SMEs and their Approaches to Internationalization
: Continuities and Variations

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis sets out to examine changing patterns of workforce management under increasing globalization. There is a general consensus, in both the academic and practitioner literature, that large corporate multinationals (MNCs) have increasingly moved from the deployment of expatriates to a ‘mixed- economy’ of flexpatriates (business trips and shortterm assignments etc.) and the deployment of new information and communication technologies. There is however, increasing globalization of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on which there is little research. Therefore, questions arise on the extent to which SMEs operating transnationally adopt the same approaches as do large MNCs. This thesis particularly explores how SMEs deal with their transnational operations and the role played by strategies adopted by MNCs, historically and currently. Research was conducted in 18 SMEs in various sectors primarily through semistructured and in-depth interviews with key informants, supplemented with documentary and other data. Research was also undertaken in 10 MNCs using a similar approach for comparative purposes. It was found that the flexpatriate/ICT model purportedly adopted in large MNCs is a limited view on the complexity of approaches adopted by MNCs. More importantly in SMEs it was clear there is a much more complex situation with different strategies being adopted by different companies for different purposes. The empirical investigation showed that within SMEs, (1) Expatriates are not employed, (2) IT is a significant advantage but not the most important; significantly, SMEs tend to (3) partner with people they often know socially. One key finding was the role of trust relationships, networking and social capital. This thesis explores this and draws conclusions for current and emerging developments in the management of transnational labour workforces. It raises further issues for further exploration.
Date of Award3 May 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorLeonard Holmes (Director of Studies) & Yvonne Guerrier (Co-Supervisor)

Cite this