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Expatriate management ``best practices'' in Canadian. MNCs: a .... conditions of the host country environment ..... All company cases were selected because.

Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study

Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan Faculty of Administration, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Steven H. Appelbaum Faculty of Commerce and Administration, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Corinne Abikhzer Engineering Department, Pratt and Whitney Canada, Longueuil, Quebec, Canada Keywords Multinationals , Management, Expatriates , Quality, Canada


Expatriate management is an enormous and costly challenge for international firms. Provides an in-depth descriptio n of Research indicates that 10-45 per cent of US the expatriate management expatriates return prematurely, which practices of four Canadian creates both direct and indirect costs for multinational s in order to firms. Direct costs include costs for training, determine how closely Canadian practices correspon d to the ``best salary and relocation, which can amount to practices’’ describe d in the US$80,000 depending on currency exchange international HRM (IHRM) and location of the assignment (Mendenhall literature . Toward that end, and Oddou, 1985). Less directly measurable, reviews the IHRM literature . A qualitativ e study design was but nonetheless significant, costs include loss employed, in the form of a holisti c of market share, difficulties with host multiple case study with four Canadian MNCs. Results indicated government officials, and low expatriate morale (Zeira and Banai, 1984). The that, contrary to trends noted in the literature , the Canadian firms prematurely returned expatriate may suffer studied do not neglect expatriate from discouragement and loss of prestige management practices, althoug h among peers, which may adversely impact they do not fully implemen t such his/her performance at home as well practices either ± at least not to the extent advocated in the (Mendenhall and Oddou, 1985). Ultimately, literature . The key explanatio n put these outcomes may also deter other forth is the lack of any systemati c employees from willingly accepting evaluatio n of these practices , international assignments. For all of the which might have enabled shortcoming s to be more readily above reasons, premature expatriate returns recognized. The other key finding should be avoided if at all possible. was that the participatin g firms For years, researchers have been calling relied extensively on expatriate s for improvements in (or mere establishment to be proactive in managing various aspects of their own of) expatriate management interventions. careers. Discusse s implications . This has been driven by the realization that premature returns are often due to factors that are not present in domestic relocations: Received: November 2000 namely, culture shock and the emotional Revised: December 2001 Accepted: December 2001 stress that typically accompanies it (Gregersen and Black, 1990). Accordingly, an array of interventions has been suggested. For example, international relocations require that the expatriate be properly trained not just in the technical aspect of their jobs, but also in the cultural environment in which they will be working. Yet, despite repeated calls from theorists to Career Development implement such ``best practices’’, many International Abstract

organizations are slow to respond (Tung, 1981). Accordingly, the objectives of this article are as follows: first, to provide a brief overview of the international human resources literature’s recommended ``best practices’’; and second, to gain an understanding of the extent to which Canadian firms do or do not attempt to proactively manage their expatriates in accordance, with these practices. Answers to these questions may be quite instrumental in assisting Canadian MNCs and others to become more competitive in the international arena.

Job specifications The organization seeking to create the expatriate assignment must be careful to define not only the technical aspects of the job, but also the adaptability and cultural demands involved in an international assignment (Lobel, 1990; Black and Mendenhall, 1991). The full set of relevant cross-cultural (C/C) competencies, above and beyond the basic technical requirements, includes the following three categories: 1 attitudinal; 2 interpersonal; and 3 general living. Attitudinal competencies include respect for others and open-mindedness (Hawes and Kealey, 1981); non-judgementalness (Hammer et al., 1978), willingness to relocate (Borstoff et al., 1997), and positive work attitude (Feldman and Thomas, 1991). Cross-cultural interpersonal competencies (Ones and Viswesvaran, 1997) include social skills (Hannigan, 1990), particularly the ability to deal with cross-cultural conflicts (Mendenhall and Oddou, 1985). Finally, general living competencies include competencies that permit stress management

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# MCB UP Limited [ISSN 1362-0436] [DOI 10.1108/1362043021043050 6]

The research register for this journal is available at http://www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregisters

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at http://www.emeraldinsight.com/1362-0436.htm

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Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan, Steven H. Appelbaum and Corinne Abikhzer Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study

(Mendenhall and Oddou, 1985) and those that are geared toward the particular living conditions of the host country environment (e.g. speaking the local language).

Career Development International 7/2 [2002] 79±95

Recruitment The success of the international recruitment process could be enhanced if information on the following topics is given during the recruitment process: career development; political conditions; quality of living conditions (e.g. medical facilities); difficulty of spousal adjustment; and length of assignment. This information could be imparted in the context of a realistic job preview (RJP) (Wanous, 1992), in which realistic positive and negative information on these variables is provided. The literature also suggests that because spouses have reportedly had a huge impact on expatriate success (Caligiuri et al., 1998), spouses may need to be provided with RJPs as well. However, according to the Canadian Human Rights Act (1994) marital and family status are prohibited grounds for discrimination. Therefore, while Canadian organizations may be advised to offer RJPs to potential expatriates’ spouses, legally they may do so as information for self-selection purposes only.

Selection Interviews Interviews appear to be commonly used in the selection of expatriates. Domestic HRM research indicates that the most effective types of interviews are those that are structured, use a pre-determined scoring guide, involve a panel of raters, and employ patterned behaviour description interview questions (PBDIs), which focus on past behaviour under the presumption that it is the best predictor of future behaviour (Gatewood and Field, 1994). Use of these for the international realm may be equally worthwhile.

Paper and pencil tests Use of a paper and pencil test that taps the big five personality dimensions permits consistency of results and hence facilitates comparison of candidates (Ones and Viswesvaran, 1997; Deller, 1997). The ``big five’’ personality dimensions are: 1 extraversion; 2 emotional stability; 3 agreeableness; 4 conscientiousness; and 5 openness to experience.

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Expatriate candidates should be assessed on each of these dimensions because recent research (Leiba O’Sullivan, 1999) suggests that those lacking in stable competencies (such as the required personality traits) may be unable to effectively acquire the more dynamic competencies required for international assignments (as outlined in the job specifications section of this paper).

Biographical data Biodata inventories, which are widely used in the internal selection of expatriates (Dowling et al., 1994), contain information about previous experiences, as well as attitudes, beliefs and feelings about these experiences. In the domestic context, research has shown that biodata validities are more generalizable across organizations than initially thought and more stable over time as well (Rothstein et al., 1990). Biographical data can be obtained from performance evaluations (Black and Mendenhall, 1991), from biographical interviews (Deller, 1997), or from application blanks (Childs and Klimoski, 1986). In the international context, the key personal background factors that should be collected in the biodata portion of the selection process include educational background (preferably a specialization in international management), international experience, and many spoken languages.

Training To bring about changes effectively in individual knowledge and skills, training programs should be conducted systematically. That is, they should begin with a needs assessment phase, implement the training using experiential methods, and introduce the training in a classroom or on-the-job format (depending on the specific objectives) (Harris and DeSimone, 1994). The needs assessment phase should provide clear criteria on which to evaluate the results. The second phase, ``design and implementation’’, should involve selecting appropriate content and scheduling (Harris and DeSimone, 1994). Training content may be imparted in a formalized manner (e.g. classroom based training) or in a less formalized manner (e.g. on the job training). International theorists have long argued that training should take place in a formal manner, prior to departure for the international assignment (Hannigan, 1990). It has also been observed that less experiential methods (e.g. informal briefings, cultural orientation, cultural assimilator, and language training) have been found less effective than more rigorous participative methods (e.g. sensitivity training and field experiences) (Black and Mendenhall, 1991).

Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan, Steven H. Appelbaum and Corinne Abikhzer Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study Career Development International 7/2 [2002] 79±95

In reality, however, the specific methods chosen may depend on time constraints, cost considerations and location of posting. For example, on-the-job C/C training (OJT) can be a more realistic ``just in time’’ substitute for more formalized pre-departure training (Harris and DeSimone, 1994), which may sometimes be difficult to plan or conduct in work environments that are dynamic.

Performance appraisal There are four ``best practice’’ variables associated with this critical HR function. First, in the domestic context, the use of a behavioural observation type of instrument is deemed to contribute to the most reliable and valid performance appraisals (Latham and Wexley, 1994). In the international context, performance objectives are also ideally set in a behavioural manner (Dowling et al., 1994). Second, Oddou and Mendenhall (1995) insisted that senior managers must appreciate the amount of time expatriates need to develop the specific skills necessary for success abroad. Functional performance usually occurs only after three to six months time. Accordingly, international performance appraisals are ideally conducted only after at least six months have elapsed. Third, the content validity of international performance appraisals can be enhanced by weighting the evaluation according to the assignment’s level of difficulty (Oddou and Mendenhall, 1995). For example, the evaluation form could specifically address the interaction demands (i.e. with locals) of the particular position. The level of country difficulty should also be considered (Baliga and Baker, 1985). Failure to recognize these difficulty factors will result in a criterion deficient performance appraisal process, and may adversely affect expatriate perceptions of fairness. The fourth ``best practice’’ aspect of international performance appraisals concerns the person doing the appraising. Bias may occur if the home supervisor is doing the evaluation, due to lack of consistent observation. To counter this problem, Oddou and Mendenhall (1995) suggest that the evaluations of home and on-site managers be weighted differentially, with greater weight going to the latter. They also suggest that a former expatriate from the same location be involved in the process.

Human resource development Human resource development (HRD) can be defined as: . . . a set of systematic and planned activities designed by an organization to provide its members with the necessary skills to meet

current and future job demands (Harris and DeSimone, 1994, p. 2).

If a firm is truly internationalized, so too should be their HRD function (Adler and Bartholemew, 1992). Accordingly, international assignments need to be regarded as a phase in a systematic job rotation process. More specifically, the expatriate’s career plan should not only use the international assignments as a trigger for career advancement, but also ensure that the repatriate’s subsequent position in the home country is relevant to the cross-cultural knowledge, skills and abilities developed abroad.

Human resource planning Tung (1981) reports that the interval between appointment and transfer of expatriates (re: pre-departure ``lead time’’) is often very short in US MNCs. To plan effectively, HR executives must be sufficiently involved with the organization’s strategic business planning process (Dowling et al., 1994). In addition, a systematic approach to HR planning should be adopted in order to verify whether the programs are being proactively linked with the firm’s international business strategy. The following steps may be regarded as essential elements of a systematic international HR planning process (Dessler and Turner, 1992): 1 establishing organizational goals and objectives; 2 forecasting future human resource needs (demand); 3 forecasting future human resource supply (availability); 4 planning human resource programs; 5 implementing programs; and 6 monitoring and evaluating human resource planning results.

Research question As can be seen from the preceding literature review, much has been written regarding formal HRM practices. However, while much has also been written regarding the applicability of these practices to the international realm, ``there appears to be a rather substantial gap between what the academic literature recommends and what most organizations actually do’’ (Terpstra and Rozell, 1993). Because existing research has mostly been based on European, Japanese or US organizations (Tung, 1981). At present, there is no way of knowing the extent to which Canadian multinationals adhere to these practices, or their reasons for doing so or not. Thus, the following research

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Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan, Steven H. Appelbaum and Corinne Abikhzer Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study Career Development International 7/2 [2002] 79±95

question is proposed: how thoroughly are Canadian MNCs implementing the ``best practices’’ that have been recommended in the domestic and international HRM literatures?

Methodology Research design This study involved a multiple qualitative case study design (Yin, 1984). Generally for questions that ask ``how’’ and ``why’’, qualitative case studies are the preferred strategy for research (Yin, 1984). The use of multiple cases helps to add confidence to the findings and to increase reliability of the study (Miles and Huberman, 1994). This is recommended because it reduces the likelihood that findings observed are due to the unique characteristics inherent in any one particular firm. In addition, most prior IHRM research has been based on survey data. There is a need for qualitative studies that examine the underlying relationships and context in which IHRM activities take place (Welch, 1994). The goal of the qualitative approach is to build on existing knowledge yet not exclude any new possibilities at the outset (Skyes, 1990). As McEvoy and Buller (1993, pp. 18-19) observed: . . . a promising way of getting started in terms of ``micro’’ research issues in IHRM is to find firms, both domestic and abroad, that are doing well in the areas of selection, training compensation, careers, expatriation and repatriation and write about them.

This was the raison d’eÃtre of this undertaking. The level of analysis is that of the firm. The objective was to attain a holistic impression of the state of international human resource management practices in the Canadian MNCs studied, rather than to record the impressions of any individual HR manager per se. Nonetheless, HR representatives were the key participants for this paper due to their holistic understanding of the HR practices of their firms. Yin (1984) termed this type of design a ``holistic multiple-case study’’ design.

Sample Sample size The multiple case design in this article consists of four Canadian MNCs. This number of cases is congruent with Yin’s (1984) suggestion that qualitative case study research should involve between approximately four to ten cases. This allows for both literal replication and for

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observation of different patterns of theoretical replication.

Subsidiary nationality Because a key research objective is to identify international HR practices of Canadian MNCs, the focus is on MNCs with their headquarters based in Canada rather than abroad. However, in view of the possibility that MNCs may modify their international HR practices according to the countries in which they have expatriates, an attempt was also made to select Canadian MNCs with subsidiaries in at least one common country in order to minimize external confounds. The host country that was chosen was Ireland, based on its ability to recruit foreign investment from Canada. There has been a 37 per cent increase in Canadian companies doing business in Ireland from 1990-1996.

Identification of Canadian MNCs based in Ireland The Irish Development Association (IDA) was contacted to obtain a list of Canadian MNCs with subsidiaries in a variety of different industries in Ireland. Four Canadian MNCs were selected because their Irish subsidiaries are each staffed with Canadian expatriates. These MNCs span distinct industries, including financial service organizations (three firms), and telecommunications manufacturing (one firm). The first three enable literal replication, while the latter permits observation of different patterns of theoretical replication (Yin, 1984). The IDA provided the names and contact coordinates of general managers at these subsidiaries. The general managers were then contacted and were asked to provide the names and contact details of the Canadian HR representatives for their company.

Description of MNCs All company cases were selected because they fit the criteria that were determined for this study. Namely, they had a subsidiary in Ireland; were recognized to be an international firm by a panel of three researchers in the field of international HRM; and the firm’s international HR representative agreed to participate in the study. Each of the participating case companies will now be described briefly: Company Case no. 1 is a full service financial institution that operates in several countries around the world. This institution currently has 60 people on international assignments, one of which is based in the Irish subsidiary. A 5-10 per cent growth in international assignments is expected in the years to come. The

Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan, Steven H. Appelbaum and Corinne Abikhzer Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study Career Development International 7/2 [2002] 79±95

assignments normally last three to five years based on business needs and without exceptions for differences in country of assignment. The international human resource department has two HR consultants in Canada and local HR people in two other subsidiary countries (i.e. other than Ireland) that work very closely with headquarters. All HR consultants report directly to the VP of HR who, in turn, reports to the chairman of the board. Company Case no. 2 is also a full service financial institution. In looking for growth opportunities, this institution has expanded to over 50 countries on five continents. There are 190 people on assignment at this time and one in Ireland. The average duration of assignments is four to five years. This duration is based on business objectives, personal needs (family/schooling) and succession planning. There are about ten people that make up the international HR staff at headquarters and there are also people in the countries of assignment (although not HR) who can help manage employees on international assignments. The position of VP HR is at the same level as the other business units: the VP HR reports directly to the chairman of the board. HR is therefore very involved in business decisions. Company Case no. 3 is another service institution, albeit in the field of insurance. They have operations in three Far-Eastern and American countries, in addition to Ireland and Canada. There are 11 employees abroad at this moment and one in Ireland. There is one HR person available to manage the employees on international assignments. The human resources department is a separate corporate function that reports directly to the president. HR is not at all involved with other management executives when business decisions are being made. Company Case no. 4 is a leading global provider of high technology products. This company has 73,000 employees worldwide. They operate in 40 countries. At the moment there are 650 people on long-term assignments (i.e. two to three years) and 400 on short-term assignments (i.e. less than one year). There is also an international leadership development program, which lasts six months to one year, however it is uncertain how many people are on this leadership program at the moment. At this time, there are ten Canadian employees in Ireland. In terms of HR staff, there are approximately 24 people directly at headquarters and

numerous others in each subsidiary location who spend a portion of time on expatriate management. Expatriate administration is a corporate head office HR role. The senior VP of HR reports one level below the president/CEO. The HR VP and the presidents of the business units are at the same level.

Procedure Once the cases were selected, the procedure involved distributing brief questionnaires, conducting in-depth follow-up interviews, and transcribing the interview data. The questionnaire was used to ascertain whether the participating companies conducted the ``best HR practices’’; the interviews then served to probe how and why they did so. Verification of data was sought through unobtrusive means as well, such as by examination of company histories, annual reports, human resource documents, and relevant newspaper articles on the MNCs (where available). As Yin (1984) noted, multiple sources of evidence help strengthen reliability.

The questionnaire Structured questionnaires were sent to participating organizations to ascertain what HR practices are being implemented. The questions asked were developed and derived directly from the literature reviewed on each of the HR areas. The questionnaire was designed with nine sections. Parts 1 and 2 sought background information. Specifically, Part 1 sought to obtain information on the organization’s size, revenue, number of countries of operation, etc. Part 2 of the questionnaire focused on the organization’s worldwide expatriate activities. It included such questions as: to the best of your knowledge, how many expatriates does your company presently have on international assignment? Part 3 of the questionnaire asked about job specifications (the first HR area examined). It included such questions as: does the specification address any competencies other than technical ones (e.g. other competencies that might be relevant to working in a different culture)? Parts 4 and 5 addressed staffing issues. Specifically, Part 4 asked about the firm’s international recruitment practices (the second HR area examined). It included questions such as: are realistic job previews provided? Part 5 of the questionnaire inquired about the firm’s selection of expatriates for international assignments (the third HR area examined). It included such questions as: do you attempt to tap any personality factors that can affect an employee’s capacity to relocate internationally? If so, how? Part 6 of the

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Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan, Steven H. Appelbaum and Corinne Abikhzer Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study Career Development International 7/2 [2002] 79±95

questionnaire then asked about the firm’s training of expatriates (the fourth HR area examined). It included such questions as: is any cultural training provided prior to departure or upon arrival at a new international assignment? Part 7 of the questionnaire asked about the performance appraisals of expatriates (the fifth HR area examined). It included such questions as: do you have a particular type of form for conducting performance appraisals at your home country location (i.e. in Canada)? What is the frequency for conducting performance appraisals of your expatriates once they are sent abroad? And, do you consider any characteristics of the host country when conducting performance appraisals of expatriates? Part 8 of the questionnaire asked about the human resource development practices (the sixth HR area examined). It included such questions as: while abroad how often does the expatriate keep in touch with human resources? Do you know the approximate date when each of the expatriates currently overseas will complete their assignment? And, are job postings for possible positions post-international assignment made available to the expatriate while abroad?, etc. Finally, the ninth and last part of the questionnaire inquired about the firm’s human resource planning policies and their link to strategy. It included such questions as: are future employment needs systematically anticipated in the international realm? Note that these questions addressed the various HR best practices in a broad manner; the intention was to tap each aspect of the HR best practices, but without using overly leading questions that might promote socially desirable response bias. For example, a question was asked about whether personality factors were considered during selection, rather than whether the ``big five’’ form was used per se. Note also that all questions were framed in regard to the HR interventions applied to the firm’s Irish locale in particular, in order to provide a basis for comparison across the firms.

The interviews Structured interviews with the company HRM directors were then conducted in person at the company’s location or via the telephone (depending on availability of the interviewee) in order to get more substantive elaboration on the questionnaire responses. The interview with respondents was tape recorded with the written permission of the interviewee in order for results to be transcribed later. However, the names of the companies, the contents of the tapes and the results will remain completely anonymous

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and confidential, in accordance with the respondents’ wishes. A structured approach to the interviews was chosen in order to ensure consistency of data collection and thereby enhance reliability and validity. As per Yin (1984) and Eisenhart (1989), trained interviewers were used in order to increase the reliability of the data obtained. Specifically, the researchers engaged in a role-play training exercise prior to the interviews. The interviews lasted approximately one hour. Post-interview context summaries were then completed as per Yin (1984).

Final procedural steps Direct observations of several other details (e.g. resource materials available for managing international employees, size of files on expatriates, and the human resource manager’s comfort with the questions) were also noted in the context summaries in order to provide a third source of evidence (in addition to the questions and interviews). Finally, summary reports of the findings were sent, together with thank you letters, to participating companies.

Analysis As per Miles and Huberman (1994), three concurrent steps were followed in the process of analysis. The three steps were: 1 data reduction; 2 data display; and 3 conclusion drawing/verification. Data were analyzed in this manner, both within cases and across cases. Within-case data analysis involves a detailed case study write up for each case. The format used for such analysis in this study is the case description. This write up is helpful since it allows the unique patterns of each case to emerge before generalizations across cases are made. For cross-case data analysis, pairs of cases were selected and the similarities and differences of each pair were noted. This counteracted the tendencies to reach premature closure by looking at the data in divergent ways (Eisenhart, 1989). The results of the cross-case analyses are also presented here.

Data results The results of the analysis will be presented according to each HR function area. Consistent with Miles and Huberman (1994), a within-case analysis is presented first. Cross-case analysis will then follow, giving the aggregated results.

Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan, Steven H. Appelbaum and Corinne Abikhzer Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study Career Development International 7/2 [2002] 79±95

Job specifications The degree to which the sample adhered to the job specification practices listed in Row 1 of Table I will now be discussed. In Company Case no. 1, the international job specifications first focus on technical skills and then as a second step, consider interpersonal and attitudinal aspects. Therefore, all are considered except general living competencies. In Company Case no. 2, job specifications typically include general accountabilities (e.g. specific task/technical accountabilities, such as managing authorized credit limits). Interpersonal competencies are also included, such as cultural sensitivity and language competencies required to satisfy reporting relationships and other human relations contacts. However, attitudinal competencies (e.g. willingness to try new things) and general living competencies (e.g. knowledge of the destination locale) were omitted. Company Case no. 3 also performed job analyses to develop job descriptions and job specifications. Here, however, the job specifications focused solely on technical skills (essential knowledge, skills and abilities). Duration of assignment and political volatility of the host country are noted in the job descriptions, which suggests some attention to general living competencies, but the job specifications fail to elaborate on them. The attitudinal and the interpersonal aspects of the working environment are also omitted. Company Case no. 4 adhered to the recommended practices in a general sense. First, their job specifications address the technical skills. As the HR respondent commented: . . . sending a person to China v. Ireland requires the same technical skill: knowledge of finance.

Their job descriptions also note the specific cultural demands of the business unit location, such as political volatility and cultural novelty (determined via documentation obtained from external vendors and government information). The HR representative implies that this is then translated into job specifications. In this sense, the general living competencies are presumed to be noted in the job specification (e.g. knowledge of political situation is required), as are the interpersonal competencies (e.g. cultural sensitivity in a culturally novel environment). The attitudinal competencies, however, appear to be omitted (e.g. the candidate’s willingness to embark on an international assignment in an

environment of a specified level of political uncertainty).

Cross-case analysis All cases studied were found to adhere to the best practices in terms of noting technical skills in the job specifications. Cases no. 1 and 2 also noted interpersonal competencies, while Case 4 noted them indirectly (in their job descriptions). However, only Case no. 1 addressed attitudinal competencies explicitly, and all firms omitted general living competencies (e.g. stress management, language capabilities). In summary, Case no. 1 emerges as the strongest adherent to this best practice category, while Case no. 3 emerges as the weakest. These results suggest that Canadian firms do take the time to perform job analyses and develop job descriptions. However, the focus of their job specifications remains mostly on technical skills. Although half the companies explicitly addressed interpersonal skills, it is noteworthy that assessment of person-job fit (which would include the candidate’s motivation for going abroad) is consistently omitted, as is any mention of general living competencies. The participating organizations may have felt that motivational issues could be managed later, through self-selection following the realistic job preview. To the extent that this presumption is correct, they seem to be indirectly shifting the responsibility of effective selection onto the candidates themselves.

Recruitment The degree to which the sample adhered to the recruitment practices listed in Row 2 of Table I will now be discussed. Company Case no. 1 ensures that ``complete information’’ regarding the international assignment is provided to the expatriate. In this sense, RJPs are given to expatriates. However, the spouses are not provided directly with such information. The HR respondent explained: We don’t want to eliminate people based on family status/kids. We just try to pick up the best candidates and it’s up to them to self-select if they don’t feel up to it.

Unfortunately, their policy of non-interference in family matters thus extends to exclusion of the spouse from RJP that might encourage self-selection. Company Case no. 2 was also found to adhere to the prescribed ``best practices’’ for recruitment. For instance, both the trailing spouse and the expatriate are informed of all aspects that may impact their lives in accepting to go on an international

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Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan, Steven H. Appelbaum and Corinne Abikhzer Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study Career Development International 7/2 [2002] 79±95

Table I Best practice ``facilitators’’ adhered to by the sample companies Best practice

Case no. 1

Case no. 2

Case no. 3

Case no. 4

1. Job specifications (e.g. C/C competencies ± attitudinal, interpersonal, and general living ± in addition to technical competencies) 2. Recruitment (e.g. RJP for expats, RJP for spouse too, spousal selfselection only)

Covers attitudinal and interpersonal C/C competencies; omits general living competencies

Covers interpersonal competencies but omits attitudinal and general living C/C competencies

Covers general living competencies only indirectly; omits attitudinal and interpersonal C/C competencies

Covers general living and interpersonal competencies only indirectly; omits attitudinal C/C competencies

RJPs for expats but not for spouse

All practices followed

RJPs for expats, but spousal RJP too late to realistically permit selfselection

Initial candidacy identified by line manager, so initial methods unclear; HR then uses structured interviews to address career objectives/ mobility and performance appraisals to confirm technical/ managerial competencies. Neither P and P tests nor biodata used Needs are analyzed; training involves mix of predeparture classroom methods (covering culture and language) and OJT abroad with a mentor Behavioural form used; formal rating one year (informal reviews continual); C/C aspects neither explicit nor commonly added; raters are home or host country (depending on reporting relationship) and not trained

Left to hiring manager; HR unsure if interviews were structured

Discussion about location with expatriate, but explicit RJP. The plus and minus are presumed to become obvious. Nil for spouse Line managers use structured interviews with past orientation (PBDI). Neither P and P tests nor biodata are used. However, HR followed-up with open-ended interviews to assess ``cultural risk factors’’

Needs are analyzed, but needs and training outsourced so HR is unsure of methods used. OJT may occur but only informally, not orchestrated by HR Behavioural nature unclear; rating one year; C/C aspects not explicit but space for optional comments; rater is home country only, no rater training

Needs analyzed and pre-departure training is highly experiential, albeit outsourced. OJT may occur but only informally

Most expatriates go on to other international assignments rather than advance at HQ; HR works with expatriates and sometimes line management too; networking tools available and expatriates expected to tell HR what she/he wants to do

Expatriates rarely promoted or get return positions that use KSAOs from abroad; HR works closely with expatriates both prior to departure and prior to return to discuss career objectives; networking tools provided, expatriates proactivity expected

Business needs used as guide for HR planning

No, dealt with human resource needs as they arose

Expatriates merely guaranteed a return position equivalent to one they left; few expatriates are part of international development program; rare cases ± expatriates downsized ± career development is a team effort (expatriates, HR, manager) but networking tools provided and initiative expected; team effort proportional to expatriate’s performance Yes, adhered to the practices fully: HR plans clearly tied with business objectives and considerable thought given to alternate sources of supply (e.g. locals v. expatriates)

3. Selection (e.g. Left to hiring manager; Interviews ± structured HR unsure of methods and past-oriented; P and used P tests ± big five personality; biodata on international and linguistic exposure

4. Training (e.g. needs assessment; experiential formal C/C training or OJT C/C training) 5. Performance appraisal (e.g. behavioural instrument; timing after six months; consider local cultural factors on instrument; trained rater)

6. Human resource development (e.g. promised use of international assignments for career development; also, a repatriation plan that uses internationally developed KSAOs)

7. Human resource planning (e.g. close contact between HR and business strategists to match HR demand/ supply)

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Needs are analyzed, and a one-day classroom-based training program uses some experiential methods (e.g. case studies) Behavioural nature of instrument unclear (but is likely since defined in performance terms); timing: one year; space to record C/C complexity but not an explicit option on form; raters are host/home combo, not usually trained Most expatriates advance; HR works with expatriate’s supervisor to assist, plus networking tools made available, but onus on expatriates to find appropriate position

Internationalization based on business needs but little emphasis on HR planning

Behavioural nature unclear; training one year; no explicit C/C aspects but space for optional comments; rater is host country, not usually trained

Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan, Steven H. Appelbaum and Corinne Abikhzer Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study Career Development International 7/2 [2002] 79±95

assignment. The expatriate and trailing spouse are even encouraged to speak to other expatriates and spouses in the location. Although not part of their standard policy, pre-assignment reconnaissance trips are possible. With all this information, the firm believes that expatriates and their spouses are empowered to make an informed decision about the assignment and selfselect if there are concerns. Realistically, though, these trips do not facilitate advance self-selection, above and beyond what was already provided during the initial recruitment phase. Company Case no. 3 used realistic job previews for expatriates. A spousal RJP is also attempted by this organization but only after the selection procedures. That is, once the candidate has been selected, the spouse is then sent to workshops, along with the expatriate, in order to be well prepared. Because of this, the spousal RJP represents more of a training program than an RJP per se, and doesn’t truly facilitate advanced self-selection. Too much effort is already invested in the candidate by the time the spouse is directly exposed to any information that could be useful in freely self-selecting himself/herself out of the assignment. Company Case no. 4’s RJP involves a discussion about the content of the job and the location, as well as ``do’s and don’ts’’. However, there is no explicit presentation of the positive and negative elements of the location/assignment. Factors that might affect the expatriate’s willingness to undertake the assignment are presumed to become ``obvious’’ to the individual over the course of the discussion. The spouse is not invited to attend. The expatriate also has the opportunity to undertake a preview trip; again, however, this qualifies as more of a reconnaissance trip to facilitate the handling of administrative issues (e.g. education, housing) than an advance preview of the issues that would be faced.

Cross-case analysis Realistic job previews (RJPs) were used for expatriates in all cases, albeit to different degrees of detail. In Case no. 4, for example, expatriates participated in a discussion, but the positive and negatives were merely presumed to become obvious. A spousal RJP was provided in Case no. 2 only, and its objective was to permit self-selection (not to impose withdrawal from candidacy for the assignment). In summary, Case no. 2 emerges as the strongest adherent to this best practice category, while Case no. 4 emerges as the weakest.

Selection The degree to which the sample adhered to the selection practices listed in Row 3 of Table I will now be discussed. In Company Case no. 1 it was found that selection is a function that is left to the hiring manager to execute. The expatriate is passed on to HR only once the line manager has selected him. Therefore, in this study, the HR respondent was unsure of the specific methods used. In Company Case no. 2, line management also initially identified candidates. However, HR then received them and provided recommendations to line management as to the ideal candidate. Structured interviews were used as part of their selection methods. The questions asked in the interviews typically dealt with issues relating to career objectives and mobility. For example: why are you interested in going on an international assignment? They also used performance appraisals and a management profile (developed outside the company) to determine candidate appropriateness. However, neither paper and pencil tests nor biographical data information are used. In Company Case no. 3, the HR respondent was also unaware of the nature of the selection methods used since they were handled by the business line managers (with the assistance of external sources if required). More precisely, the HR representative was aware that interviews were conducted, but was unclear if the questions were structured or not. Company Case no. 4 conducted international selection using structured interviews with PBDI type questions, but line managers who assessed readiness from the perspective of business need fulfillment did this. This firm did not adhere to the other two prescribed selection methods. After line management finished with their preliminary interviews, HR became involved by assessing expatriates and their families for cross-cultural ``risk factors’’, via open-ended interview questions.

Cross-case analysis In all cases, line managers conduct initial screening; however in Cases no. 1 to 3, HR did not even know what selection methods the line manager used. In Case no. 3, the HR representative presumed interviews were used, but was unclear whether they were structured. Only in Case no. 4 was the HR representative aware of the form of interviews used, and able to confirm the interviews were structured with PBDI-type questions. None of the HR representatives reported any awareness of the use of a panel

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of raters or a scoring guide during the interviews. In Cases no. 2 and 4, HR proceeds with further screening. Specifically, in Case no. 2, performance appraisals and managerial profiles are used to confirm technical/managerial competencies, but no additional C/C screening is done. In Case no. 4, HR’s follow-up efforts include open-ended interviews designed to assess cultural risk factors. In no cases are paper and pencil tests or biodata used. In summary, Case no. 4 emerges as the strongest adherent to this ``best practice’’ category, while Case no. 1 emerges as the weakest.

Training The degree to which the sample adhered to the training practices listed in Row 4 of Table I will now be discussed. In Company Case no. 1 all of these practices are executed. Needs are analyzed. A one-day classroom-based training program is provided, and some experiential methods are used. Although the precise training methods employed usually depend on what the consultants deem necessary for a particular assignment, case examples are typically provided to the family as well as to the expatriate per specific issues and skills. Company Case no. 2 was found to incorporate all of the elements identified as best training practices. Training is tailored to meet the needs of any sojourner in the country of assignment, but the needs of the specific expatriate are not identified. Case 2 uses a mix of pre-departure training (cultural and language) at headquarters and optional OJT abroad with a mentor selected by the expatriate. Company Case no. 3 used all of the elements mentioned above as well. A needs analysis is conducted, but both it and the training are provided by outside consultants, so HR may be unsure of the training methods that are used. On-the-job training abroad (with a mentor) may occur, but only if informally initiated by the expatriate. Company Case no. 4 adheres to all the suggested training practices identified in the literature. A needs analysis is based on country hardship information, supplied by external vendor and government information. Expatriate C/C training is done in a classroom manner at headquarters. Topics include culture and language. Methods are highly experiential (i.e. role-playing, behavioural modifications, cases, exercises, as well as lecture/ discussion). Headquarters training however is outsourced. OJT may occur, but only if informally initiated by the expatriate.

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Cross-case analysis Needs analysis and classroom-based C/C training were conducted in all of the cases studied. The training topics included culture and language in Cases no. 2 and 4. Training methods were clearly experiential in Case no. 1 and particularly in Case no. 4. Training was outsourced in Cases no. 3 and 4, but Case no. 4 was much more aware of what the training methods involved, and Case no. 4 also conducted the needs analysis themselves, whereas Case no. 3 did not. In no cases was OJT abroad systematically organized, although Cases no. 2 to 4 acknowledged it might arise informally (e.g. at the initiative of the expatriate). In summary, Case no. 4 emerges as the strongest adherent to this best practice category, while Case no. 3 emerges as the weakest.

Performance appraisals The degree to which the sample adhered to the performance appraisal practices listed in Row 5 of Table I will now be discussed. Company Case no. 1 follows all of these practices except for recognition of the complexity of the assignment. The instruments are exactly the same as the forms used for domestic appraisals, with variations in business objectives. Expatriates are evaluated on their achievement of job-related performance goals. The rating occurs after one year. There are no added cross-cultural dimensions on the appraisal form, which reduces the reliability with which specific cross-culturally complex situations may be noted. Nevertheless, the HR representative points out that C/C constraints may still be considered informally through a section on the form that permits 360-degree feedback from managers, peers and clients. Rating is a combined effort between host and home country supervisors. Raters are trained in some instances only; often they will simply follow the format. Company Case no. 2 was found to follow all of the prescribed best practices for conducting performance appraisals for international employees. The form is based on behavioural steps taken to achieve goals. Informal performance reviews are continual, but the formal rating occurs once per year. The appraisal is based primarily on technical work goals. However, some goals may be interpersonal. For example, leadership steps taken to develop staff and sustain staff morale are noted; objective measures such as an employee satisfaction survey are used as well. Employee complaints are also deemed to reflect the expatriate’s C/C adaptability. Nonetheless, the C/C aspects are not made

Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan, Steven H. Appelbaum and Corinne Abikhzer Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study Career Development International 7/2 [2002] 79±95

explicit. Either local or HQ supervisors conduct appraisals; it depends on the particular reporting relationship. The raters do not receive any training. They are merely asked to follow the established procedure in completing the appraisal instrument, which is explained step by step on the form. Company Case no. 3 uses the same form for domestic and international appraisals, but the behavioural nature of this instrument is unclear. Timing of the appraisals is once per year. No C/C criteria are made explicit on the form, although a space is reserved for optional C/C comments. The only rater is the home country supervisor, who receives no formal rater training. In Company Case no. 4, the behavioural nature of the instrument is unclear and the timing of appraisals is once per year. The forms used are no different than the ones used domestically. The form is based on technical work goals; there are no C/C dimensions. But, the HR respondent reports, language and cultural differences are ``nonetheless considered’’ when it is felt that they may be affecting job performance. The rater is the host country supervisor. Although rater training is offered internally, it is not required, and most senior managers do not attend courses on it.

Cross-case analysis Use of behaviour observation scales for performance appraisals was only clearly identified in Case no. 2. Learning curves and timing of appraisal process were factors considered by all of the cases studied. In all cases, appraisals were conducted after one year. The C/C complexity of the assignments was never explicitly included on the forms, although room for comment on the relevance of C/C issues to performance was available in most cases (i.e. no. 1, 3, and 4). All cases took the location of the rater into consideration, but in quite varied manners. Case no. 3 was the only firm that relied exclusively on home country raters. Host country raters were used exclusively by only one firm (Case no. 4), used in tandem with home country raters in Case no. 1, and used only occasionally in Case no. 2 (depended on reporting relationship). In summary, Case no. 1 (and then Case no. 4) emerges as the strongest adherents to this best practice category, while Case no. 3 emerges as the weakest.

Career development The degree to which the sample adhered to the career development practices listed in Row 6 of Table I will now be discussed. In Company Case no. 1, the HR respondent reported:

It’s hard to know, but most [expatriates] will undertake a position higher than the one they left prior to the assignment. Normally, the business supervisor will try to work with HR to find what is appropriate.

In addition, this HR representative indicated: the individual should be able to know what is going on at HQ by accessing the electronic job postings. It is the repatriates’ responsibility to seek out what positions may be available (i.e. back home).

The company just provides the tools (i.e. employee development center, self-learn videos, books and do-it-yourself tips), as well as funded opportunities to network with home colleagues (visits, phone, e-mail). In Company Case no. 2, career development represents a team effort between the employee and HR (line management is only involved when their involvement is requested). The expatriate has some knowledge of the key positions available, and she/he tells HR what she/he foresees herself/himself doing. HR facilitates expatriate networking (e-mail, phone, visits) and conducts interviews and reviews performance appraisals to confirm what KSAOs were gained. However, most expatriates go on to other international assignments rather than get repatriated to headquarter positions. In Company Case no. 3, the HR representative at headquarters is in charge of the expatriate’s career development, but career goals are discussed with the expatriate both prior to the international assignment, and prior to return. Expatriates have access to career postings, and can keep in touch via e-mail. However, international job rotations are not used as part of an overall career development strategy: expatriates are not necessarily promoted to a position of greater responsibility at the completion of their assignment, and new assignments do not usually draw on KSAOs developed abroad. In Company Case no. 4, it was reported that some international assignments are part of an overall leadership development plan, but not all assignments fit this category. Expatriates are merely guaranteed a position equivalent to the one they left. All expatriates are given access to an internal job-posting database, and expatriates are then expected to let HR know of their interest in positions. Expatriate contact with HR is further facilitated via e-mail/phone assistance designed to help them network. Although career development is intended to be a team effort among the employee, HR, and the headquarters manager, high performing employees have greater efforts made on their

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Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan, Steven H. Appelbaum and Corinne Abikhzer Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study Career Development International 7/2 [2002] 79±95

behalf (i.e. to facilitate their advancement). Moreover, the HR representative noted: nothing is a sure thing. There are people who, because of downsizing, we had to make redundant at the end of their assignment. Most return home, but some seek other international assignments because of difficulties re-adjusting or finding a suitable position at home.

Cross-case analysis The use of international assignments as a rotation in a career development strategy was evident only in Case no. 1. In Case no. 2, expatriates typically proceeded to other international assignments. In Cases no. 3 and 4, post-return assignments rarely included either the internationally developed KSAOs or any change in status. In all cases, HR worked with the expatriate (team effort also optionally includes line managers in Cases no. 1, 2, and 4), but because networking tools were provided to the expatriate in all cases, the onus typically was on the expatriate to be proactive about his/her career. In summary, Case no. 1 emerges as the strongest adherent to this best practice category, while Case no. 3 emerges as the weakest.

Human resource planning The degree to which the sample adhered to the human resource planning practices listed in Row 7 of Table I will now be discussed. In Company Case no. 1, general guidelines are set for international assignments. Decisions to send someone abroad are based on business needs. However, there is no communication to mid-level managers about the importance of investing time in human resource planning. Company Case no. 2 was found to follow the best practices outlined for human resource planning: forecasting needs/supply based on established business goals. Company Case no. 3 was not found to have a human resource planning function at all. They were found to deal with employment needs as they came forth. Company Case no. 4 was found to give considerable thought to international HR planning issues, such as how to make effective use of locals (as opposed to expatriates) to meet business needs by filling gaps in the workforce of their emerging markets. HR plans were clearly tied with business objectives.

Cross-case analysis Forecasting needs and developing HR plans in line with this information was seen in Cases no. 2 and 4, but particularly in Case no. 4. Although Case no. 1 made staffing decisions based on business needs, the planning aspect was lacking. Finally, Case no. 3 appeared to take an entirely reactive

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approach to international staffing. In summary, Case no. 4 emerges as the strongest adherent to this best practice category (with Case no. 2 a close second), while Case no. 3 emerges as the weakest.

The research question: why did the Canadian MNCs implement these IHRM ``best practices’’ to the extent that they did? Job specifications Cross-case analysis Most firms neglected the C/C competencies, and there was a dearth of commentary about why these critical competencies were neglected.

Recruitment Cross-case analysis All firms noted that unrealistic expectations in various areas can be problematic to the success of the assignment, but only Cases no. 2 and no. 4 seemed to draw on experience in asserting this. For example, Case no. 2 (which was the only firm to include the spouse) explicitly recognized that joint parental concerns could problematically distract the expatriate. Case no. 4 expressed awareness of the costs to an international assignment, when dysfunctional family situations arise abroad, and are keen to see the expatriate perform well.

Selection Cross-case analysis Cases no. 1, 2, and 4 focused on finding a good technical fit between the candidate’s needs and business needs abroad. Cases no. 1, 3, and 4 recognized the importance of finding someone who will adjust well and fit well interpersonally with the new environment-host employees. Given the emphasis by 75 per cent of the firms on cultural/interpersonal fit, it is surprising that HR did not take the time to ascertain that this selection issue was indeed accurately addressed during the line managers’ selection procedures.

Training Cross-case analysis In all cases, the practices that were undertaken were initiated in order to enable expatriates to be competent at his/her assignment in the host country. Minimizing culture shock was noted as a specific objective by Cases no. 1, 2, and 4. As one respondent in Case no. 4 put it: We hope to reduce or shorten the culture shock cycle so that they move through the process faster and be more effective quicker.

Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan, Steven H. Appelbaum and Corinne Abikhzer Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study Career Development International 7/2 [2002] 79±95

Training is also seen as particularly necessary for this company because its expatriates go to hardship locations, which present them with challenging issues surrounding different cultures and economies, war and politics.

Performance appraisals Cross-case analysis In all cases, the objective of the firm’s performance appraisal activities was to accurately assess performance. Cases no. 1, 2, and 4 recognized that doing so required an accurate assessment of adjustment to the C/C factors as well. In particular, Case no. 4 recognized that language and cultural difficulties would affect job performance.

Human resource development Cross-case analysis In all cases except Case no. 3 (for which no explanation was given), firms engaged in career-development practices to retain high performers. For example, they sought to maintain employee satisfaction, particularly in Case no. 4, by keeping employees motivated at the prospect of advancement opportunities. As the HR representative in Case no. 1 explained, the trend in recent years has been for expatriates to pay closer attention to career development issues than they did in the past. According to the respondent: Expatriates today don’t just accept assignments like that, there’s a lot of talk about what happens when they get back, so there’s more active participation now.

HR planning Cross-case analysis In all cases, the objective of the firms’ HR planning activities was to meet business needs and preserve corporate culture above. In Cases no. 1, 2, and 4, efficiency concerns (re: minimizing costs) are also noted. In particular, Case no. 4 notes that HR planning allows them to be strategic (and selective) about the use of expatriates, which tends to be one of the costlier options for filling international assignments. As the HR representative in this firm noted: If there are people who want to move on a permanent local basis rather than on an expatriate basis, we may want to do that instead.

Emergent results regarding barriers to the use of the best practices Interestingly, although the firms claimed that they assessed global effectiveness outcomes for their expatriate assignments, lack of evaluation of the specific HR intervention areas was a recurring theme.

Indeed, it emerged as a potentially significant barrier to improvement of those HR practices. Other emergent barriers were the availability of HR expertise within the firm, and the degree of experience the firm has accumulated in the field of expatriate management in particular (i.e. via the number of expatriates in the firm). Each of these will now be discussed in turn. Several global measures of effectiveness were, indeed, considered by the participating firms. In Case no. 1, the HR respondent indicated that a very general evaluation is done on an on-going basis. For each region, the on-going costs for the different businesses are looked at and ``It is asked why the expatriate is there? Are the intended benefits being achieved? Could it be handled differently? etc.’’ Expatriate success (i.e. completion of assignment) is taken as an indication that the expatriate management practices used have been administered properly. Case no. 2 similarly evaluates overall cost-benefit data (e.g. expatriate success rates, satisfaction, and costs); and employ benchmark data to do so, and their expatriate policies and compensation programs are occasionally adjusted as a result. Case no. 3 considered assignment success in terms of performance (re: whether the strategic business objectives are being met by the international assignment). However, in none of the cases are the individual HR interventions evaluated. This seems surprising given the cost of many interventions such as pre-departure training, or given the very specific driving objectives that the firms had for undertaking their HR interventions. The holistic effectiveness measures indicate results at a general level, but give no indication as to how much better the firm could be performing (e.g. how much it might save or improve performance by implementing any HR practice differently). There are some attempts to be more specific in their evaluations: Case no. 4 makes a notable effort in regard to evaluation of its HR planning and career development activities. This firm investigated not only whether or not international strategic business objectives were met, but also whether employment goals were met, and whether employees incurred favorable career moves following their transfers. Case no. 2 takes somewhat of a specific approach in regard to evaluation of its recruitment activities. During the interviews, this firm reported that recruitment effectiveness was intuited not only via general indicators such as premature returns, attrition, failed assignments, and performance assessments, but also in terms of whether the return was

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based on an individual (i.e. culture shock) or business reason. By and large, though, such efforts are inconsistently applied ± both within a case across HR areas, and when viewed across cases. The lack of detailed evaluation was most striking in the areas of selection and training. In most firms, expatriate selection was conducted in a manner that remained mysterious to HR (HR in most firms had no clue what line management does), and yet line managers had few C/C competencies to guide them from the job specification. Although line managers may have been proficient at selecting individuals for domestic assignments, domestic and international selection is very different, as the literature shows us. Training evaluations are equally problematic: the worst performer in this category (Case no. 3) explained that external consultants provide the training, and employees are expected to let HR know if the training was useful for them. Regardless of whether the training program is delivered formally in a classroom or on the job, Kirkpatrick’s (1987) model suggests that another ``best practice’’ aspect of C/C training, in addition to using experiential methods, is to ensure that training evaluation involves consideration of the following criteria: reactions, learning, job behaviour, and results: Careful evaluation provides information on participant reactions to the program, how much they learned, whether they use what they learned back on the job, and whether the program improved the organization’s effectiveness (Harris and DeSimone, 1994).

HR did not appear to even be familiar with the criteria upon which their training programs were being evaluated by the outside consultants. The other two barriers noted (HR resources, and the degree of experience with expatriates) emerged once Table II was constructed. In Row 1 of Table II the participating firms are ranked according to the thoroughness with which they implemented the various HR practices. The ranking is derived from the cross-case analyses (of the discussion of results for research question no. 1), where it was noted which firms emerged as the ``strongest’’ and ``weakest’’ adherents to each particular ``best practice’’ area. The frequencies with which a firm was rated as a ``strongest’’ and/or ``weakest’’ adherent to the best-practice areas were tallied (tallies are shown in Row 2 of Table II), and these tallies guided the rankings shown in Row 1 of Table II. The remaining rows of Table II contain descriptive company data about numbers of HR employees at home and abroad, and

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numbers of expatriates in the firm; these numbers were originally mentioned in the sample portion of the methodology section for this paper. Thus, Table II reveals two interesting patterns. First, the finding that lack of HR resources (i.e. manpower) appears to be a barrier is evidenced by the relation between the firms’ rankings and the data in the last two rows of Table II. In Case no. 1, the HR respondent even indicated that certain HR practices for international selection are probably not considered because they are not routinely used as part of domestic selection methods. Second, there also appears to be a possible correspondence between the firms’ rankings and the number of expatriates in the firm, suggesting that lack of expatriate-specific experience may be as much of a barrier to ``best practice’’ implementation as lack of HR resources in general.

Discussion Limitations No study is without its limitations, and the present study is no exception to this rule. One weakness inherent in multiple case qualitative research (when the number of cases is less than 30) is that it becomes difficult to generalize to the greater population of Canadian MNCs (or to MNCs in general). Generalizability is further impeded by the restriction of the sample to a single host country: Ireland. Although the use of a single host country has the advantage of providing a thorough look at how diverse firms have approached a common expatriation locale, future research will need to adopt a larger-scale, quantitatively empirical approach, with a multitude of host countries, to confirm some of the findings observed here. Notwithstanding these potential limitations, this study was still able to address very relevant issues in the area of international human resource management, and more specifically create a clearer picture of expatriate management practices in the Canadian MNC context.

Conclusions This article has addressed the question of how thoroughly Canadian MNCs are adhering to the ``best practices’’ for expatriate management that were advocated in the IHRM literature. It has found that training is consistently offered to Canadian expatriates. In addition, interpersonal competencies relevant to C/C situations are included in job specifications, RJPs are

Sharon Leiba O’Sullivan, Steven H. Appelbaum and Corinne Abikhzer Expatriate management ``best practices’’ in Canadian MNCs: a multiple case study Career Development International 7/2 [2002] 79±95

provided for expatriates, and the timing of performance appraisals is appropriate. Nonetheless, Table I also shows that there is still room for improvement. For example, Canadian firms are not using general living or attitudinal competencies in their job specifications; they are excluding spouses from the RJPs, for the most part; they are omitting biographical data information from their selection process, despite the literature’s advocacy of its utility as a predictor for international assignments; and performance appraisals are being conducted without explicit reference to the role of C/C challenges and without rater training. Emergent data from this article has also revealed that the participating firms have very definite business objectives for undertaking the IHRM practices that they do. Clearly, their goals for recruitment are to create accurate expectations; for selection it is to identify the best candidates; for training it is to equip expatriates for the assignment; for performance appraisals it is to accurately assess fit and performance; for human resource development, it is to retain high performers by offering appropriate post-return jobs; and for human resource planning, it is to meet business needs efficiently. However, a more problematic emergent finding is that lack of evaluation of the firm’s IHRM practices appears to be a potentially significant barrier to broader adherence to the best practices. Specifically, it appears to be obscuring companies’ awareness of whether or not their partial implementation

of the best practices is enabling them to meet their driving objectives. Full implementation of all elements of a best practice may be unnecessary and indeed inappropriate in certain situations (e.g. small firms with few expatriates). Moreover, a best practice is admittedly only a guideline, and contingencies must be recognized (i.e. the practices must often be customized to specific situations to be helpful). However, without systematically evaluating an HR intervention at a level that corresponds to the driving business objectives for undertaking that intervention, it is difficult to objectively assess whether the partial path chosen is indeed appropriate for the firm. A prime example is the quality of the training that is offered by the participating firms, which remains questionable. Training is almost always provided through an outsourced vendor, and the content of the training typically pertains to language and cultural issues. Methods used for training and qualifications of the trainers, however, remain unanswered. Although some of the firms had access to reports and on-going feedback through the external training vendors, organizations must assume a greater responsibility for the evaluation of their training programs. Relying on the evaluations of consultants, who may also have provided the training and conducted the needs analysis, is a strategy that is rife with conflicts-of-interest. Organizations must place greater emphasis on training evaluation in order to ensure that the training services they offer are truly worthwhile. Moreover, it is strongly advised

Table II Ranking of participating companies’ degree of implementaton of IHRM ``best practices’’ Case numbers Rank re: thoroughness of best practice implementation Score driving ranking (number of ``wins’’ contrasted with number of ``losses’’) Number of expatriates in firm









``Best’’ in three HR ``Best’’ in one HR area; ``Best’’ in no HR areas; areas; ``worst’’ in one HR tied for ``best’’ in two HR ``worst’’ in five HR area area areas; ``worst’’ in no HR area 60 190 12

HR resources available in subsidiary location (Ireland)


Non-HR experts are available for assistance


HR resources at HQ (people)




``Best’’ in three HR areas; tied for ``best’’ in one HR areas; ``worst’’ in one HR area 650 on long-term assignments (two to three yrs); 400 on short-term assignments (less than one yr) ``Numerous others’’ working locally in HR who also spend a portion of their time on expatriate management issues 24 [ 93 ]

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that they use different external firms for their implementation and evaluation activities. Performance appraisals are another area that requires more direct evaluations. Organizations do not explicitly measure cross-cultural adaptation on their performance appraisal forms. Relying on managers to spontaneously note this information on the forms, however, opens up the possibility for an unreliable recording of performance (and for potentially erroneous conclusions). In view of the neglect of evaluations, the IHRM literature might benefit from an investigation of the barriers that have been hindering more systemic evaluation of the few IHRM practices that are conducted. This may be a more constructive approach than continuing to bemoan the absence of more thorough adherence to the best practices (as has been the trend in the cross-cultural training literature in recent years). Another interesting emergent finding occurred upon comparison of the four case firms considered: namely, leadership on most practices appears related to HR resources available, and to the international expertise of these resources (based on firm experience with the number of expatriates). Future research might attempt to investigate this apparent relationship more systematically (e.g. large scale quantitative study exploring the relationship between thoroughness of implementation and the number of HR resources ± budget size, number of people employed in HR ± and number of expatriates) in order to examine if firm-specific core competencies can truly explain the firms’ approaches to their HR activities. A final problematic emergent finding from this study is that there is an extensive but implicit reliance on expatriate initiative/proactivity, particularly in the areas of training and career development. For example, this study found that on-the-job cross-cultural training is a largely informal process: those expatriates who chose to have it were expected to find a mentor on their own. Can firms truly rely on repatriates to be proactive, particularly in the absence of RJPs that indicate HR areas in which career proactivity is presumed? Recent theoretical research sheds doubt on that possibility (Leiba O’Sullivan, 2001). Accordingly, future research should attempt to confirm this question empirically. In the interim, firms should examine the extent to which they are relying on their expatriates to be proactive in the management of their own careers, and to include this information in the RJPs they provide. Otherwise, achievement of their

commonly stated objective of ``retaining top performers’’ (and the objective of repatriating expatriates’ international competencies to upper management at headquarters, among other objectives) may be at risk. This would be counterproductive to those organizations strategizing to design, develop and execute HRM ``best practices’’.

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