Individual, social and institutional factors influencing the willingness of employees to move and resettle internationally

Content and objectives

The willingness to work abroad for a defined period of time (international mobility) is becoming increasingly important in the business world. For many internationally operative companies, international work experience is a necessary prerequisite to consideration for management positions. Furthermore, the internationalisation of business activities has led to a general increase in demand for foreign employees. In addition, the shortage of qualified labour, particularly in Europe, is increasing the need for companies to attract and retain foreign employees in order to benefit from their manpower over the long term. A job abroad has thus increasingly become a ‘typical’ career step. The key elements to retain employees abroad are a fit between the job and the career as well as the fit between the individual, the organisation and the community, including social connections and attractive benefits for foreign employees who continue to work abroad.

The research project examines factors that affect employees’ willingness to work abroad as well as elements of that commitment. One goal is to determine the influence of subjectively perceived cultural distance on individuals’ impressions of cultural differences and on their willingness to move and possibly resettle.

Project goals

  • Identification of factors explaining the willingness of employees to work abroad for longer periods of time.
  • Analysis of reasons that negatively impact the desire to move abroad (e.g. familial obligations or concerns about the quality of life in the target country).
  • Derivation of recommended actions for organisations (e.g. international dual-career programmes) in order to increase situational readiness and thus the success of foreign assignments and the reduction of dropout rates.
  • Analysis of factors that contribute to the retention of foreign employees in a business, organisation and/or community abroad (job embeddedness).
  • Definition of cultural distance at the individual level and analysis of its influence on mobility and willingness to continue living in another country.


The studies are based on qualitative and quantitative data (mixed methods). The following research methods are used: systematic literature review, grounded theory, qualitative content analysis, Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and structural equation modelling (SEM). Based on the results, a system of measurements is developed to determine the willingness of employees to move internationally and to remain in their positions, and the reasoning behind their motivations to leave or to stay is evaluated.

Social relevance and application of results

The benefits of international mobility are offset on the company side by high costs (e.g. reduced performance abroad, abandoned assignments abroad or the unfulfilled expectations of employees who choose to remain), which can result in a low return on investment (ROI) for both companies and foreign employees. For the individual, international mobility is usually associated with a variety of uncertain and new situations (e.g. adaptation to a new culture). If the parties involved are disinclined to face up to the challenges of international mobility, this can result in reduced performance and the discontinuation of activities abroad.

The research results provide knowledge regarding which factors have a positive or negative influence on the willingness and commitment to mobility. Recommendations for the organisational integration of internationally mobile employees are formulated. Thus, the results are of importance not only for foreign employees themselves, but also for organisations that employ an international workforce.

Bamberg competencies

By linking economic, psychological and sociological questions, theories and methods and deriving recommendations for individuals and employers, the research group works in an interdisciplinary manner and thus provides a relevant supplement to previous research on foreign employees.


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Deutschland ist attraktiver als gedacht.
Interview, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Column „Wirtschaft“, 18.10.2021, p. 17.

Andresen, M. (2016). How working abroad can boost your career.
Interview mit Prof. Dr. Maike Andresen, total jobs, posted by Sophie Bianchi, 02.08.2016