doctoral thesis
The role of expatriate managers in multinational companies reverse knowledge transfer

Davor Vlajčić (2015)
Sveučilište u Zagrebu
Ekonomski fakultet
Metadata
TitleThe role of expatriate managers in multinational companies reverse knowledge transfer
AuthorDavor Vlajčić
Mentor(s)Marina Dabić
Abstract
Knowledge is recognized as a crucial company asset and a competitive advantage both by classical and contemporary management and international business literature (Grant, 1996; Kogut & Zander, 1993; Rugman & Verbeke, 2001; Tallman & Phene, 2007; Tseng, 2009). In a time when physical resources are limited, approaches to increasing companies’ performance and efficiency depend on restructuring and reconfiguring companies’ technological processes and successful knowledge management. This is additionally driven by the development of global business activities. Effective knowledge management is thus currently a crucial concern of companies worldwide, and the topic of the thesis is one of its important elements, knowledge transfer, pertinent especially for multinational enterprises. As the study of knowledge is necessarily interdisciplinary, this doctoral thesis combines two research fields, business and human resource management, and presents the findings from both. Despite the fact that in real life these topics are highly intertwined, academic literature often presents them separately. Knowledge and innovations are placed high in the Republic of Croatia development strategy (Ministry of Economy, 2014), aiming to transform it into a knowledge based economy. Croatia is a small country with unfavorable infrastructure, which slows down the transition of Croatia to knowledge based economy and make it partly dependent on foreign involvement. In transition economies which lack own knowledge resources, foreign investments are usually accompanied by knowledge transfers. The thesis tried to establish the existence of a similar process in Croatia, looking specifically at expat managers of multinational enterprises as drivers of knowledge transfer. The thesis starts with an introduction, followed by a theoretical overview which sets the research framework, and is divided into three chapters. The second chapter deals with various definitions and taxonomies of knowledge, after establishing that there is no one definition of knowledge nor general agreement on the framework in which it should be studied. The working definition offered in this thesis, of knowledge as a precursor (Yang et al., 2008) to know-how and capabilities that refer to a firm’s capacity to deploy resources to affect a desired end, is explained. The third chapter focuses on multinational companies as knowledge repositories. It is explained why this thesis adopts the network perspective on the MNC, observing it as a set of different units operating around the world, where differentiation across units of the network allows them to achieve the goals of efficiency and innovation. According to this perspective, as argued by Yamin & Andersson (2011), MNCs’ knowledge resides in units’ internal and external network, and depends on the level of unit embeddedness. Knowledge bases of MNC units differ, which creates space for intra-organizational knowledge transfer. Knowledge flows in both directions: from parents to subsidiaries, as well as from subsidiaries to the parent; the latter type of knowledge transfer is usually termed the reverse knowledge transfer. Extensive overview of literature on expatriate managers, as well as factors affecting them while transferring knowledge, is provided in the fourth chapter. Bibliometric research on knowledge transfer using expatriate managers is discussed, and it is shown that last five years indicate a growing number of articles on knowledge transfer using expatriate managers. This thesis consists of two research questions elaborated through five hypotheses. The first research question arises from the network perspective on MNCs and tests the existence of a bi-directional knowledge flow. MNCs are observed as networks of geographically dispersed units where differentiation across units of the network allows them to achieve the goals of efficiency and innovation (Foss et al., 2012), which implies the necessity of mutual knowledge exchange. The second research question focuses on the role of expatriate managers as a mechanism of knowledge transfer. It is based on the `state of the art` approach in explaining intra-organizational knowledge flow, emphasizing international assignees’ competences (Chang et al., 2012) as a main instrument for increasing multinational companies’ global competence. While providing valuable insights into the reverse knowledge transfer process and the role of expatriate managers in it, this thesis also met some limitations. It looked at all MNC subsidiaries operating in the Republic of Croatia, disregarding the differences in industries in developing the measurement instrument. The number of expatriate managers in the Republic of Croatia is relatively small and decreasing, which affected the sample size. The methodological approach used in this thesis was cross-sectional, primarily due to the limitations in time and funding, while a longitudinal approach would be better suited for studying the knowledge transfer, which is a time consuming process. The thesis presents the first study of this type done in the Republic of Croatia and describing the relationship between expatriate managers competences, reverse knowledge transfer and knowledge characteristics. Using the model discussed above, it provides an extensive and comprehensive overview of the nature of expatriates assigned to the Republic of Croatia, as well as their role in knowledge flow in Croatian subsidiaries of multinational companies. The contribution of this thesis goes beyond the development and empirical research of a conceptual model of intra-organizational knowledge transfer. The research emphasizes the importance of globalization and standardization of knowledge market. In addition, subsidiaries are offered insight into expatriate managers’ importance, which provides basis for an appropriate strategy of efficient knowledge management in MNCs. Finally, this thesis opens up space for new research in the field of knowledge management in multinational companies not only in the Republic of Croatia, but also in transition countries in general.
Parallel title (Croatian)Uloga menadžera iseljenika u povratnom transferu znanja u multinacionalnim poduzećima
Committee MembersLjubo Jurčić (committee chairperson)
Zoran Krupka (committee member)
Marli Gonan Božac (committee member)
GranterSveučilište u Zagrebu
Ekonomski fakultet
PlaceZagreb
StateCroatia
Scientific field, discipline, subdisciplineSOCIAL SCIENCES
Economics
International Economics
UDK330
SOCIAL SCIENCES
Economics. Economic science
Study programme typeuniversity
Study levelpostgraduate
Study programmeEconomics and Business Economics
Academic title abbreviationdr. sc.
Genredoctoral thesis
Language English
Defense date2015-06-17
Parallel abstract (English)
Znanje je prepoznato kao ključni faktor konkurentske prednosti od strane klasične i suvremene literature međunarodnog poslovanja (Grant, 1996; Kogut & Zander, 1993; Rugman & Verbeke, 2001; Tallman & Phene, 2007; Tseng, 2009.). U vrijeme kada su fizički resursi ograničeni, unaprijeđenije performansi i učinkovitost poduzeća ovisi o restrukturiranju i preustroju tehnoloških procesa poduzeća kao i o uspješnom upravljanju znanjem. Učinkovito upravljanje znanjem stoga trenutno predstavlja ključni interes poduzeća diljem svijeta, a tema ove disertacije je jedan od krucijalnih elemenata upravljanja znanjem, prijenos znanja. Kako je u proučavanju znanja nužan interdisciplinaran pristup, ova doktorska disertacija spaja dva područja istraživanja, međunarodno poslovanje i upravljanje ljudskim resursima, te predstavlja rezultate iz oba. Unatoč činjenici da su u stvarnom životu ove teme često isprepletene, akademska literatura nerijetko ih prikazuje odvojeno. Znanje i inovacije postavljene su vrlo visoko na listi prioriteta u strategiji razvoja Republike Hrvatske (Ministarstvo gospodarstva, 2014). Cilj je da se Republika Hrvatska u što kraćem roku transformira u gospodarstvu utemeljenom na znanju. Republika Hrvatska je mala zemlja s nepovoljnim infrastrukturu, što uvelike usporava prijelaz na gospodarstvo temeljeno na znanju, i čini ga dijelom ovisnim o stranim ulaganjima. U tranzicijskim zemljama koje nemaju vlastite resurse znanja, strane investicije su obično popraćena transferom znanja. Ova disertacija pokušava utvrditi postojanje sličnog postupka u Republici Hrvatskoj, sa posebnim naglaskom na menadžere iseljenike unutar multinacionalnih poduzeća kao pokretače prijenosa znanja. Disertacija počinje uvodom, slijedi teorijski pregled koji je podijeljen u tri poglavlja. Drugo poglavlje se bavi raznim definicijama i taksonomijama znanja, te se u navedenom poglavlju dolazi do zaključka kako ne postoji jedna opće prihvaćena definicija znanja. Treće poglavlje fokusira se na multinacionalna poduzeća kao repozitorij znanja. U navedenom poglavlju objašnjava se kako ova disertacije prihvaća sve rašireniju mrežnu perspektivu, koja definira multinacionalno poduzeće kao skup različitih jedinica koje posluju diljem svijeta, gdje diferencijacija po jedinicama mreže omogućuje da se postignu ciljeve učinkovitosti i inovacija. Mrežna perspektiva naglašava kako znanje multinacionalnih poduzeća boravi u jedinicama "unutarnje i vanjske“ mreže, a ovisi o tome koliko je jedinica dobro uklopljena u okolinu. Baze znanja unutar jedinica multinacionalnog poduzeća se razlikuju, što stvara prostor za unutar-organizacijski prijenos znanja. Znanje teče u oba smjera, od središnjice u podružnicama, kao i iz podružnica do središnjice; potonji tip prijenosa znanja obično se naziva obratni prijenos znanja te je upravo proučavanje njega cilj ove disertacije. Opsežan pregled literature o menadžerima iseljenicima, kao i čimbenike koji utječu na njih, nalazi se u četvrtom poglavlju. Bibliometrijsko istraživanja o prijenosu znanja pomoću menadžera iseljenika ukazuje na značajan rast broja istraživanja u posljednjih pet godina. Ova disertacija sastoji se od dva temeljna istraživačka pitanja razrađena kroz pet hipoteza. Prvo istraživačko pitanje iz odnosi se na postojanje dvosmjernog protoka znanja. Multinacionalno poduzeće može se promatrati kao mreža geografski raspršenih jedinica gdje diferencijacija po jedinicama mreže omogućuje postizanje ciljeva učinkovitosti i inovacije (Foss i sur., 2012), što podrazumijeva nužnost međusobne razmjene znanja. Drugo istraživačko pitanje fokusira se na ulogu menadžera iseljenika kao mehanizma prijenosa znanja. Ono se temelji na `state of the art` pristupu u objašnjavanju unutar-organizacijskog protoka znanja, ističući kompetencije menadžera iseljenika (Chang i sur., 2012), kao glavni instrument za povećanje globalnih kompetencija multinacionalnih poduzeća. Iako pruža vrijedne uvide o procesu obrnutog prijenosa znanja te o ulozi menadžera iseljenika u navedenom procesu, ovaj se rad također susreće sa nekim ograničenjima. Naime, ovo istraživanje nije uspjelo načiniti razlike između pripadnosti različitim industrijskim granama. Broj menadžera iseljenika u Republici Hrvatskoj je relativno mali te se ubrzano smanjuje, što je utjecalo na veličinu uzorka. Korišten je `cross section` metodološki pristup, prvenstveno zbog ograničenja u vremenu i financiranju, a smatra se kako bi `longitudianlni` pristup bio bolje prilagođen za proučavanje prijenos znanja, što bi učinilo proces dugotrajnijim i skupljim. Ova doktorska disertacija predstavlja prvu studiju ove vrste učinjenu na prostorima RH i opisuje odnos između kompetencija menadžera iseljenika, obrnutog prijenos znanja i karakteristika znanja. Koristeći gore spomenut model, ona pruža opsežan i sveobuhvatan pregled menadžera iseljenika u Republici Hrvatskoj, kao i njihovu ulogu u protoku znanja u podružnicama multinacionalnih tvrtki u Republici Hrvatskoj. Doprinos ovog rada nadilazi razvoj i empirijsko istraživanja konceptualnog modela unutar organizacijskog prijenos znanja. Istraživanje naglašava važnost globalizacije i standardizacije tržišta znanja. Osim toga, podružnice dobivaju uvid u značaj menadžera iseljenika, koji pružaju temelj za odgovarajuću strategiju učinkovitog upravljanja znanjem u multinacionalnim poduzećima. Konačno, ova teza otvara prostor za nova istraživanja u području upravljanja znanjem u multinacionalnim poduzećima, ne samo u Republici Hrvatskoj, nego i u ostalim tranzicijskim zemljama.
Parallel keywords (Croatian)multinational company subsidiary reverse knowledge transfer expatriate managers knowledge multinacionalno poduzeće podružnica obrnuti transfer znanja menadžeri iseljenici znanje
Versionaccepted version
Resource typetext
Access conditionAccess restricted to students and staff of home institution
Terms of usehttp://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/
Noteaccepted version
URN:NBNhttps://urn.nsk.hr/urn:nbn:hr:148:537367
CommitterSilvana Brozović