Leadership and People Management

Best of both worlds

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Knowledge transfer within multinational enterprises is a source of competitive advantage. This study investigates the role of repatriates in enabling reverse knowledge transfer upon their return to headquarters (HQ). Using an organizational embeddedness perspective and considering the expatriation cycle, we conceptualized how embeddedness fit established during the expatriation assignment and upon repatriation predicts repatriate knowledge transfer. To test the hypotheses, we collected multi-wave survey data from 129 repatriates and their supervisors and developed a repatriate knowledge transfer scale. Results show that perceived organizational support from HQ has a positive influence on embeddedness fit, both in the host unit during expatriation and in the HQ upon repatriation. Further, we found that embeddedness fit in the HQ upon repatriation has a direct effect, while embeddedness fit in the host unit during expatriation has an indirect effect on repatriate knowledge transfer via increased communication frequency with the former host unit upon repatriation. In addition, moderation analyses showed that knowledge transfer is particularly pronounced for repatriates who indicate high levels of embeddedness fit in the HQ upon repatriation and who maintain frequent communication with their colleagues in the former host unit. We discuss the implications of our study for theory and practice.
Bibliographic citation: REICHE, S., FROESE, F. J., STOERMER, S., KLAR, S. (2021). Best of both worlds. How embeddedness fit in the host unit and headquarters improve repatriate knowledge transfer. Journal of International Business Studies, 52 (7), 1331-134. doi:10.1057/s41267-020-00356-4.
Date: 01/09/2021
Author(s): Fabian J. Froese; Sebastian Stoermer; Sebastian Reiche; Sebastian Klar
Document type: Article in Journal (refereed)
Department: Managing People in Organizations
Languages: English