Habilitation award winners 2018: PD Dr. Tassilo Schuster
Department of International Management
What was the subject of your habilitation thesis?
In my habilitation thesis, I examined current and pressing issues in international human resources management and international sustainability management. On the one hand, this involved looking at how companies can make foreign assignments efficient and which measures are beneficial to employees during the time they spend abroad. On the other, my habilitation thesis looks at how multi-national companies can operate with social responsibility and sustainability in mind. This is important, as companies make a considerable contribution in this regard and can be decisive in improving the conditions in emerging markets.
What excites you the most about your research?
I enjoy my work as an academic researcher because I am able to examine issues that interest me personally and with which I can identify. Above all, these are issues that not only have an effect on the success of a company, but also have a positive effect on society and on the employees working in the company. In other words, I enjoy examining decision-making processes in companies that not only contribute to cutting costs or to securing the long-term success of the company, but also have a positive effect for other stakeholders in the company.
Which difficulties did you encounter during your habilitation and how did you overcome them?
One challenge I faced during the entire habilitation phase was accumulating information and data in order to answer the questions in my thesis. Researchers who conduct empirical research all know the problems associated with it and ask themselves where they can acquire the data they need. Which databases are available and can be used for this purpose? Who can provide me with information? How can I identify and motivate these people to take part in an academic study?
Such challenges mean you have to be inventive when searching for creative ways of approaching potential test subjects for interviews and surveys, when creating new incentives for taking part in academic studies as well as when maintaining and using your own professional network. If you can successfully pass on your enthusiasm for a topic to these people, it’s always surprising in the end to see how many of them actually give up their time for academic studies and how willing they are to provide information for a piece of academic research.
To which extent has your research changed you and your view of the world?
My research has enabled me to gain extensive insights into the economy and society in emerging markets in Asia. India, for example – a country full of contradictions. On one hand, we find a middle class that is continuously growing and that has benefited from the strong economic growth of the last few decades, and on the other, 70% of the population still lives in poverty. India has a flourishing, diverse and colourful culture that attracts thousands of tourists each year, but also has major difficulties with environmental pollution, caused by a lack of environmental awareness in the population and a lack of investment. Examining all these issues has shown me that poverty and environmental pollution cannot be overcome without the involvement of the private sector. We must therefore ensure that companies are obliged to take responsibility or create incentives that combine corporate interests with the elimination of these problems. Furthermore, one becomes more aware of the fact that we shouldn’t take the standards of living in Germany for granted. Rather, we must regard them as a privilege and ask ourselves which contribution we can each make as individuals in order to keep this privilege.
What’s next – for you and your field of research?
I am currently a visiting professor at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, until September 2019. I can’t really say at the moment where the journey will take me afterwards. It remains to be seen. However, I am certain that I want to stay in research.
My cumulative habilitation thesis has made it possible for me to research in a wide range of areas. Of course, the issues in these areas are subject to constant change, for example due to digital transformation. Digitalisation creates new challenges, but also innovative approaches to finding solutions. It raises the issue, for example, of what the world of work will be like in the future or whether companies will still have to rely on foreign assignments in 20 years’ time. It’s therefore plausible that employees will be able to carry out tasks that typically require foreign assignments ‘remotely’ or from home, by using new digital technologies. Another interesting aspect is the future use of these technologies to increase sustainability.
Thank you for the interviews, Dr. Schuster