vs localization of management
Stafﬁng choices of Australian and German
Department of Human Resource Management, University of Bayreuth,
Bayreuth, Germany, and
Department of Management, Monash University, Clayton, Australia
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the speciﬁc difﬁculties that senior managers face
when employing expatriate, Chinese and local-hired foreign managers in China-based subsidiaries of
Western multinational companies (MNCs). Furthermore, it aims to examine the resultant coping
strategies to overcome identiﬁed weaknesses.
Design/methodology/approach – This research adopts a qualitative approach, using
semi-structured interviews with key-informants from senior management in 44 Australian and
German companies operating in China.
Findings – The study identiﬁed speciﬁc difﬁculties associated with the employment of expatriate,
local Chinese, and local-hired foreign managers in Australian and German subsidiaries in China. The
interviewees indicate a widespread intention to replace expatriate managers with Chinese managers
and local-hired foreign managers. The striving for localization of stafﬁng is more pronounced in
German than Australian MNCs. German companies offer more comprehensive development activities
for the Chinese talent than Australian companies.
Research limitations/implications – The small number of participants and the restriction to one
key informant per company limit the generalizability of the ﬁndings. The effects of different stafﬁng
options still need to be researched in longitudinal studies and in varied contexts.
Practical implications – Localization of staff suggests the need for speciﬁc, culture-sensitive
approaches to personnel development. The ﬁndings also suggest that the knowledge transfer between
expatriate and local managers deserves more attention. Finally, the return on investment that
companies receive from differing stafﬁng options should be assessed using a multidimensional set of
Originality/value – This paper has two main contributions to existing research. First, it links
academic discussion about the options of international stafﬁng with the experience of practitioners
from Western MNCs operating in China. Second, it provides further support for the existence of
country-of-origin effects in international stafﬁng.
Keywords Australia, China, Germany, Localization, Expatriates, Managers
Paper type Research paper
During the past three decades, there has been a substantive growth in the number of
companies that have internationalized or globalized their operations (De Cieri et al.,
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 9 June 2008
Revised 1 August 2009
Accepted 27 September
Career Development International
Vol. 15 No. 1, 2010
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited