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I'm difficult, but not impossible: how millennials view international assignments and the implications for human resource management (HRM)

Iris Kollinger (Department of Human Resource Management, Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien, Vienna, Austria)
Riina Koris (Department of Marketing and Communication, Estonian Business School, Tallinn, Estonia)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 15 July 2021

Issue publication date: 9 August 2022




The purpose of this study is to identify what (de)motivates millennial students from undertaking mobility upon graduation and whether this depends on gender, region of origin, prior work experience, level of studies, or international mindset and how. The paper provides insights on the preferred length of mobility and the most (un)attractive regions.


The sample consists of 1,001 millennial students from 77 countries. Data from a quantitative self-reported survey were analysed employing exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory data analyses.


Factors that motivate mobility are personal development, learning about foreign cultures and the opportunity to travel and those that demotivate are a preference for short-term assignments, unwillingness of family to move and disruption of home country life. Factors differ by region, gender, level of current studies and the student's international mindset.

Research limitations/implications

The cohort included only students pursuing a business or technical education. A willingness to accept an international assignment may not necessarily translate into accepting an international assignment due to the effect of the attitude–behaviour gap. The authors do not aim to generalise on the basis of the results since the sample was fairly disproportionate in terms of world regions. We do, however, invite further studies to treat ours as potential input for new and emerging studies of either a quantitative or qualitative nature.

Practical implications

Due to a strong attachment to home, short-term assignments are preferred. Salary and financial benefits remain hygienic factors and motivating factors remain on the “soft” side. Motivating millennials to engage in mobility requires an individualised approach, dependent on region of origin, gender, the level of education, work experience and international mindset.


This study indicates that the factors that (de)motivate millennial students to engage in international assignments differ on the basis of various socio-demographic variables.



The authors’ special thank goes to Iris Fischlmayr (1974-2017†) with whom the authors first developed the idea for this project on millennials and their willingness to work abroad. Sadly, she did not see it materialize.


Kollinger, I. and Koris, R. (2022), "I'm difficult, but not impossible: how millennials view international assignments and the implications for human resource management (HRM)", Personnel Review, Vol. 51 No. 6, pp. 1707-1726.



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