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International assignments of employees and entrepreneurial intentions: the mediating role of human capital, social capital and career prospects

Susanne Schlepphorst (Institut für Mittelstandsforschung (IfM) Bonn, Bonn, Germany)
Elizabeth C. Koetter (SME Management Graduate School, University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany)
Arndt Werner (Chair of SME Management and Entrepreneurship, University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany)
Christian Soost (FOM University of Applied Sciences, Essen, Germany)
Petra Moog (Chair for Entrepreneurship and Family Business, University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany)

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research

ISSN: 1355-2554

Article publication date: 17 July 2020

Issue publication date: 13 August 2020




Drawing on human capital (HC) and social capital (SC) as well as the Jack-of-all-trades theory, this paper aims to clarify the relationship between international assignments (IAs) of employees and their entrepreneurial intentions. The study proposes that such IAs provide specific environmental features which may enable employees to build up diverse skills and network relations conducive to entrepreneuship.


The authors collected data using an online survey, targeting professionals and managers in Germany and Switzerland. They used 223 complete responses. Before data collection, they ensured the suitability of their questionnaire by employing well-tested scales and consulted independent experts in survey design and methodology. They tested their hypotheses by applying multiple mediation modeling.


As hypothesized, the authors find empirical evidence that diverse skills and network relationships as well as poor career prospects, positively mediate the relationship between IAs and entrepreneurial intentions of employees.

Research limitations/implications

We applied simple random and the snowball sampling method. Our approach involved the use of headhunters, international employers and relocation companies as multipliers.

Practical implications

Our results have practical implications for employees and employers. Employees on international assignments can proactively pursue opportunities in order to utilize the acquired experiences and resources for taking up entrepreneurial activities. Employers can try to retain these employees to facilitate (international) corporate entrepreneurship.


To the best of our knowledge, this is the first empirical study to highlight the entrepreneurial ambitions of international assignees. It thus provides initial insights into this topic.



The authors wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and recommendations. Their advice led to significant development of this article.


Schlepphorst, S., Koetter, E.C., Werner, A., Soost, C. and Moog, P. (2020), "International assignments of employees and entrepreneurial intentions: the mediating role of human capital, social capital and career prospects", International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, Vol. 26 No. 6, pp. 1259-1279.



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