A fifth wheel? : Local language skills and work-related outcomes among foreign employees

Alexei Koveshnikov*, Ingmar Björkman, Perttu Kähäri

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Drawing on person-job fit theory, we theorize and empirically analyze the effects of host country language skills on two work-related outcomes: workplace social support and perceived overqualification. We further examine how these outcomes are related with job satisfaction. Empirically, we analyze these relationships using data from three sub-studies of foreign academics in the Nordic region. The first is a survey filled in by 496 foreign academics working at 18 universities in Finland, Sweden, and Norway. The second is an interview study of 41 foreign academics employed by a large international university in Finland. The third consists of nine interviews across Finland, Sweden, and Norway where we followed up on the analysis of the data from the first two sub-studies. Whilst we use the quantitative dataset to test our hypotheses, our qualitative data allows us to dig deeper into how making investments in local language skills does not necessary lead to positive work-related outcomes as perceived by foreign academics, and what HR implications these perceptions have for international organizations, such as universities. Overall, our findings provide important insights into the complex and contextual nature of host country language skills’ role and effects in international organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4110-4143
Number of pages34
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number21
Early online date21 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • foreign academics
  • Host country language skills
  • job satisfaction
  • overqualification
  • social support


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