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Chapter 8 Organisational Learning from Chinese Returners: An Exploratory Study of the Role of Cross-Cultural Interactions

The Role of Expatriates in MNCs Knowledge Mobilization

ISBN: 978-1-78052-112-1, eISBN: 978-1-78052-113-8

ISSN: 1876-066X

Publication date: 10 October 2011


Purpose –– The People's Republic of China has introduced policies to encourage Chinese who have worked or studied abroad to return and bring back the knowledge and skills they have gained. This chapter reports on the experiences of these returners as agents of organisational learning.

Methodology –– The exploratory qualitative study is based on a written questionnaire and telephone interviews with 24 returners in diverse organisations and industries in China.

Findings –– The study identifies a type of returner not yet addressed in the literature, ‘experienced self-internationalisers’, which we expect will grow significantly. We find that despite expecting returners to contribute to organisational learning, management does not organise the process. It depends on the individuals themselves, who develop various strategies for sharing their knowledge with local colleagues. Organisational learning is a cross-cultural process and requires bridging a gap between the kinds of knowledge the local employees are interested in gaining and what the returners feel the organisation needs. We note that organisational learning is more likely when the returners recognise their own need to learn rather than just to teach.

Research limitations –– The sample is relatively small; we describe how to take the research forward to more organisations and additional kinds of respondents.

Practical implications –– We formulate recommendations for policymakers, returners and human resource managers seeking to stimulate organisational learning more effectively.

Value –– The chapter generates new insights into organisational learning in China, and it shows how to addresses a phenomenon at the crossroads between the fields of organisational learning, intercultural communication and international human resource management.



Berthoin Antal, A. and Walker, E.-M. (2011), "Chapter 8 Organisational Learning from Chinese Returners: An Exploratory Study of the Role of Cross-Cultural Interactions", Mariano, S., Mohamed, M. and Mohiuddin, Q. (Ed.) The Role of Expatriates in MNCs Knowledge Mobilization (International Business and Management, Vol. 27), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 151-175.



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