Expatriate Competencies as Antecedents of Knowledge Transfer and Their Impacts on Staff Localisation
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Many countries and organisations around the world put forward important plans to source new knowledge that would help to accelerate their economic growth and competitive advantage. Within these plans, recruiting expatriate staff has been seen as an important means to acquire external knowledge. However, it has also been argued that overreliance on expatriate staffing may not be healthy for economic development, especially when local staff are left with very limited positions. In recognition of this issue governments, particularly those located in the Middle East, have established so-called “localisation”, which refers to the replacement of expatriate staff by a local workforce. In this regard, since the 1970s the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries including Oman have set several plans to achieve localisation, but clearly these plans have not been entirely successful in terms of the targeted percentage of localisation. Scholars who have investigated this issue argue that the lack of skills and professionalism in the local workforce is one of the main obstacles for addressing this challenge. Therefore, based on the Ability, Motivation, and Opportunity Seeking (AMO) theory, this thesis contributes to the localisation and knowledge transfer literatures by developing a conceptual framework that aims to explore the extent to which transferring knowledge from expatriate managers to local staff in manufacturing companies, through certain mechanisms, helps to achieve successful localisation. Based on a positivist research philosophy and a quantitative approach, the current thesis has employed a self-administered, face-to-face questionnaire to collect data. The 327 completed questionnaires have been analysed to examin the hypotheses of the present study using Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modelling (PLS-SEM) via Warp PLS V 6.0. The results have identified the essential factors for achieving successful localisation. First, the study has identified three essential competences for expatriate managers to transfer knowledge, namely: expatriate ability to transfer knowledge; expatriate motivation to transfer knowledge; and expatriate opportunity to transfer knowledge. Second, the study has shown that to achieve effective knowledge transfer and successful localisation, locals must have high absorptive capacity. Third, to enhance expatriate manager competences, the study has identified two essential sets of features to consider, the organisation characteristics and the knowledge characteristics. These findings thus provide several insights to the manufacturing companies seeking to achieve successful localisation. In terms of the practical implications, the current thesis has identified the key factors for achieving successful localisation. The first competence is that expatriate managers should have the ability to transfer knowledge. The second competence is related to expatriate manager motivation to transfer knowledge. The third competence is opportunity seeking to transfer knowledge. It has been proposed that in order to accomplish optimal performance of knowledge transfer, it is vital for expatriate to seek the opportunity to interact with the local staff. In this regard, opportunity seeking by expatriate managers would help knowledge seekers to get constant feedback as well as opportunities to clarify any ambiguity. In addition, it is critical for companies to acknowledge the absorptive capacity of local staff as an important factor for achieving successful localisation. In this vein, the findings of the current study have demonstrated that low absorptive capacity has adverse impacts on achieving successful localisation. Apart from the importance of knowledge-sender and knowledge-receiver competences, it is crucial to recognise the impact of organisational characteristics and knowledge characteristics on the competences of expatriate managers to transfer knowledge. With respect to the former, expatriate manager competences in transferring knowledge are influenced by organisational commitments to facilitate the process of knowledge acquisition and dissemination. As far knowledge characteristics, it has been concluded that in order to have effective knowledge transfer, companies are advised to provide important knowledge in explicit forms, such as blueprints and manuals, and to make them available and easily accessible to knowledge providers and seekers alike.
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