Mentorship of Expatriates in Transnational Companies

Purpose – Due to a number of reported failures of expatriation assignments, a growing body of literature is exploring the possible roles of mentors in supporting expatriates in critical phases while working in another culture. The purpose of this paper is to expand upon the research of mentoring based on a literature review and an empirical study of mentoring expatriates in three transnational companies. Design/methodology/approach – This paper is based on findings from three case companies based in Denmark. In total, 37 semi-structured interviews were conducted with expatriates, managers and vice presidents at the three home organizations and their subsidiaries.
Findings – Several empirical studies, including the study presented in this paper, indicate that ethnocentrism in the home-company is a main constraint for cross-cultural learning mediated by the expatriates. It is suggested that the HR department in the home-company should create specialized professional training programs and recruit employees with practical knowledge about expatriation. However, personal and relational mentoring should be conducted by experienced and motivated individuals who are supported and recognized, but not controlled, by the HR department.
Research limitations/implications – This research is focused on Danish companies and further research is needed to test the theories in other cultural settings.
Practical implications – This research can help companies and expatriates gain a more successful expatriation period.
Originality/value – The value and role of mentorship is detailed from a theoretical and practical perspective, which adds to the body of literature on expatriates and mentorship.
Keywords Cross-cultural management, Mentoring, Career development, Communication,
Organizational culture, Expatriates, Coping strategies
Paper type Case study