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The micro-processes during repatriate knowledge transfer: the repatriates’ perspective

Anne Burmeister (Institute for Strategic HR Management Research and Development, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany)
Jürgen Deller (Institute for Strategic HR Management Research and Development, Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany)
Joyce Osland (Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, San José State University, San Jose, CA, USA)
Betina Szkudlarek (The University of Sydney Business School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)
Gary Oddou (College of Business Administration, California State University San Marcos, San Marcos, CA, USA)
Roger Blakeney (C.T. Bauer College of Business, University of Houston, Houston, Texas, USA)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 13 July 2015




The purpose of this paper is to add a process perspective to the literature on repatriate knowledge transfer (RKT) and to understand how the knowledge transfer process unfolds in the repatriation context. Thus, this qualitative study uses existing knowledge transfer process models to assess their applicability to the context of repatriation and explain the micro-processes during RKT.


To provide a rich understanding of these processes from the repatriate perspective, critical incidents reported by 29 German and US American repatriates were content-analyzed.


The findings are summarized in a proposed RKT process model, which describes the roles and knowledge transfer-related activities of repatriates, recipients and supervisors as well as their interaction during four transfer phases: assessment, initiation, execution and evaluation.

Research limitations/implications

The experiences of repatriates from different geographic areas as well as the perspectives of knowledge recipients and supervisors were not studied but should be included in future research. In addition, future research could test the applicability of the identified micro-processes to different knowledge transfer contexts.

Practical implications

Managers can use the findings to facilitate the RKT process more effectively because the type of organizational support offered can be aligned with the changing needs of repatriates, recipients and supervisors during the four identified phases.


This is the first study that takes a process perspective to understand RKT. The integration of the current findings with the existing literature can enable a more nuanced view on RKT.



Burmeister, A., Deller, J., Osland, J., Szkudlarek, B., Oddou, G. and Blakeney, R. (2015), "The micro-processes during repatriate knowledge transfer: the repatriates’ perspective", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 735-755.



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