Last week I attended the European Academy of Management, where a lot of interesting research on expats was presented. I would like to share some of my highlights.
One of the findings that struck me in the presentation of Mila Lazarova and her colleagues (1) was that they found that 66% of the expats want a contact in the new destination to help them settle in. This emphasizes the need for local support, one possibility being contact with a local host. The fact that it is not easy to make contact with locals in many countries was mentioned in a few other papers as well, such as Salamin’s paper about expats in Switzerland (2). More research into this topic is needed so that we can help expatriates break out of the expat bubble and benefit from contact with locals.
Other types of expats: LGBT and single female expats
Recently a call was made for research on other groups and domains within IHRM. Some of this was present at EURAM with regard to different types of expats, for example in the paper of Salamin (2), who did a study of the work-life challenges of single female expatriates in Switzerland. Another good example is the paper of McNulty and McPhail (3), who presented their findings about LGBT expatriates in (for them) dangerous locations. They argue that it is important to take this group of expatriates into account, and know how to support them, if we want to enlarge the pool of potential expats. This is very important for organisations to be able to select the right person for the job.
Communication – a low hanging fruit?
Another emerging area of interest is communication with expats. Lazarova (1) mentioned that ‘it is often small things that trip you up’. There is support in the first two weeks of the assignment, and then the company ‘disappears’. My own paper (4) also looked at communication issues; we looked at how important adequate information before and after arrival in the host country was for self-initiated expatriates to adjust and want to stay with the organization, in our case a hospital in the Netherlands. In a sense, this is a low-hanging fruit, especially for organisations that do not have the large budgets that multinationals have, because you don’t need enormous budgets to invest in giving foreign employees the information that they need. And that starts before they even arrive.
The following papers were all presented at the European Academy of Management 2015:
(1) Mila Lazarova, Monica Semeniuk and Yvonne McNulty: “When the wheels are falling off behind closed doors: Expatriate family narratives of the successful moveable family.”
(2) Xavier Salamin: “Specific work-life issues of single and childless female expatriates. An exploratory study in the Swiss context.”
(3) Yvonne McNulty and Ruth McPhail: “Lies, duplicity and fake second bedrooms: A study of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) expatriates’ experiences in dangerous locations.”
(4) Marian van Bakel and Torben Andersen: “Picking a low hanging fruit: Informing self-initiated expatriates in the healthcare sector before and after their arrival.”