Repatriation and (perceived) organisational support (POS): the role of and interaction between repatriation supporters

Liza Howe-Walsh, Nicole Torka

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    Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of and interaction between (potential) repatriation supporters to develop understanding of how this affects the repatriate experience.

    Design/methodology/approach - A (single) case study strategy was employed involving 21 in-depth interviews in a large UK-based institution with repatriates, home and host HR managers, International Human Resource (IHR) practitioners and line managers from both home and host locations.

    Findings - Although line managers, senior managers, family members and third party providers (e.g. relocation agencies, tax advisors) are important for repatriation support, the case study evidence highlights that HR professionals are mainly responsible for the quality of the support delivered by themselves and perceived to be responsible for support delivered by other repatriation supporters. Inadequate support from the headquarters IHR department caused by a lack and unclear information about repatriation procedures and related responsibilities results in insufficient support for home and host HR managers. This negatively impacts repatriates line managers (perceptions of) HR support. Weaknesses in the support chain (headquarter IHR, home and host HR and line managers) are responsible for repatriates (perceived) limited or non-support.

    Originality/value – This is one of the first studies that highlights the role and interaction of (potential) repatriation supporters (HR, line managers, colleagues, third party providers). Specifically, this study contributes to addressing three knowledge gaps. 1) It identifies a lack of communication among HR professionals and between them and line managers as a potential source of insufficient organisational support and 2) the findings highlight HR professionals’ responsibility for supporting line managers and other repatriation supporters in operational repatriation management. 3) Finally, the results support the assumption that HR professionals and line managers own (non-) experience with working abroad might affect the quality of support policies and practices for repatriates.

    Limitations/implications - The small size of our sample, the single case study design and the method precludes generalisation of the findings. However, the study increases our understanding of the quality of repatriation support. We identify several topics for future studies in the field of repatriation management.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Global Mobility
    Issue number1
    Early online date15 Feb 2017
    Publication statusEarly online - 15 Feb 2017


    • WNU
    • company assigned repatriates
    • perceived organisational support (POS)
    • organisational support theory (OST)
    • HR professionals
    • line managers
    • repatriation policies and practices


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