Job Descriptions: Lost in Translation?

Topic: Decision MakingJob analysis
Publication: Personnel Psychology
Article: The transportability of job information across countries.
Blogger: Larry Martinez

I have never seen such a long article with no punch line. Taylor, Kan Shi, and Borman, armed with data from four different countries and elaborate theory-based hypotheses were at the beginning of a great rags-to-riches story (think the first 45 minutes of any Mighty Ducks movie).  Unfortunately, the findings fell flat, at least in a world governed by the rule that p must be < .05.  But that’s OK, the findings are still interesting!

The study examined cultural variables including power distance (the extent to which less powerful members of an organization not only expect but accept that power is distributed unequally) and collectivism (where the importance of the group supersedes the importance of the individual) in relation to importance ratings of job aspects (decision-making and interpersonal skills).  They did find that for some jobs, employees in countries high in power distance and collectivism tended (remember, p > .05) to rate decision-making activities as lower in importance than employees in countries that are low in collectivism and power-distance.

The take-home message from this article is that the job
descriptions the authors used, which came from the O*NET, may not generalize to other countries
.  Read that last line again, because it’s important. Practitioners need to be wary of using measures and job descriptions developed in this country in other countries, even for the same jobs.

Taylor, P. J., Kan Shi, W. D., & Borman, W. C.  (2008).  The transportability of job information across countries.  Personnel Psychology, 61,  69-111.