- Hanken School of Economics
This paper focuses on the multifaceted role of language and language-sensitive recruitment in knowledge transfer in multinational corporations (MNCs). In particular, we develop a framework that helps to better understand how language-sensitive recruitment is related to competence, networks, identity, and power. We started by conducting a qualitative interview-based study of 101 MNC subsidiaries. This analysis elucidates the productive and counterproductive effects of language-sensitive recruitment on knowledge transfer related to communication competence, networks, identity, and power. To further understand the productive and counterproductive effects, we conducted a quantitative study in 285 MNC subsidiaries. We found an inverted U-shaped relationship between language-sensitive recruitment and knowledge transfer. Together, these two studies provide a better understanding of the multifaceted and at times counterintuitive implications of language-sensitive recruitment on knowledge transfer in MNCs. By elucidating these effects, this paper contributes to the stream of research examining the role of language in MNCs and international business more generally. It further adds to research on MNC knowledge transfer that to date has focused little attention on language. By elaborating on the potential unintended consequences of language-sensitive recruitment, this paper also has implications for international human resource management research.