Original Research

The preparation, training and support requirements of expatriate trailing spouses

Emma-Louise Webber, Adolf J. Vögel
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 22, No 1 | a2703 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v22i1.2703 | © 2019 Emma-Louise Webber, Adolf J. Vögel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 July 2018 | Published: 27 November 2019

About the author(s)

Emma-Louise Webber, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Adolf J. Vögel, Department of Business Management, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Decades have passed since trailing spouses were first identified as the primary causes of expatriate failure. This has led to numerous studies to determine how best to avoid such failures. In particular, it was determined that through the preparation, training and support of trailing spouses multinational enterprises (MNEs) can not only assist with their adjustment to the host country, but also reduce the likelihood of expatriate failure.

Aim: With the impact of the trailing spouse still being a major concern for the success of an international assignment decades after it was first identified as such, this research aimed to determine the preparation, training and support requirements of trailing spouses prior to, and during an international assignment.

Setting: The article includes the responses from trailing spouses who at the time of the study were on assignment in 52 countries on six continents.

Methods: Both non-probability judgement sampling and snowball sampling were used to identify the 218 respondents who completed a self-administered questionnaire which respondents were able to access online. The data was then analysed using exploratory factor analysis, Cronbach’s alpha, a t-test and paired t-test.

Results: Statistically significant differences were found between the preparation, training and support required by trailing spouses and what was offered to them by MNEs for all the specific forms of preparation, training and support measured in this study.

Conclusion: MNEs are still falling short of the preparation, training and support needs of trailing spouses. In particular, MNEs seem to focus on some operational aspects of spousal adjustment while the social aspects are still not sufficiently addressed.


Keywords

Expatriates; International assignments; Trailing spouses; International human resource management; Adjustment; Preparation; Training; Support.

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