Employee Experience and Well-Being in International Workplaces: Contributions to Business Theory and Practice

Call for papers for: Employee Relations

Guest Editor

Wided Batat, Professor of Marketing and Head of Department, EM Normandie Business School, Metis Lab & University of Lyon 2, [email protected]


Objectives and justifications of the special issue

This special issue builds on recent literature in the marketing field that explores the concept of customer experience and its implications for individual and social well-being (Batat, 2019a) and recent work that examines employee experience as an HRM approach in international workplaces (Plaskoff, 2017). Specifically, this special issue questions how experiential theory can help managers and researchers improve the individual and social well-being of employees by designing employee-centric experiences within international workplaces. An employee experience approach can provide important insights for understanding and addressing a wide range of transformative international business and management research issues comprising, but not limited to, employee engagement and commitment, motivations, efficiency and productivity. Despite big promises, until recently there have been only a few attempts to develop and implement an employee experiential approach to improve the well-being of organizational actors that focus on the whole workplace experience. Moreover, the research that has been undertaken has not focused specifically on employees in international workplaces; an area of importance given increasing numbers of employees working across international organizations in myriad forms including as organizationally-assigned or self-initiated expatriates, on short-term or frequent flyer positions, or in global virtual teams. Further, recent attention given to the increasing diversity of people working internationally as non-traditional expatriates and other forms of global workers (McNulty and Hutchings, 2016; Özçelik et al., 2019); there is need to understand their experiences and wellbeing.

Well-being scholars have mostly approached the concept from two perspectives, either a hedonic perspective focusing on increasing an individual’s pleasure and subjective happiness (Feldman, 2004; Erdogan, 2012; Jahoda, 1958) or eudemonic perspective that centers on individual fulfillment and potential growth (Judge and Watanabe, 1993). In HRM research the well-being of employees has been a central research subject in the last ten years and is considered a critical part of HRM strategy in providing companies with a durable competitive advantage (Kowalski and Loretto, 2017). The concept of well-being is multidisciplinary and there is no consensus on its conceptualization given perspectives of scholars from differing disciplines. In HRM literature researchers tend to focus on the relationships between work and well-being by referring to employee well-being (Boxall et al., 2016, Boxall and Macky, 2014). Furthermore, various HRM studies recognize the impact of employee well-being for organizational performance (Kowalski and Loretto, 2017) and high-quality work (Marmot, 2010). HRM scholars argue that employee well-being is taking a more central role (Schwepker et al., 2020; Guest, 2017; Prottas, 2013) and should be explored from organizational, individual, and experiential perspectives.

Experiential theory was first introduced in the marketing field by pioneering authors, Holbrook and Hirschman. In contrast to an information processing view of a consumer as an objective rational thinker, the experiential theory focuses on a consumer’s subjective experience (Batat, 2019b; Holbrook and Hirschman, 1982). In the case of employee experience, the subjective experience may not conform to the goals of economic rationality, where employees maximize preferences or outcomes (Batat, 2019b; Addis and Holbrook, 2001; Schmitt, 1999; Holbrook, 1994). Instead, employees value more subjective outcomes such as well-being or enjoyment. Holbrook and Hirschman (1982) outlined an experiential research approach that examines more subjective variables e.g. the experiential approach can apply hedonic meanings to construct or shift existing meanings that will serve as a bridge to achieving more utilitarian goals such as productivity and efficiency. Thus, by focusing on subjective variables in designing employee experiences, a company may increase the individual and social well-being of its employees.


Theoretical contribution and practical importance of the special issue

While the customer experience has been heavily researched in the marketing literature, the employee experience has not received the same attention in international business and management literature. Traditionally, business and management practices in organizations have been observed through two lenses: the practices as intended by the HRM function as embodied in policy documents and practice guidelines; and the enactment of these practices by line managers in the workplace (Ampofo et al., 2017; Nishii & Wright, 2008). A third lens, much less researched, is the employee experience of these practices. This distinction between intended, enacted, and experienced HRM has received little empirical attention to-date (Farndale & Kelliher, 2013), yet it is experience that guides employee behaviors and attitudes (Whitener, 2001) and hence has implications for organizational performance. Employee experience can be defined as the employee’s holistic perceptions of the relationship with his/her employing organization derived from all encounters at touchpoints along the employee’s journey (Plaskoff, 2017). In recent years, to better understand the link between HRM and performance, strategic HRM scholars have increasingly turned their attention to examining employees’ attitudinal and behavioral responses (e.g., job satisfaction, turnover) to HR practices (e.g., Baluch, Salge, & Piening, 2013; Messersmith, Patel, & Lepak, 2011; Nishii, Lepak, & Schneider, 2008).  Identifying differences between an organization’s intended HR practices and its implemented practices - that employees’ experience - can be seen as central to understanding employees’ reactions to HR practices, and thus the HRM-performance link (Arthur & Boyles, 2007; Piening et al., 2014; Wright & Boswell, 2002). However, despite the increasingly recognized importance of understanding employees’ perceptions of HRM practices, and why they may differ from management’s intentions, research on this issue is still in its infancy (Piening et al., 2014) and is even less examined in relation to international workers and international workplaces. Thus, this research will make a theoretical contribution in expanding knowledge of employee experience and well-being in international workplaces and it will also be practically important in providing guidelines on how well-being of employees can be improved through the design of employee-centric experiences within international workplaces.


International coverage and fit between the proposed special issue and Employee Relations’ aims & scope

Our aim in this special issue is to draw together a collection of high-quality papers reflecting the composite and dynamic nature of employee’s experience in international workplaces which cover a broad spectrum of geographic locations, and encompass employees’ diversity in terms of age, gender, sexual orientation, etc. We expect that this special issue will animate research that addresses the ways in which employees’ experience can contribute to employees’ well-being while also shedding light on the black box between HRM, business practices, and organizational performance with specific reference to the rapidly changing international work environment. In line with the aims and scope of Employee Relations, we would expect to include papers that cover comparative HRM (i.e. specific country or multi-country studies) and international business and management (i.e. working across cultures, diverse forms of working internationally, strategic international HRM policy and practice).

We encourage submissions that provide both strong theoretical contributions. We are open to a variety of research paradigms, methodologies and levels of analysis. We encourage papers that examine aspects of the topic in relation to developed and/or developing countries. All papers should include a section that clearly outlines practical implications for organizations/management for enhancing employee experience and well-being in international organizations. The special issue will include between seven and ten papers (excluding the guest editors’ introduction). Papers will be subject to a maximum of two major and one minor revisions. Potential topics for papers include, but are not limited to:

  • The various ways in which organizations demonstrate care for employees within the context of their work and its implications for employee experience in international workplaces
  • The role of line managers in shaping employees’ experience in international workplaces
  • The implications of employee diversity for the employee experience in international workplaces
  • Employee experience and well-being in international workplaces
  • Employee experience and productivity in international workplaces
  • Employee wellbeing and productivity in international workplaces
  • Intergenerational management in respect to international employee experience
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and international employee experience
  • Organizational ethics and international employee experience
  • International employees’ experience and psychological contracts
  • Employee experience and employee well-being in international government, non-government organizations, or not-for-profit organizations
  • Employee experience and employee well-being in international dangerous work locations e.g. war and conflict zones, sites of natural disasters
  • Differences in international employee experience and well-being across organizational levels and positions (e.g. well-paid expatriates vs. low paid international workers)
  • Differences in organizationally-assigned expatriates’ and self-initiated expatriates’ employee experience and well-being 
  • Experience and well-being of employees in global virtual teams


Timeline and submission requirements

Initial enquiries can be directed to special issue guest editor: Wided Batat ([email protected]). Manuscripts should follow the formatting guidelines for Employee Relations and should be submitted through the online submission system at:



Indicative timeline

  • Submission start date- April 1, 2021
  • Submission deadline for full papers – June 15, 2021
  • Advice on papers accepted for inclusion in the special issue – Jan 1, 2022



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Prottas, D.J. (2013). Relationships Among Employee Perception of Their Manager’s Behavioral Integrity, Moral Distress, and Employee Attitudes and Well-Being. Journal of Business Ethics, 113, 51-60.

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Schwepker, C.H., Valentine, S., Giacalone, R.A., & Promislo, M. (2020). Good Barrels Yield Healthy Apples: Organizational Ethics as a Mechanism for Mitigating Work-Related Stress and Promoting Employee Well-Being. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-17.

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