Expatriation and Human Resource Management


Human resource management (HRM), International Business Management (IBM), and expatriation are interlinked concepts in business management. According to Dabic, González-Loureiro, and Harvey (2015), there is very little research that has been done on expatriation. However, the authors admit that moving from one’s home country to a host country is related more to HRM processes as it deals with the facets of recruitment and selection, rewards and performance management, and training and development of expatriates. Therefore, it is imperative to note that the contemporary meaning of the word expatriate has changed over the decades.

As Dabic, González-Loureiro, and Harvey (2015) point out, an expatriate was formerly associated with a suspicious citizen in American law. The term has dramatically camouflaged to imply a somehow privileged employee overseas – privileged in the sense that such employees are sent as experts in foreign offices to accomplish certain tasks before returning to their original workstations (Dabic, González-Loureiro & Harvey 2015).

Expatriation and IBM are closely related. Indeed, the aspect of IBM cannot be overlooked because expatriates remain employees of the multinational company irrespective of where they undertake their duties. This implies that the HRM department at the primary work station is still obligated with the mandate of managing the expatriate (Dabic, González-Loureiro & Harvey 2015). The present paper gives more insight into the management role played by an HRM department in preparing and supporting an expatriate employee.

The paper uses a case study of an American worker sent for an assignment in Qatar to argue that there are four main aspects that the HRM must consider to support the expatriate. The four aspects are training, rewards and performance management, recruitment and selection, and employee motivation and retention.

The Role of HRM in Expatriation


Training is one of the core functions of HR practitioners. It involves adding to the competency of the worker by equipping them with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to perform their tasks (Ho et al., 2016). The HRM department is mandated with the responsibility of identifying gaps in skills based on individual employee’s performance and workplace behavior. Melissa Lamont is being sent by her US-based media corporation to their Middle Eastern office in Doha, Qatar. She will work as an assistant manager in the business and economics department for three years. Given that she has never worked in a foreign country before, training will be an integral HRM practice for her initial preparations for the task.

Ho et al. (2016) recognize the significance of training employees on performance management. However, the authors note that there is a gap in the literature on the aspect of training evaluation – the direct impact of training on an organization’s financial performance. The implication here is that training as an HRM practice should not just be undertaken for the sake of improving employee performance without quantifying it in terms of return on investment (ROI).

In their study of HRM practices (including training) in the hotel industry, Ho et al. (2016) note that hotel entrepreneurs invest heavily in the training of employees in the customer care segment due to the constant interaction of workers with customers. According to the authors, such investments must be accompanied by tangible financial results, otherwise, the training is futile (Ho et al. 2016). Therefore, training evaluation is important to the media industry as it is to any other business (Saridakis, Lai & Cooper 2017); Rodriguez & Scurry 2014). Since half of the employees at the Doha office are from the Middle East, equipping Melissa with the cultural background and common practices of people from the region would prepare her for the task ahead.

Reward and Performance Management

Employee compensation is one of the topics that continue to elicit debate among HRM scholars and practitioners. This is because the pay is the main motivation for work – most people work to earn a living; they have no choice but to work, and if they had a choice of not working, they would go for it. The research was undertaken by Gerhart and Fang (2014), and Caza, McCarter, and Northcraft (2015) agree that an organization’s reward system is a major determinant of employee performance and aggregate corporate success. According to the two studies, employee satisfaction is derived from the rewards they get for work. Be that as it may, it is the difference in perspectives given by the two studies that are of interest to this paper.

Gerhart and Fang (2014) investigate the impact of rewards on individual performance. The authors contend that there is a sense in which an individual’s pay positively affects their output to the organization. In a similar study, the authors discovered that there is substantial evidence to prove that incentives and reinforcements have a positive impact on overall employee behavior, which involves individual performance (Snape & Redman 2010).

Gerhart and Fang (2014) use the theory of compensation to argue that the aftermath of pay for individual performance can be rationalized if the organization takes full charge of the sorting effects on workforce composition, such as selection and attraction.

In the present case study, the insights given by Gerhart and Fang (2014) would help the corporation’s HR practitioners and Melissa to evaluate the impact of pay on individual performance. For example, performance management can reveal a sense of demotivation for employees who are underpaid. Melissa can use the theory of compensation to revise the pay of some underperforming employees. According to Gerhart and Fang (2014), there are high chances that the organization will record improvement in performance. Nonetheless, this is not a guarantee. Individual employee behavior and level of satisfaction come into play.

Caza, McCarter, and Northcraft (2015), on the other hand, contribute to the debate on employee compensation by considering the contribution of employees on the final pay decisions. In particular, their study is based on the performance impact on reward choice – what are the dynamics observed in organizational performance when employees are given an opportunity to have a say on their pay? According to the authors, there is a close correlation between reward choice and performance. In organizations where employees have the freedom to determine their remuneration packages, Caza, McCarter, and Northcraft (2015) observed heightened employee motivation and high organizational performance.

Overall, Caza, McCarter, and Northcraft (2015) contend that the traditional reward system, which was characterized by fixed pay, has proved ineffective over time. As such, they observe two benefits associated with reward choice. First, the organization, through its HRM department, can control costs by providing only focusing on rewards that are highly valued by employees. To a significant extent, the study shows that this helps to reduce costs on employee rewards (Caza, McCarter, and Northcraft 2015).

Second, the authors discovered a positive change in employee performance and attitudes towards their work. Consequently, the authors note that most organizations in the United States and other parts of the world have adopted the reward choice system. This clearly shows that there is a sense in which reward choice can trigger employee motivation and ultimate job satisfaction.

Despite its benefits, Caza, McCarter, and Northcraft (2015) have a reservation on the reward system. The authors argue from the perspective of procedural justice and posit that reward choice does not always translate into improved performance when the employees’ suggestions are overlooked by HR practitioners. Whenever this happens, employees develop a negative attitude towards the organization, and a lack of trust ensues between the employees and the management, thus leading to strained relations between the two groups of stakeholders. In the end, the performance of the organization deteriorates.

This is an important aspect to consider in the present case study because of Melissa’s managerial position as an expatriate at the Doha office. While preparing Melissa for the mission in Qatar, the HRM department must take into cognizance the issue link between reward and performance.

Recruitment and Selection

One of the primary responsibilities of HR practitioners is to undertake recruitment and selection processes on behalf of the organization. Recruitment involves attracting qualified applicants for vacant positions in the company. Once the applications have been received, the next step is to scrutinize and shortlist those who have the best qualifications, experience, and skills to fill the position (Ekwoaba, Ikeije & Ufoma 2015).

The HR department then conducts oral or written interviews to interrogate the competency of the potential employees. Different organizations have their own styles of interviewing prospective employees. For example, while some companies perform just a single interview, others conduct several before zeroing down on the best choice. This is the selection process. HR practitioners select employees who are best suited to contribute positively to the organization’s agenda. Apart from academic qualifications, and depending on the nature of the job in question, the management looks at many other attributes of the prospective employee, such as their confidence and communication skills (Ekwoaba, Ikeije & Ufoma 2015). They also investigate the interviewee’s attitude towards the organization.

Melissa being an assistant manager at her new workstation, will be needed to oversee the recruitment and selection of new employees whenever the need shall arise. The important thing to note, however, is that there is a lot of cultural and gender diversity in the Doha office. Therefore, the HRM should begin by enlightening the expatriate on the best practices as far as the two aspects are concerned. The issue of gender parity in the organization seems to be wanting because only 30% of the 50 employees in her department are female.

One study by Pinto, Patanakul, and Pinto (2017), reveals that there is a lot of gender bias that comes to life in organizations during the selection and performance appraisal activities, such as promotions. In particular, the study observes that women are the most vulnerable when it comes to mistreatment at the workplace. Melissa’s task in this respect is to ensure gender equality so that women are given as many opportunities as men to develop their careers.

The issue concept of recruitment and selection is pivotal to the success of HRM practices in the organization. While writing in the Journal of Work, Employment, and Society, Noon (2018) argues that there are many biases and racist behavior that go unnoticed in many organizations, but the whose impact can be detrimental to aggregate performance.

Employee Motivation and Retention

Lastly, it is worth noting that all the above concepts revolve around the aspect of employee motivation and retention. This denotes that all HRM efforts – recruitment and selection, training and development, and reward and performance management – are geared towards boosting the morale of employees and retaining the best-performing ones. Retention is determined by the satisfaction level of employees.

The aftermath of a motivated workforce is a commitment to their roles in the organization. Ultimately, the organization can achieve its goals. The aspect of employee motivation is important for Melissa’s mission in Doha because 50% of the staff are from Europe and the USA. As such, some may want to quit due to challenges such as culture clashes and language barriers. This makes it essential to maintain good employee relations.

While writing on the contestations existing on the role of social media in employment relations, McDonald and Thompson (2016) discovered that social media could have a detrimental impact on an organization if it is not used properly. Some of the issues that the authors allude to include the use of social media during working hours and revealing the secrets of the organization on social media. Whereas the media sector makes good use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to pass information to many internet users (CIPD Report 2017), the ethical conduct of employees must be considered to safeguard the reputation of the company.

In general, one of Melissa’s roles at the Doha office will include addressing such contentious issues in a holistic manner that does not compromise the workplace relations, and resourceful workers are retained in the company. Therefore, the company’s HR department should consider highlighting the issue of motivation and retention during the expatriation process.


To sum it all, it is now apparent that HRM plays a critical role in expatriation. The mandate of the department does not seize, although the employee moves to a foreign land. The aim of this paper was to give insight into the duty of HRM in preparing an expatriate for an overseas assignment. Four broad HRM concepts that be considered by the management are discussed. These include recruitment and selection, training, reward and performance, and motivation and retention. With reference to scholarship work, the paper infers that fair and recruitment processes that are devoid of any form of bias are important in creating a motivated workforce.

Gender parity is a common practice that must be considered by management. Training equips both leaders with the necessary knowledge, skills, and attitudes to complete tasks. However, there is a need for training evaluation to ensure it is reflected in the organization’s financial performance. The reward system of an organization as well as the company’s policies on employee retention both contribute to enhancing motivation, satisfactory organizational and individual performance, and employee retention. Therefore, the above discussed are some of the issues Melissa must acquaint herself with as she takes up the Doha assignment.

Reference List

Caza, A, McCarter, MW & Northcraft, GB. 2015. ‘Performance benefits of reward choice: a procedural justice perspective’, Human Resource Management Journal, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 184-199.

CIPD Report. 2017. The future of technology and learning. Web.

Dabic, M, González-Loureiro, M & Harvey, M. 2015. ‘Evolving research on expatriates: what is ‘known’ after four decades (1970–2012)’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 316-337.

Ekwoaba, JO, Ikeije, UU & Ufoma, N. 2015. ‘The impact of recruitment and selection criteria on organizational performance’, Global Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 22-23.

Gerhart, B & Fang, M. 2014. Pay for (individual) performance: issues, claims, evidence and the role of sorting effects. Human Resource Management Review, vol. 24, no. 1, pp. 41-52.

Ho, AD, Arendt, SW, Zheng, T & Hanisch, KA. 2016. ‘Exploration of hotel managers’ training evaluation practices and perceptions utilizing Kirkpatrick’s and Phillips’s models’. Journal of Human Resources in Hospitality & Tourism, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 184-208.

McDonald, P & Thompson, P. 2016. ‘Social media(tion) and the reshaping of public/private boundaries in employment relations’. International Journal of Management Reviews, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 69-84.

Noon, M. 2018. ‘Pointless diversity training: unconscious bias, new racism and agency’. Work, Employment and Society, vol. 32, no. 1, pp. 198-209.

Pinto, JK, Patanakul, P & Pinto, MB. 2017. ‘The aura of capability: gender bias in selection for a project manager job’. International Journal of Project Management, vol. 35. no. 3, pp. 420-431.

Rodriguez, JK & Scurry, T. 2014. ‘Career capital development of self-initiated expatriates in Qatar: cosmopolitan globetrotters, experts and outsiders’, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 25, no. 7, pp. 1046-1067.

Saridakis, G, Lai, Y & Cooper, CL. 2017. ‘Exploring the relationship between HRM and firm performance: a meta-analysis of longitudinal studies’, Human Resource Management Review, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 87-96.

Snape, E & Redman, T. 2010. ‘HRM practices, organizational citizenship behavior, and performance: a multi‐level analysis’, Journal of Management Studies, vol. 47, no. 7, pp. 1219-1247.

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