Self-Initiated Expatriates - Disloyal Adventurers or Misunderstood Heroes?
China is growing as an economic power leading to more and more foreign organizations taking the opportunity of its future potential and hence opening up their subsidies there. Companies nowadays, have several options when it comes to what type of workforce they should recruit. Self-Initiated Expatriates (SIEs) are a growing group in the international workforce who goes to work in another country on their own initiative as compared to the traditional expatriates that are sent by companies. Our literature research indicated that SIEs are perceived as a group of people who lack organizational commitment and tend to switch jobs often, which makes organizations reluctant to employ and invest in them.Inspired by this, we have a performed a study, which investigated SIEs’ experiences in China. The purpose of the study was to develop recommendations for organizations on how to better leverage SIEs as human resource. To fulfill the purpose of our thesis, we conducted a qualitative study, where we interviewed ten Westerners who currently had a job or previously had been employed in China. Our empirical findings revealed that SIEs perceive themselves as developing better cross-cultural skills and improving their language proficiency more than traditional expatriates as well as being much cheaper to employ. They do however need challenges, freedom and career development possibilities in order to stay satisfied. The failure to provide these from the company side results in them quitting their job or if the costs of quitting are too high, they stay on but performing only what they absolutely have to. As for the existing definitions, we found that a definition that only includes individuals with clear plans of return is not suitable since some SIEs have a “for now” mindset and only considering SIEs who intend to leave in the near future might lead to an overrepresentation of “failed” SIEs in the population. A more suitable definition should allow for less definite plans for staying in the host country.
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