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Keywords:

  • inpatriates;
  • MNC knowledge flows;
  • boundary spanning;
  • absorptive capacity;
  • mentoring

Abstract

Viewing knowledge as rooted in individuals, this study investigates knowledge transfer in multinational corporations (MNCs) from an individual-level perspective. Specifically, the author focuses on inpatriates as a particular group of knowledge actors in MNCs and examines the role of inpatriates' boundary spanning between their home unit and the headquarters for transferring their knowledge to headquarters staff. Based on a sample of 269 inpatriates in 10 German MNCs, the author found that inpatriates' boundary spanning is positively related to inpatriates' individual efforts to transfer knowledge and inpatriates' perceptions of HQ staff efforts to acquire subsidiary-specific knowledge. Both perceived HQ absorptive capacity and mentoring by HQ staff moderate these relationships. This study's findings contribute to our understanding of the theoretical mechanisms through which MNC knowledge flows occur and highlight key requirements for the design of international staffing practices. ©2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.