Original Research

Constraining and contributing factors of an expatriate assignment life cycle

Zain D. Reddiar, Cecilia M. Schultz
SA Journal of Human Resource Management | Vol 21 | a2138 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhrm.v21i0.2138 | © 2023 Zain D. Reddiar, Cecilia M. Schultz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 October 2022 | Published: 31 March 2023

About the author(s)

Zain D. Reddiar, Business School, Da Vinci Business School, Modderfontein, South Africa
Cecilia M. Schultz, Department of People Management and Development, Faculty of Management Sciences, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa


Orientation: Globalisation necessitated the physical movement of talented employees, leading to expatriate assignments to foreign countries. Investigative studies and strategy development were needed to moderate the high failure rate of such assignments.

Research purpose: To explore the constraining and contributing factors of an expatriate assignment lifecycle.

Motivation for the study: With only 40% of assignments being successful, there is an urgent need to find and rectify the reasons for the failure in order to mitigate the associated financial losses and threatened sustainability of businesses.

Research approach, design and method: A qualitative research methodology within an exploratory research design was used. The opinions of the expatriates were compared using subjective, interpretivist and phenomenological dimensions.

Main findings: Based on the lived experience of the expatriates, the constraining factors were a lack of training and mentoring, inadequate cultural acclimatisation, ambiguous policies, unsupportive host organisation, low-quality logistics support and ineffective re-induction of the expatriates into the home country. The expatriates strongly consider career path planning, effective ongoing training and mentoring, a caring organisational culture, clear assignment policies and social relations to be decisive contributing factors.

Practical and managerial implications: The international human resource management process can use the findings to reduce the global assignment failure rates. It provides clear directions for driving relevant strategies and processes for successful expatriation operations.

Contribution: The study contributes to the existing body of knowledge on the constraining and contributing factors of the expatriate assignment. It sets a course to initiate further studies to evolve a sustainable framework for an efficient global mobility programme.


Constraining factors; contributing factors; expat life cycle; multinational enterprise; qualitative research

JEL Codes

M12: Personnel Management • Executives; Executive Compensation; M59: Other; Q19: Other

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth


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