‘No great difference’ between expat and local managers in China

The benefits of multinationals using local managers rather than incurring the expense of expatriate assignments has been investigated in a research summary published by the London School of Economics on Friday.Author Zhongxia Chen, senior marketing manager at Wolters Kluwer – a global a global information services company headquartered in the Netherlands – argues that the difference between expat and local management “may not be as pronounced as many companies believe”.Mr Zhongxia, who has an Executive Global Master’s in Management degree from the LSE Department of Management, says: “Any multinational seeking to build a strong base in China will inevitably confront the question of how ‘local’ an approach to adopt, particularly when it comes to management.”Foreign firms active in Asia’s biggest market have pursued a wide variety of strategies, from flying in supervisors from head office for a transition period to train up local staff, to instituting a permanent expatriate management layer.”Along with the need for expertise and training, one of the key arguments for maintaining expats in senior roles has been cultural; that is, that the more participatory Western management style has a positive impact on employee motivation and retention versus the traditionally more hierarchical, top-down local approach.”New research I’ve conducted in this area has found this is broadly true – but that the differences between Western and local management may not be as pronounced as many companies believe. Given the costs typically associated with expatriate postings, multinationals in China may want to take note.”