[su_pullquote align=”right”]By Akram Al Ariss[/su_pullquote]
In order to win points in the global search for talents, companies had better create a human resources policy that is attractive to self-initiated expatriates. Akram Al Ariss, research professor at Toulouse Business School, has carried out a review of scientific research on this important subject.
The scale of international migrations has been steadily increasing for many years: from 214 million in 2010, the number of people living outside their country of origin has risen to 232 million and may well increase again by 96 million people between now and 2050 according to United Nations estimates. Until now, the potential use of highly skilled talents from this population by organizations has not been paid much attention by researchers. The human resource management literature on this topic refers to these talents as ‘self-initiated expatriates’. Therefore, we use this term in the rest of this article.
A talent pool of self-initiated expatriates
Highly skilled talents who undertake an international mobility are a pool of human resources that could give host countries and companies a competitive edge in the global war for talents. This is especially the case with regard to self-initiated expatriates (SIEs) made up of individuals who have chosen to move of their own free will, and who are often highly qualified and experienced, with a rich linguistic and cultural background. But dipping into this pool first requires identifying, recruiting, developing, and retaining them as staff while satisfying their ambitions. In order to do so, companies need to devise and implement a specially-tailored Human Resources strategy.
This is particularly important for companies which are expanding internationally. For cost reasons, the classic pattern of expatriation of their employees with concomitant salary bonuses and various other benefits, has been replaced in the past few years by a more economical, “local plus” model, in which the employee resigns in order to be rehired under a local contract, with much less favorable conditions. But this system, which generates frustration and understandably dents staff motivation, often leads to a swift resignation, and is counterproductive. In reality, rather than the employee, it is the company that ends up losing in the long term: the saving is only illusory, since the “local plus” strategy creates a detrimental turnover of employees, leading to a brain drain in the company and damages its image in the eyes of potential expatriate candidates. The recruitment of self-initiated expatriates is undoubtedly an interesting way out of this impasse. Since they are already expatriates for non-professional reasons, they will more readily accept to work at local market conditions.
Removing obstacles to their professional integration
The question actually applies to every business: how to target and reach those with high added value individuals? One answer could be by simply taking into account their specific needs. The situation varies according to their experience as well as their countries of origin and host countries. Nevertheless, studies have shown that SIEs face a number of barriers and obstacles that limit their opportunities for integration in their host organizations and societies. Among the most commonly cited, we find the immigration policies of states, particularly regarding visas and work permits, recognition or not of qualifications and professional experience, barriers related to language proficiency and communication codes and, more insidiously, discrimination and stereotypes of all kinds. These difficulties are also exacerbated when it comes to women, who nowadays make up one out of two self-initiated expatriates. A company’s first responsibility is to recognize these obstacles and then help self-initiated expatriates to find a way round or overcome them in order to facilitate recruitment and enable them to find jobs matching their skills.
A differentiated HR strategy
Human resource (HR) managers’ strategy plays an essential role in two specific ways: through adapting their organizational recruitment and selection procedures, on the one hand, and through providing cultural training and development opportunities to these self-initiated expatriates, on the other. In terms of recruitment, HR practices must adapt to this expatriate population, not only to avoid excluding it (for example by neglecting its preferred communication channels or requiring local professional experience that, by definition, it cannot have), but also to attract it (for example by not restricting the job offer to a technical description of the proposed job but giving in addition general information on life opportunities linked to the job). For the company, the main benefit of this proactive and differentiated approach is not to miss out on this highly skilled labor.
The second priority is to encourage them to stay with the company by facilitating their integration and cultural adaptation. Research cannot provide a comprehensive and definitive answer as to why an SIE remains in a job, especially as these reasons may vary from country to country. However, HR management should strive to understand the motivating factors in order to implement appropriate development and retention solutions.
These are only a few indicators from research results. The development of a relevant HR strategy tailored for self-initiated expatriates is essential in any case. Of course, whatever happens, it’s a win-win policy for expatriates themselves, for whom the choice of mobility is then crowned with success, but equally for companies who manage to attract the best candidates, thus giving them a decisive advantage in global competition. Indeed, the international workforce is a source of diversity, creativity and innovation. The winning companies will be those that are capable of looking beyond the various stereotypes, discrimination and obstacles, in order to tap into this worldwide flow of human resources.
This article written by Akram Al Ariss and articles on “self-initiated expatriation and migration in management literature,” co-authored with Marian Crowley-Henry (Department of Management, National University of Ireland Maynooth), published in Career Development International (2013); “Human resource management of international migrants: current theories and future research”, co-authored with Chun Guo (Department of Management, Sacred Heart University, Fairfiels, CT, USA), published in The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 2015.
Further Reading (books):
- Self-Initiated Expatriation : Individual, Organizational and National Perspectives, Akram Al Ariss, Routledge, 2013.
- Global Talent Management : Challenges, Strategies, and Opportunities, Akram Al Ariss, Springer, 2014.
[su_spoiler title=”Methodology”]In writing the two articles referenced above, Akram Al Ariss and his two co-authors conducted a systematic review of the scientific research conducted on the subject of self-initiated expatriation.[/su_spoiler]
[su_pullquote align=”right”]Par Pierre André Buigues[/su_pullquote]
France’s has had a foreign trade deficit since 2003 and the country’s share of the world export market is continuing to drop. France’s share of the export market went from 6.1% in 1995 to 5.1% in 2000. It then fell to 4.2% in 2006 and stood at just 3.5% in 2013. The automotive sector provides a good example of this French industrial decline. In 2003, France’s automotive sector had a trade surplus of €12.6 billion but this had turned into a €6.9 billion deficit by 2014!
Economists put the decline of French foreign trade down to a lack of competitiveness, due to both price and other reasons. In France, costs have tended to increase faster than productivity and the products are not perceived as giving sufficiently high ‘value for money’, particularly compared with products “Made in Germany”.
The French aeronautical sector is an exception to this trend; indeed, the sector has prevented the balance of trade deficit from plunging further. The aviation sector – both civil and military – and the space industry have posted a foreign trade surplus in excess of €23 billion over the last few years, representing the largest surpluses in the overall French balance of trade. France is the world’s second largest exporter in the aeronautical field, with 22% of the worldwide market, after the United States (35 %). Germany is the third largest exporter with 14% of the worldwide market. France has seen its market share increase by 8% in ten years, unlike the agri-food and automotive sectors.
Airbus’ exports represent the lion’s share of French exports. Airbus accounts for roughly 50% of French exports in the aeronautical sector. Table 1 below shows direct sales of new French-built aircraft to foreign airline companies and the shipments of turnkey A380 aircraft from France to Germany for subsequent deliveries from the Hamburg site, as well as the value in euros (€M) of these exports.
Table 1 – Airbus exports in terms of value (€) and numbers of aircraft
|Value in M€||Numbers of aircraft|
How has the French aeronautical sector remained successful amid the overall decline of French industry?
The aeronautical sector is an oligopoly characterised by heavy capital investment and products with advanced technology . As such, the cost of entering the market is extremely high. In France, the aeronautical sector represents around 4,000 companies and employs 320,000 people directly. The success of the French aeronautical sector is the result of an industrial strategy built on strong technological assets, strategic European alliances and strong political support:
- R&D and technological expertise which is among the best in the world thanks to the quality of engineering training in France (mastery of systems design and production, design offices, tests, assembly lines).
- Integration within a European consortium with international partnerships and added value resulting from the blending of industrial cultures.
- An efficient, well-structured national sector built around a limited number of aircraft manufacturers (Airbus, Dassault, Eurocopter), engine makers (Snecma and Turbomeca, belonging to the Safran Group), equipment manufacturers that supply complete sub-assemblies (Safran, Zodiac Aerospace, Thales, etc.) and major Tier-1 sub-contractors (Latécoère, etc.): Cf.:Strategic Committee for the Aeronautical Sector, July 2014.
However, a certain number of challenges lie ahead for the French aeronautical industry.
1- Asia accounts for an increasingly large part of the global air-transport market and a new manufacturer could enter the market to compete with the two powerhouses, namely Airbus and Boeing. Airbus forecasts that passenger traffic in China will exceed that of the United States within 20 years and China aims to take a share of the aeronautical sector. To develop its sales in China, Airbus decided to increase its purchases of Chinese components and to set up an A320 assembly plant in the country.
2- France plays a pivotal assembly role in Europe. The country imports parts and aeronautical equipment, essentially from Europe (foreign trade deficit) and exports complete aircraft (large foreign trade surplus). Complete aircraft account for over two thirds of French aeronautical exports. Delocalising the assembly of Airbus aircraft therefore has a negative impact on France’s balance of trade. At the same time, Germany is taking an increasingly important position in the European aeronautical sector, with a growing number of A320s being assembled on the site in Hamburg. This is Airbus’s best-selling aircraft, already assembled on several sites, in Toulouse, Hamburg, Tianjin (China) and, since 2015, in Mobile (USA).
3- Aeronautical R&D accounts for over €3 billion of investment in France every year. However, within Airbus itself, the question is being asked as to whether R&D leadership has shifted from France to Germany. At the beginning of the 2000s, the R&D expenditure of Airbus France was one and a half times greater than that of Airbus Germany. Ten years on, the R&D expenditure in Germany was 10% more than in France. To be more precise, Airbus Germany is responsible for a significant section of the fuselage of Airbus planes and for the cabins. In addition, Germany is the leader in terms of materials R&D, although France is still the R&D leader for certain key components, such as the cockpit, flight controls, navigation and traffic management.
4- The aeronautical and space industry is also one of the rare industrial sectors in which jobs are being created, and in which skilled jobs are predominant. Engineers and managers account for approximately 41% of all the jobs in the sector. However, the French education system is not able to supply the aeronautical sector with all the technicians, welders, and metal workers that it requires. For instance, small-and-medium-sized aeronautical sub-contractors have much greater problems recruiting the staff they need than Airbus.
5- Finally, the industry also carries significant risks, considering the investment required to launch a new aircraft. Indeed, there was a fear the A380 would not be a commercial success. Each new aircraft brought onto the market can also run into serious problems, as in the case of the A400M. Consequently, there is no guarantee of success.
[su_note note_color=”#f8f8f8″]By Pierre André Buigues, based on research by Elie COHEN and Pierre-André BUIGUES (2014) “Le décrochage industriel”, Fayard, pp 439, [978-2-213-68188-7]; Pierre-André BUIGUES and Denis LACOSTE (2011) “Stratégies d’Internationalisation des Entreprises Menaces et Opportunités”, De Boeck, pp 376. [978-2804162917][/su_note]
[su_pullquote align=”right”]By Gaël Gueguen[/su_pullquote]
Basing itself on results for Tour de France cyclists, this study shows that cultural differences between team members have no effect on performance, an observation which may also be valid, under certain conditions, for the workplace, where of the issue of diversity remains a subject of ongoing debate.
To what extent can one transpose certain well-known management concepts (such as team work, strategy, rivalry, etc.) to a sport, e. g. cycling, so as to better understand how it works, and, by extension, further our understanding of company life? A first attempt to answer that has been made in a study by Gaël Gueguen (assessed particularly in relation to the number of nationalities involved), that questions whether the cultural diversity of teams taking part in the Tour de France has an impact on their results.
Diversity as a risk for team unity
High level sport necessarily draws on the best resources, whether human or material. A high level team will seek out the best possible athletes for a given budget and thus attempt to recruit in the world market. In the case of the Tour de France, where the internationalization of teams has intensified in recent years, there was a notable reduction in the number of exclusively national teams entered by traditional ‘cycling’ countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands between 1987 et 2009, and a corresponding upswing in the number of teams comprising five and more different nationalities. This trend is continuing: in 2015 for the first time, a South African team included two Eritreans. This globalization of professional sport, however, is not without risk: cultural diversity can lead to coordination problems (problems of mutual understanding, for example, when different languages are spoken within a team) and have a negative effect on racers’ team spirit (differences in values or attitudes). This question is all the more crucial in cycling, a discipline where the vital need for sponsors and the international nature of competitions sometimes requires that foreign sportsmen be recruited simply because their countries are targeted by the sponsoring brands.
Cultural diversity has no negative impact on performance in cycling
Should we take care to only include sportsmen of similar cultures in high level teams, or can we drop the idea? Wouldn’t a group focused on a specific task requiring rare complementary resources and coordination in competitive situations (exceptional climbers, sprinters, ace cyclists, highly versatile leaders and so on) be weakened by too wide a diversity among its members? It would appear not. Cultural diversity has no impact on sports results. Cycling team coaches can select a cyclist for his worth regardless of nationality without worrying about strong cultural differences. A possible explanation for this is that the professionalism of cyclists and their managers compensates for any coordination problems. . Indeed, since everyone’s efforts are supervised and synchronized by a chief coach, the roles of all team members are clearly defined, and regular training also helps transform each cyclist’s tasks into a perfectly mastered routine.
From cycling to the world of business in a single step
A company is rarely made up of homogeneous human resources as regards gender, age, experience, nationality, salary, etc. Do such significant differences increase the performance of work teams or not? Analysis of studies on diversity in the workplace show contradictory results. Diversity of team members can in some cases, for example, increase creativity and improve decision-making (since the clash of different opinions can spark good ideas). In others, however, it can negatively affect unity, trust and communication with a corresponding increase in tension and conflict. Can the observation that diversity and performance in cycling appear not to be related, help us to better understand what is happening in the corporate context? No doubt, but only under certain conditions. The Tour de France competition is somewhat particular which makes it hard to generalize, firstly in that members of professional cycling teams are extremely specialized, and then that, in this most important cycling event, teams of only the nine best riders among the thirty-odd under contract compete with each other and not the entire group (which would, however, be the case for a company).
Nonetheless, the methodology used can easily be transposed for a study of the impact of cultural diversity in teams of top managers on the performance of multinationals. This is of interest now that more and more firms are diversifying their executive boards as they expand internationally. In a multinational company such as L’Oréal, for example, the recruitment of managers from different countries is considered to be the principal factor behind successful product-launches in emerging countries. To limit a ‘Tower of Babel syndrome’*, multicultural teams are organized around a leader who, through experience in a variety of countries, knows how to handle inter-cultural tensions.**
* Coordination difficulties arising from different languages spoken within a team.
** “L’Oréal Masters Multiculturalism” de Hae-Jung Hong et Yves Doz (Harvard Business Review, juin 2013).
[su_note note_color=”#f8f8f8″]References: The article “Diversité culturelle et performance des équipes sportives de haut niveau : le cas du Tour de France”, by Gaël Gueguen (Management International, 2011).[/su_note]
[su_box title=”Practical applications” style=”soft” box_color=”#f8f8f8″ title_color=”#111111″]Although cycling is a somewhat particular activity, especially given that all its participants are highly specialized, the results of this research may be applied to the workplace provided that certain conditions are met. In groups comprising team members with clearly defined roles and specific tasks it may be stated that neither cultural diversity nor other differences such as gender, origin, age or education have a negative impact on collective performance. As with cycling, a specific team culture that transcends cultural boundaries may well arise.[/su_box]
[su_spoiler title=”Methodology”]I analyzed the results of 487 teams (4,375 racers) taking part in 23 Tours de France between 1987 and 2009 in order to determine whether cultural diversity harms performance. The study was based on several factors which allowed me to determine the cultural heterogeneity of the teams (based, primarily, on the number of countries represented). The aim was to compare the performance of teams of cyclists (their results) with the level of cultural diversity via a linear regression analysis intended to measure the strength of the relationship between a series of independent variables and one requiring explanation.[/su_spoiler]