Experiencing international assignment : an exploratory study of Chinese international assignees : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Human Resource Management at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Massey University
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International Assignment is at the centre of this study. Drawing on data from interviews with 31 Chinese assignees working for multinational companies in different cultural contexts, it explores their perceptions of international experience. Most literature concerning international assignments focuses on assignees from Western countries. By comparison, assignees from emerging economies such as China remain an under-researched group despite a rapid growth of multinational companies from these newly emerging economies. Moreover, much of the research often takes a unilateral perspective (such as either motivation, experience or career) lacking theoretical integration and failing to investigate the complexity of international assignments. Hence, to address this gap, this study adopts an integrated, multi-dimensional theoretical framework incorporating motivation, experience and career capital. It uses a qualitative research methodology based on in-depth interviews and is located within an interpretive paradigm in which individual meaning, action, social relationships and interactions are paramount. The study begins by focusing on motivation for accepting an international assignment. Motivation is identified as a multi-faceted, complex and interdependent decisionmaking process. Building career capital, which leads to personal growth, is the ultimate individual expectation from a foreign posting. International experience is then explored, focusing on issues associated with adjustment, satisfaction and social integration. While some initial expectations are fulfilled, other factors become more relevant over time and affect individual perceptions of the value of international assignments. This emphasises the dynamic and multi-dimensional nature of the overseas experience. Specific attention is also given to the career capital development of international assignees. The findings offer new insights to the international assignment literature showing that while Chinese assignees appreciate the experience of international assignments, in contrast to much of the Western literature, they consider it has little impact on their future careers. This is explained largely in terms of cultural factors (generally the relevance to Chinese career development), as well as the particular nature of Chinese multinational companies. In the last part, the concept of career capital is examined integrating findings on motivation and experience. Taking an overall perspective, the context of assignees’ career capital development is analysed focusing on the relevance of factors within individual, organisational and social domains. Two new themes, knowing-when and knowingwhere, are also added to the existing understanding of three ways of knowing. The contribution of this study is thus both theoretical and empirical. It extends the knowledge of motivation, experience and career capital, utilising an under-researched, yet increasingly important, sample of Chinese assignees working for multinational companies in Western countries. The proposed contextual model provides implications for future research such as comparative studies of international assignees from different cultures or assignees on different types of postings (e.g., long-term, short-term and frequent flyer). Future investigations could also focus on the specifications of contextual factors for international assignments and career development of international assignees.
Chinese, Foreign countries, Psychology, Employment in foreign countries, Psychological aspects, Employees, Relocation, Social aspects