The JGM BitBlog: What goes around comes around? Immigrant recruitment and retention policies

Marian Crowley-Henry, Edward O'Connor & Blanca Suarez-Bilbao, Maynooth University, School of Business, National University of Ireland, Ireland

How does the international experience of migrant owners of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) impact on the design and application of the HRM strategies within these organisations? Three case studies of migrant owned and managed SMEs in Ireland – one micro, one small and one medium-sized – were undertaken. The theoretical lens of intelligent career theory was utilised to unpack how (and indeed, if) the individual, micro-level career experiences of the three SMEs’ migrant founder-managers affected their respective recruitment and retention policies and practices of skilled migrants and SIEs.

The study corresponds with the extant literature findings, that is it is not just size that affects the HRM practices of SMEs. While the formality of HRM policies did vary across the organisation size of the three case organisations, with the formality of the HRM policies and practices increasing as the organisation size increases, the key role(s) of the founder-manager(s) also influence(s) the particular HRM approaches adopted in the case SMEs shared in this paper. This ranged from the micro/individual level, where past experiences influenced the owners in supporting migrant employees with personal areas, such as travelling to Ireland, housing, and tax affairs; to the meso/organisational level, where the adoption of certain organisational practices, such as incorporating flexible working, offered employees the opportunity to work flexible times and sometimes from home (pre-Covid-19, this was not a common practice in most organisations). These practices helped to source and retain educated and experienced employees that, due to the tight Irish labour market at the time of the research, were not readily available to Irish employers, and served as a competitive advantage for these organisations in talent acquisition in the face of stiff competition from larger multi-national employers.

With their insider experience as skilled migrants, the founders in each of the SMEs mobilised their career capital into HRM strategies, both informal and formal. The research found recruitment and retention strategies that ranged from the very ad-hoc and bespoke HRM methods in the “micro” case organisation to complex international recruitment and retention strategies in the “medium” sized SME.  While the heterogeneity of HRM policies and practices (despite common factors across all cases, such as being founded and managed by skilled migrants in Ireland) was apparent, all three SMEs were receptive to hiring skilled migrants and SIEs.

In sum, as captured in the title to this paper, “what goes around comes around”, it is apparent that the international experiences of the SME founders in the case organisations influenced their HRM practices. Moreover, we see the meaning of the saying reflected in the resultant recruitment and retention successes of the three case study SMEs’ migrant founders from their accommodating policies and practices toward potential and existing skilled migrant and SIE employees.

To read the full article, please see the Journal of Global Mobility publication:

Crowley-Henry, M., O'Connor, E.P. and Suarez-Bilbao, B. (2021), "What goes around comes around. Exploring how skilled migrant founder–managers of SMEs recruit and retain international talent", Journal of Global Mobility, Vol. 9 No. 2, pp. 145-165.

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Best regards,


Professor Jan Selmer, Ph.D.
Founding Editor-in-Chief

Journal of Global Mobility (JGM)

Department of Management, Aarhus University

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