The JGM BitBlog: How to get global tacit knowledge transferred to HQs - Use inpatriates!

Journal of Global Mobility

Jane Maley, Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey

Timothy Kiessling, Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey

As global knowledge management has come to the forefront for MNCs competitive advantage, firms are adopting various strategic human resource tactics such as expatriation, flexpatriation, third country nationals, repatriation, and inpatriation. The need to have ‘‘tacit’’ knowledge (knowledge embedded within an individual that is not explicit or capable of being written down) is required to improve decision-making to effectively compete in the global marketplace. The success of a global strategy rests within its subsidiaries’ locally developed capabilities and less with the corporate headquarters (HQs).  Hence, researchers are focusing on examining how foreign subsidiary tacit knowledge can be captured and incorporated. Tacit knowledge typically is only transferable through direct interaction amongst individuals, hence bringing a foreign national into corporate HQs (an inpatriate) facilitates this knowledge transfer.

The quest and recognition of the importance of knowledge in MNCs has elicited an increase in global assignments which has included not only the traditional expatriate assignment sent from the corporate HQs to subsidiaries but also in other types of assignments such as inpatriation; the relocation of foreign subsidiary employees to HQs.  Inpatriation of global managers increasingly appears as an essential element of the global talent pool as they present an opportunity to expand HQs’ knowledge and offer different perspectives of knowledge. Our research suggests that inpatriates are selected for their tacit knowledge, can transfer this much needed knowledge, but will do so only if they become embedded within the organization and have a good LMX (leader-member exchange) relationship.  This finding suggests global human resource managers must be active in their role at HQs.

To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:

Maley, J. and Kiessling, T. (2021), "Global knowledge transfers through inpatriates: performance management, LMX and embeddedness", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 9 No. 4, pp. 480-498.