerging trends, and prospects. Journal of Management, 36(4), 1040-1064.

Toh, S. M., & DeNisi, A. S. (2007). Host country nationals as socializing agents: A social identity approach. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 28, 281-301.

Tung, R. L. (2016). New perspectives on human resource management in a global context. Journal of World Business, 51(1), 142-152.

UNCTAD (2015) World Investment Report 2015. New York: United Nations

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