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Literature Review

Modes of Global Talent Flow

Global talent flow (see Carr et al., 2005) is the phenomenon of individuals with a high level of skills, qualifications, and competence moving across borders. Daugeliene (2007) has discussed global talent flow with reference to highly skilled individuals who are able to convert knowledge, intellect, wisdom, and ideas into tangible innovative products or services. As a result, global talent flow has been said to be a vital process for nations and for the world’s economic development (Daugeliene & Marcinkeviciene, 2015).

Literature recognises three forms of talent flow, which are not only interconnected but could also be expected to have implications for the innovation performance development of an individual nation or organisation. The best known form of global talent flow is the brain drain, which often has a negative connotation. It is a phenomenon in which educated talent moves for professional/economical purposes from the country of origin (Baruch et al., 2007; Beine et al., 2008). Brain drain has largely been discussed with reference to educated individuals from developing countries moving to the benefit of developed countries, most notably from Asia to North America and Europe (e.g. No & Walsh, 2010). However, in the era of global economies does the phenomenon of brain drain concern the developed countries alike. Brain drain occupies not only students, but there are also other mobile employee groups, which are involved. One, which is increasing in importance, is SIEs. SIEs with a difference to organisation sent expatriates (OEs), whose mobility is interorganisational (Andresen, Bergdolt, Margenfeld, & Dickmann, 2014), ‘self-initiate their international relocation, with the intentions of regular employment and temporary stay’ (Cerdin & Selmer, 2014, p. 1293). In the literature, these two employee groups differ from immigrants, who are often referred as individuals from ethnic minorities who have moved to developed countries for economical or humanitarian reasons (Al Ariss & Syed, 2011; Andresen et al., 2014).

The second form of global talent flow is reverse brain drain, also known as brain circulation (Saxenian, 2005; Daugeliene & Marcinkeviciene, 2009; Sabharwal & Varma, 2012) . Reverse brain drain refers to the migration (repatriation) of highly skilled people, who in line with the conceptual development of Daugeliene and Marcinkeviciene (2015), could be defined as individuals who have studied and/or worked in a foreign country, but return to work in (and therefore benefit) their country of origin. Such labour force mobility brings new patterns of immigra?tion and emigration as it involves the temporary two-way movement of a skilled labour force between their home and host countries (Chen, 2008).

Migration literature has considered repatriation both as a movement of failure and success (King, 2012). Returnees are pulled to their home countries by career and economic opportunities as well as by the national identity or the family concerns, but they may also be pushed away by severe difficulties related to cultural assimilation upon repatriation (Tharenou & Seet, 2014). For instance, in China many returnees seem to be reluctant to stay permanently, but instead prefer part-time or visiting posts, or stay for a while before leaving permanently. In addition, the quality of the returnees may not meet the expectations of home country employers (Zeithammer & Kellogg, 2013). From expatriate perspective, which is typically focused on temporary stay, global mobility often targets at positive career outcomes upon repatriation. However, opposite experiences are not uncommon (Begley, Collings, & Scullion, 2008; Doherty & Dickmann, 2009; Makkonen, 2015a). As a result, individuals may choose not to repatriate (Tharenou & Caulfield, 2010), but to more permanently contribute to the third recognised form of global talent flow, the brain gain (e.g. Saxenian, 2005; Tung & Lazarova, 2006). Brain gain refers to positive outcomes of brain drain for the beneficiary nation. Although these three forms are well defined in the literature, prior studies do not explain how and why different forms of global talent flow predominate in different phases of the innovation performance development of a country.

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