Knowledge Transfer Across Types of Assignments: Case study of an International Oil Company

Amal. M. Jawad


The principal objective of this paper is to explore how using different sorts of international assignments (short-term expatriation, long-term expatriation, short-term inpatriation) enable the headquarters (HQ) and ancillary branches to transfer an assortment of knowledge types (procedural, declarative, axiomatic, and relational knowledge) from the HQ to their ancillaries, through the period of assignment. The current study used a qualitative approach based on the data collection strategy of semi-structured interviews with 20 partakers with standings of international assignment (IA). The content analysis methodology was managed to analyze and codify the interviews. The findings reveal that every single kind of assignment acts as a special knowledge transfer situation. The principal benefaction of our study is that it delivered a more precise understanding of international assignments as knowledge transfer situations than any research in precedence. While the contributions of this study have been salient, certain limitations pave the way for extensive research possibilities. To begin with, this paper lays emphasis on a large organisation in the Oil and Gas sector in three countries, UK (the HQ), Oman and UAE, which limits generalization of the findings. The paper reviews the implications of selecting IA to transfer the various types of knowledge. We achieve this by distinguishing the knowledge convey role of international assignments across different types of assignments, types of knowledge, and the direction and timing of knowledge transfer through or following the international assignment. First this paper is necessary to analyze the success of knowledge transfer and IA and ascertain their application. To the best of our knowledge, this research one of the rare studies that include the engineer’s perspective in the global Oil and Gas sector. This umbrella approach aids in better understanding IA and knowledge transfer.

Full Text:



Al Ariss, A., Cascio, W. F., & Paauwe, J. (2014). Talent management: Current theories and future research directions. Journal of World Business, 49(2), 173-179.

Anderson, J. R. (1976). Language, memory, and thought. Lawrence Erlbaum.

Anderson, J. R. (1995). Cognitive psychology and its implications, 4th edition. W.H. Freeman and Company: New York.

Antal, A. B. (2000). Types of knowledge gained by expatriate managers. Journal of General Management, 26(2), 32-51.

Barner-Rasmussen, W., Ehrnrooth, M., Koveshnikov, A., & Makela, K. (2014). Cultural and language skills as resources for boundary spanning within the MNC. Journal of International Business Studies, 45(7), 886-905.

Black, J. S., Gregersen, H. B., & Mendenhall, M. E. (1992). Global Assignments. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bonache, J., & Brewster, C. (2001). Knowledge transfer and the management of expatriation. Thunderbird International Business Review, 43(1), 145-168.<145::AID-TIE9>3.0.CO;2-7

Brewster, C., & Suutari, V. (2005). Global HRM: aspects of a research agenda. Personnel Review, 34(1), 5-21.

Cao, J., Pan, X., & Tian, G. (2012). Disproportional ownership structure and pay-performance relationship: Evidence from China’s listed firms. Journal of Corporate Finance, 17(3), 541-54.

Chang, Y.-Y., Gong, Y., & Peng, M. W. (2012). Expatriate knowledge transfer, subsidiary absorptive capacity, and subsidiary performance. Academy of Management Journal, 55(2), 927-948.

Choi, S. G., & Johanson, J. (2012). Knowledge translation through expatriates in international knowledge transfer. International Business Review, 21(2012), 1148-1157.

Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1990). Absorptive capacity: A new perspective on learning and innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 35(1), 128-152.

Collings, D. G., & Isichei, M. (2017). The shifting boundaries of global staffing: Integrating global talent management, alternative forms of international assignments and nonemployees into the discussion. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 29(1), 165-187.

Collings, D. G., McDonnell, A., Gunnigle, P., & Lavelle, J. (2010). Swimming against the tide: Outward staffing flows from multinational subsidiaries. Human Resource Management.

Duviviera, F., Peetersb, C., Harzing, A. W. (2019). Not all international assignments are created equal: HQ-subsidiary knowledge transfer patterns across types of assignments and types of knowledge. Journal of World Business.

Edström, A., & Galbraith, J. R. (1977). Transfer of managers as a control and coordination strategy in multinational organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 22(2), 248-263.

Edström, A., & Galbraith, J. R. (1977a). Transfer of managers as a control and coordination strategy in multinational organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 22(June), 11-22.

Edström, A., & Galbraith, J. R. (1977b). Alternative policies for international transfers of managers. Management International Review, 17(2), 11-22 (also reprinted in 34(1), special issue, p.71-82).

Fang, R., Jiang, G.-L. F., Makino, S., & Beamish, P. W. (2010). Multinational firm knowledge, use of expatriates, and foreign subsidiary performance. Journal of Management Studies, 47(1), 27-54.

Groutsis, D., & Arnold, P. C. (2012). Tracking the career decisions and experience of migrant elites: The case of South African-trained medical professionals in the Australian labour market, Health Sociology Review, 21(3), 332-42.

Harvey, M. G., Speier, C., & Novicevic, M. M. (2000). Strategic global human resource management. The role of inpatriate managers. Human Resource Management Review, 10(2), 153-75.

Harvey, M., Reiche, B. S., & Moeller, M. (2011). Developing effective global relationships through staffing with inpatriate managers: The role of interpersonal trust. Journal of International Management, 17(2), 150-161.

Harvey, M., Speier, C., & Novicevic, M. (1999). The role of inpatriation in global staffing. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 10(3), 459-476.

Harzing, A. W. (2001a). Of bears bees and spiders: The role of expatriates in controlling foreign subsidiaries. Journal of World Business, 36(4), 366-379.

Harzing, A. W. (2001b). An analysis of the functions of international transfer of managers in MNCs. Employee Relations, 23(6), 581-598.

Harzing, A. W. (2004). Composing and international staff. In Harzing, A. W., & van Ruysseveldt, J. (eds), International human resource management (pp. 251-282), (2nd ed.). London: Sage.

Harzing, A. W., Pudelko, M., & Sebastian Reiche, B. S. (2016). The bridging role of expatriates and inpatriates in knowledge transfer in multinational corporations. Human Resource Management, 55(4), 679-695.

Haslberger, A., Brewster, C., & Hippler, T. (2014). Managing performance abroad: A new model for understanding expatriate adjustment. Routledge.

Hocking, J. B., Brown, M. E., & Harzing, A. W. (2007). Balancing global and local strategic contexts: Expatriate knowledge transfer, applications and learning within a transnational organization. Human Resource Management, 46(4), 513-533.

Hocking, J. B., Brown, M., & Harzing, A. W. (2004). A knowledge transfer perspective of strategic assignment purposes and their path-dependent outcomes. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 15(3), 565-586.

Kogut, B., & Zander, U. (1993). Knowledge of the firm and the evolutionary theory of the multinational corporation. Journal of International Business Studies, 24(4), 625-645.

Kostova, T., & Roth, K. (2003). Social capital in multinational corporations and a micro macro model of its formation. Academy of Management Review journal, 28(2), 297-317.

Kühlmann, T., & Hutchings, K. (2010). Expatriate assignments vs localization of management in China: Staffing choices of Australian and German companies. Career Development International, 15(1), 20-38.

Kumar, J., & Ganesh, L. S. (2009). Research on knowledge transfer in organizations: A morphology. Journal of Knowledge Management, 13(4), 161-174.

Lagerström, K., & Andersson, M. (2003). Creating and sharing knowledge within a transnational team—The development of a global business system. Journal of World Business, 38(2), 84-95.

Lazarova, M., & Tarique, I. (2005). Knowledge transfer upon repatriation. Journal of World Business, 40(4), 361-373.

Mäkelä, K. (2007). Knowledge sharing through expatriate relationships: A social capital perspective. International Studies of Management & Organization, 37(3), 108-125.

Mäkelä, K., & Brewster, C. (2009). Interunit interaction contexts, interpersonal social capital, and the differing levels of knowledge sharing. Human Resource Management journal, 48(4), 591-613.

McNulty, Y. (2016). Why expatriate compensation will change how we think about global talent management. Global talent management and staffing in MNEs. Emerald Group Publishing Limited125-150.

McNulty, Y., & Brewster, C. (2017). Theorizing the meaning (s) of ‘expatriate’: Establishing boundary conditions for business expatriates. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 28(1), 27-61.

McNulty, Y., & Brewster, C. (2017). Theorizing the meaning (s) of ‘expatriate’: Establishing boundary conditions for business expatriates. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 28(1), 27-61.

Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: A sourcebook. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.

Mockaitis, A. I., Zander, L., & De Cieri, H. (2018). ‘The benefits of global teams for international organizations: HR implications. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 18(1), 1-22.

Moeller, M., & Reiche, B. S. (2017). Inpatriates. A review, synthesis and outlook of two decades of research. In Y. McNulty and J. Selmer (eds), Research Handbook of Expatriates (pp. 218-240). USA: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Moeller, M., Harvey, M. G., & Williams, W. A. (2010). Socialization of inpatriate managers to the headquarters of global organizations. A social learning perspective. Human Resource Development Review, 9(2), 169-93.

Moeller, M., Maley, J., Harvey, M., & Kiessling, T. (2015). Global talent management and inpatriate social capital building: a status inconsistency perspective, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 27(9), 991-1012.

Neff, K., D., & Seppala, E. (2012). Compassion, Well-Being, and the Hypoegoic Self. In K. W. Brown & M. Leary (Eds), Oxford Handbook of Hypo-egoic Phenomena: Theory and Research on the Quiet Ego. Oxford University Press.

Nonaka, I. (1994). A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation. Organization Science, 5(1), 14-37.

Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge-creating company: How Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation (pp. 663-673). Oxford University Press.

Ohlsson, S. (1993). The interaction between knowledge and practice in the acquisition of cognitive skills. In S. Chipman & A. L. Meyrowitz (Eds.), Foundations of knowledge acquisition: Cognitive models of complex learning (pp. 147-208). Boston: Kluwer.

Ohlsson, S. (1996). Learning from performance errors. Psychological Review, 103(2), 241-262.

Paulin, D., & Suneson, K. (2012). Knowledge transfer, knowledge sharing and knowledge barriers-three blurry terms in KM. The Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management, 10(1), 81-91.

Pinto, L. H., Cabral-Cardoso, & Werther, W. B. (2012). Compelled to go abroad: motives and outcomes of international assignments, International assignments, International Journal of Human Resource Management, 23(11), 2295-313.

Reiche, B. S. (2006). The inpatriate experience in multinational corporations: An exploratory case study in Germany. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 17(9), 1572-1590.

Reiche, B. S. (2011). Knowledge transfer in multinationals: The role of inpatriates’ boundary spanning. Human Resource Management, 50(3), 365-389.

Reiche, B. S. (2012). Knowledge benefits of social capital upon repatriation: A longitudinal study of international assignees. Journal of Management Studies, 49(6), 1052-1077.

Reiche, B. S., Harzing, A. W., & Kraimer, M. L. (2009). The role of international assignees’ social capital in creating inter-unit intellectual capital: A cross-level model. Journal of International Business Studies, 40(2009), 509-526.

Reiche, B. S., Kraimer, M. L., & Harzing, A. W. (2011). Why do international assignees stay? An organizational embeddedness perspective. Journal of International Business Studies, 42(4), 521-544.

Sackmann, S. A. (1992). Culture and subcultures: An analysis of organizational knowledge. Administrative Science Quarterly, 27(3), 140-161.

Salamin, X., & Hanappi, D. (2014). "Women and international assignments", Journal of Global Mobility, 2(3), 343 - 374.

Salleh, N. M., & Koh, J. (2013). Analysing the functions of short-term expatriate assignments. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 107(2013), 34-42.

Salleh, N. M., & Nankervis, A. (2015). Non-traditional expatriate assignments in the Asia- Pacific: Characteristics & challenges. Human Resource Management Research, 5(1), 1-11.

Sanchez, R., & Heene, A. (1996). Strategic learning and knowledge management. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Schuler, R. S., Dowling, P. J., & De Cieri, H. (1993). An integrative framework of strategic international human resource management. Journal of Management, 19(2), 419-459.

Sedlmayer, S. (2009). Expatriates-Eine kritische Betrachtung aus organisationaler Perspektive (Doctoral dissertation, Thesis at Universitates der Bundeswehr Muenchen).

Shaffer, M. A., & Harrison, D. A. (1998). Expatriates' psychological withdrawal from international assignments: Work, nonwork, and family influences. Personnel Psychology, 51(1), 87-118.

Squire, L. R. (1987). Memory and Brain. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Suutari, V., Brewster, C., Riusala, K., & Syrjäkari, S. (2013). Managing non-standard international experience: Evidence from a Finnish company. Journal of Global Mobility, 1(2), 118-138.

Szulanski, G. (2000). The process of knowledge transfer: A diachronic analysis of stickiness. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 82(1), 9-27.

Szulanski, G., Cappetta, R., & Jensen, R. J. (2004). When and how trustworthiness matters: Knowledge transfer and the moderating effect of causal ambiguity. Organization Science, 15(5), 600-613.

Tahvanainen, M., Welch, D., & Worm, V. (2005). Implications of short-term international assignments. European Management Journal, 23(6), 663-673.

Winograd, T. (1975). Computer memories: A metaphor for memory organization. In C.N. Cofer (Ed.), The structure of human memory (pp. 133-161). San Francisco: Freeman.

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods, Vol. 5. London: Sage Publications.

Zaheer, S. (1995). Overcoming the liability of foreignness. Academy of Management Journal, 38(2), 341-363.


Copyright (c) 2020 Amal. M. Jawad

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

International Journal of Human Resource Studies  ISSN 2162-3058


Copyright © Macrothink Institute  

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.