Last week I attended the European Academy of Management in Valencia. I attended most of the expatriate track sessions, and here are some of my highlights:
The role of host country nationals
I was pleased to see a few papers about the dynamics between expats and host country nationals, for example about negative stereotyping towards expats (1) and about various factors that impact the willingness of host country nationals to provide support to expats (2 and 3). Host country nationals have been a somewhat neglected group of stakeholders in expat management, yet they can play an important role in helping expats succeed in their international assignment. For example, they can provide information about the culture and various types of social support. Local colleagues can also play an important liaison role in terms of knowledge management. This liaising can help knowledge flows from the expat to the local workforce and the other way around. For these reasons, the role of host country nationals in expat management is certainly a topic that should be studied more.
Linking with the local community
A few other papers focused on the social networks of expats – the topic I myself am currently studying so I found that very interesting and helpful. One example is Pinto’s paper (4) about the social networks of Portuguese self-initiated expats. One of the things she found was that the people in her study had an ‘anchor tie’ – someone in the host country who was already there which helped the decision to move there. She also found, to her surprise, that the Portuguese expats didn’t connect with the large Portuguese diaspora in their community, even though they might make good contacts for newly arrived Portuguese expats. I think it is important to point out that although contacts with such a community might initially be a great help, in the long run it is more important for adjustment to get in touch with the locals of the host country, and not get stuck in an expat ‘bubble’.
Importance of the family
Some papers also stressed the importance of the family in terms of expat success. It has been pointed out many times in the literature that the inability of the spouse to adjust is one of the most important reasons why expatriate assignments fail. The paper of Haslberger, Brewster and Hippler (5) takes the viewpoint of the expat family into account. They are working on a model of family adjustment, where they do not only include expatriate family members such as the partner and children, but also the dynamics at the level of the family unit. This will help us greatly to understand expatriate success from the perspective of the expat and his or her family.
(1) Bonache, J. & Langinier, H. Antecedents and effects of HCNs negative stereotyping towards expatriates
(2) Varma, A. & Hu, B. Host country national willingness to provide support: Does national origin of expatriate matter?
(3) Varma, A., Pichler, S., Budhwar, P., Michel, J. & Sharma, A. Host country national supervisor’s relationships with subordinates of different backgrounds: A tale of two studies
(4) Pinto, L. & Araújo, R. Anchoring abroad: Exploring the composition, diversity and roles of Portuguese self-initiated expatriates’ social networks
(5) Haslberger, A., Brewster, C. & Hippler, T. Another look at expatriate family adjustment: Developing the models
Photo’s of the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia by the author