Apples and Oranges

I’m beginning to like PersonnelToday.com more and more. I’d love to get a subscription to it, but it’s a little too costly for me to consider right now. I really like it, because of the number of really good and pertinent stories they’ve been publishing.

Take this one for instance.

Psychometrics: trade secrets – going global with assessment

This is a really great piece that highlights a lot of problems that can occur when you start moving a business into a global market without really thinking about all aspects of it.  Globalization is something that is taking place and we’re not going to just ignore it, and this article shows some of the really important HR  pieces that need to be taken into account.

Basically this comes from the viewpoint that you can’t compare employees and recruits from Mesquite, Texas with those that come from Banaglore, India. It’s just not a fair comparison. As a responsible employer (and saavy businessperson) you want to make sure that you’re comparing apples to apples. If you’re not, you’re going to do serious damage to your business, and probably open yourself up to some legal liability.

Probably one of the best examples and the one that provides the best evidence is that point that the author defines as “Make sure that things don’t get lost in translation.” This is something that even the most well-trained I-O psychologists forget. In one example, a study into acculturation asked participants to answer questions independently. However, the Russian participants took to reading the questions aloud, collectively deciding on a response, and then all circling the same answer. While it is an interesting view into how a collectivistic society works, it certainly can confound a researcher.

The same thing can happen when you simply take a job or organization satisfaction survey and have it translated into another language. When you lose something critical in the translation, your picture of job or organizational satisfaction can come out to be very different from reality. Then, if you start making changes based on your skewed picture, you can end up with serious damage.

So, just take some time to make sure that whatever you’ve decided to foray into with globalization that you do some education first and make sure that you’re making the right choices about how to do it.

This entry was posted in evidence-based business, human resources, i-o psychology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Apples and Oranges

  1. Matt B says:

    Dan,

    You’re right about the difficulties of language translations for surveys and other measurement methods.

    There are methods that currently exist (and continue to be developed) for checking such things, however. Measurement Equivalency/Invariance (MEI) procedures using either Structural Equation Measurement Models or Item Response Theory item parameters examine if the same things are being measured between subgroups. In other words, if I’m trying to gauge employee satisfaction for a multinational organization, MEI techniques can tell me if the items are getting at satisfaction levels in all countries involved, rather than unwanted error due to translation issues or cultural differences.

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