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The “language” of career success: The effects of English language competence on local employees’ career outcomes in foreign subsidiaries

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Abstract

Multinational corporations often are multilingual entities, yet surprisingly little is known about how foreign-language competencies in their foreign subsidiaries are related to local employees’ career success outcomes. This paper uses human capital and upward mobility theories to link local employees’ English language competencies through career encouragement and internal social capital development behavior to job promotions, wage increases, and career satisfaction in two independent studies conducted in foreign subsidiaries in Japan. Study 1’s findings are derived from 499 local employees at three points in time over 12 months in 376 foreign subsidiaries. These findings suggest that career encouragement mediates the positive relationships between English language competence and job promotions, wage increases, and career satisfaction. Study 2’s findings are from a sample derived from 448 local employees in 265 foreign subsidiaries with a similar time-lagged research design. These findings provide further support for the direct relationship of English language competencies to job promotions, wage increases, and career satisfaction, and that social capital development mediates the positive relationships between English language competencies and job promotions and career satisfaction. This paper contributes to the literature on international business by highlighting the importance of English language competencies to local employees’ career success outcomes in foreign subsidiaries operating in non-English-speaking countries.

Résumé

Les entreprises multinationales étant souvent des entités multilingues, mais nous savons étonnamment peu de choses sur la manière dont les compétences en langues étrangères dans leurs filiales étrangères sont liées aux résultats de la réussite professionnelle des employés locaux. S’appuyant sur la théorie du capital humain, celle de la mobilité ascendante et deux études indépendantes menées dans des filiales étrangères au Japon, cet article vise à établir les liens entre les promotions de l’emploi, les augmentations de salaire, la satisfaction de carrière et les compétences en anglais des employés locaux par les biais de l'encouragement de carrière et du comportement de développement du capital social interne. Les résultats de l'étude 1 proviennent de 499 employés locaux à trois moments sur une période de 12 mois dans 376 filiales étrangères. Ces résultats suggèrent que l'encouragement de carrière joue un rôle médiateur dans les relations positives entre la compétence en anglais et les promotions de l’emploi, les augmentations de salaire et la satisfaction de carrière. Les résultats de l'étude 2 proviennent quant à eux d'un échantillon de 448 employés locaux dans 265 filiales étrangères avec une similaire conception de recherche décalée dans le temps. Ces résultats corroborent la relation directe entre les compétences en langue anglaise et les promotions de l’emploi, les augmentations de salaire et la satisfaction de carrière. Ils corroborent également que le développement du capital social joue un rôle médiateur dans les relations positives entre les compétences en langue anglaise et les promotions de l’emploi et la satisfaction de carrière. Cet article contribue à la littérature des affaires internationales en mettant en lumière l'importance des compétences en anglais pour la réussite professionnelle des employés locaux dans les filiales étrangères opérant dans des pays non anglophones.

Resumen

Las empresas multinacionales a menudo son entidades multilingües, pero sorprendentemente se sabe poco sobre cómo las competencias lingüísticas en sus filiales extranjeras están relacionadas con los resultados del éxito profesional de los empleados locales. Este artículo utiliza las teorías del capital humano y de la movilidad social ascendente para relacionar las competencias lingüísticas de los empleados locales en inglés, mediante el estímulo de la carrera profesional y el comportamiento de desarrollo del capital social interno, con los ascensos laborales, los aumentos salariales y la satisfacción profesional en dos estudios independientes realizados en filiales extranjeras de Japón. Los resultados del estudio 1 se derivan de 499 empleados locales en tres momentos a lo largo de 12 meses en 376 filiales extranjeras. Estos resultados sugieren que el estímulo de la carrera profesional media en las relaciones positivas entre la competencia lingüística en inglés y los ascensos laborales, los aumentos salariales y la satisfacción profesional. Los resultados del Estudio 2 proceden de una muestra de 448 empleados locales en 265 filiales extranjeras con un diseño de investigación similar con desfase temporal. Estos resultados respaldan la relación directa entre las competencias lingüísticas en inglés y los ascensos laborales, los aumentos salariales y la satisfacción profesional, y el hecho de que el desarrollo del capital social medie en las relaciones positivas entre las competencias lingüísticas en inglés y los ascensos laborales y la satisfacción profesional. Este artículo contribuye a la literatura sobre negocios internacionales al destacar la importancia de las competencias en idioma inglés para los resultados del éxito profesional de los empleados locales en las filiales extranjeras que operan en países de habla no inglesa.

Resumo

Corporações multinacionais geralmente são entidades multilíngues, mas surpreendentemente pouco se sabe sobre como competências em idiomas estrangeiros em suas subsidiárias estrangeiras estão relacionadas a sucesso na carreira de funcionários locais. Este artigo usa teorias sobre capital humano e mobilidade ascendente para vincular competências na língua inglesa de funcionários locais por meio de incentivo à carreira e comportamento de desenvolvimento de capital social interno a promoções de emprego, aumentos salariais e satisfação de carreira em dois estudos independentes realizados em subsidiárias estrangeiras no Japão. Descobertas do estudo 1 são derivadas de 499 funcionários locais em três momentos ao longo de 12 meses em 376 subsidiárias estrangeiras. Esses achados sugerem que o incentivo à carreira medeia as relações positivas entre a competência da língua inglesa e as promoções de emprego, aumentos salariais e satisfação na carreira. Descobertas do estudo 2 são de uma amostra derivada de 448 funcionários locais em 265 subsidiárias estrangeiras com um semelhante desenho de pesquisa com defasagem de tempo. Essas descobertas fornecem suporte adicional para a relação direta das competências da língua inglesa com promoções no emprego, aumentos salariais e satisfação na carreira, e que o desenvolvimento do capital social medeia as relações positivas entre as competências da língua inglesa e as promoções no trabalho e a satisfação na carreira. Este artigo contribui para a literatura sobre negócios internacionais ao salientar a importância das competências da língua inglesa para o sucesso na carreira de funcionários locais em subsidiárias estrangeiras que operam em países cujo idioma não é inglês.

摘要

跨国公司 通常是多语种实体, 但令人惊讶的是, 对于其外国子公司的外语能力与当地员工的职业成功成果之间的关系知之甚少。本文使用人力资本和向上移动理论, 在日本的外国子公司进行了两项独立研究, 通过职业鼓励和内部社会资本发展行为, 将当地员工的英语能力与工作晋升、工资增长和职业满意度联系起来。研究一的调查结果来自 376 家外国子公司在 12 个月内三个时间点的 499 名当地员工。这些研究结果表明, 职业鼓励调节英语语言能力与工作晋升、工资增长和职业满意度之间存在的正向关系。研究二的研究结果来自 265 家外国子公司的 448 名当地员工的样本, 这些子公司具有类似的时滞研究设计。这些研究结果进一步支持英语能力与工作晋升、工资增长和职业满意度之间的直接关系, 并且社会资本发展调节英语能力与工作晋升和职业满意度之间的正向关系。本文通过强调英语语言能力对在非英语国家经营的外国子公司的当地员工职业成功成果的重要性, 为国际商务文献做出了贡献。

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the associate editor, anonymous reviewers, Rebecca Piekkari, Sebastian Reiche, Fabian Froese, Markus Pudelko, Phyllis Tharenou, Hilla Back, and Johanna Niskavaara for their advice and comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Peltokorpi, V. The “language” of career success: The effects of English language competence on local employees’ career outcomes in foreign subsidiaries. J Int Bus Stud 54, 258–284 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41267-022-00544-4

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