HCBE Faculty Articles

Expatriate Motivation in Religious and Humanitarian NPOs

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Journal of Global Mobility: The Home of Expatriate Management Research



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Purpose – The purpose of this exploratory, empirical study is to identify motivations for expatriation among religious and humanitarian (R&H) workers. Design/methodology/approach – A sample of 158 active expatriate Christian R&H workers from 25 countries, representing 48 international organizations, completed a survey with 45 reasons for expatriation, derived from literature on corporate expatriation, international volunteering, and international migration. Data analysis includes factor analysis and cluster analysis. Findings – In total, eight latent motivation factors were found: career development; economics; international experience; escapism; altruism; outsider support; family life; and location. Workers in the not‐for‐profit sector are primarily motivated by altruism, and thus integrate organizational mission with personal purpose in their decision to work abroad. Using cluster analysis, four groups of humanitarian and religious workers in the Christian sub‐sector were identified: Caring Missionary; Focused Worker; Self‐Directed Careerist; and International Family Custodian. Workers from developed versus developing countries exhibit different motivators. Practical implications – The findings provide insight into differences between developed versus developing country workers and between R&H workers. Recognizing the differences in motivation can assist international human resource managers in the effective recruitment, selection, training and development, career management, and support and encouragement of non‐profit organizations (NPO) expatriates. The authors provide propositions to be tested based on the application of self‐determination theory to expatriate motivation. Originality/value – This exploratory, empirical study of Christian R&H workers extends the organizational and country context and builds on motivation for expatriation research to include this sub‐sector of workers from both developed and developing countries operating in global organizations. The findings provide new insights into motivation for expatriation and lead to propositions for future research.







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