Title: Sending expats or hiring locals? The impact of communication barriers on foreign subsidiary CEO staffing
Authors: Helene Tenzer; Matthias Schulz; Hendrik Klier; Christian Schwens
Addresses: School of Business and Economics, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany ' School of Management, Economics and Social Sciences, University of Cologne, 50923 Köln, Germany ' Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Universitätsstraße 1, 40225 Düsseldorf, Germany ' School of Management, Economics and Social Sciences, University of Cologne, 50923 Köln, Germany
Abstract: Communication between headquarters (HQs) and foreign subsidiaries of multinational corporations (MNCs) is crucial for coordination, control, and knowledge transfer, but language barriers and geographic distance impede this exchange. Hypothesising that MNCs react to these hurdles by appointing subsidiary top managers with adequate communication skills, we investigate how the native language barrier, foreign language barrier, and geographic distance between HQs and a foreign subsidiary influence the choice between parent and host/third country nationals as subsidiary CEOs. Testing our hypotheses on a sample of 101 staffing decisions made by German firms in 33 countries, we find a negligible effect of the native language barrier, but establish that a foreign language barrier enhances and higher geographic distance lowers firms' propensity to staff subsidiary CEO positions with parent country nationals. An MNC's international experience was found to moderate these relationships.
Keywords: HQ-subsidiary relationship; subsidiary top management staffing; communication; language; expatriate management.
European Journal of International Management, 2020 Vol.14 No.5, pp.891 - 923
Received: 15 Dec 2017
Accepted: 19 Jun 2018
Published online: 25 Sep 2020 *