Approaches and selection vary significantly across cultures. There are differences not only in the priorities that are given to technical and interpersonal capabilities, but also in the way that candidates are tested and interviewed for the desired qualities.
In Anglo-Saxon cultures, what is generally tested is how much the individual can contribute to the task of the organization. In these cultures, assessment centers, intelligence tests and measurements of competencies are the norm. In Germanic cultures, the emphasis is more on the quality of education in a specialist function. The recruitment process in Latin and Far Eastern cultures is very often characterized by ascertaining how well that person ”fits in” with the larger group. This is determined in part by the elitism of higher education institutions, such as the “grandes ecoles” in France or the University of Tokyo in Japan, and in part by their interpersonal style and ability to network internally. If there are tests in Latin cultures, they will end to be more about personality, communication and social skills than about the Anglo-Saxon notion of “intelligence”.
Though there are few statistical comparisons of selection practices used across cultures, one recent study provides a useful example of the impact of culture. A survey conducted by Shackleton and Newell compared selection methods between France and the UK. They found that there was a striking contrast in the number of interviews used in the selection process, with France resorting to more than one interview much more frequently. They also found that in the UK there was a much greater tendency to use panel interviews than in France, where one-to-one interviews are the norm. In addition, while almost 74 per cent of companies in the UK use references from previous employers, only 11per cent of the companies surveyed in France used them. Furthermore, French companies rely much more on personality tests and handwriting analysis than their British counterparts.
Many organizations operating across cultures have tended to decentralize selection in order to allow for local differences in testing and for language differences, while providing a set of personal qualities or characteristics they consider important for candidates.
Hewitt Associates, a US compensation and benefits consulting firm based in the Mid West, has had difficulties extending its key selection criteria outside the USA. It is known for selecting “SWANs” people who are Smart, Willing, Able and Nice. These concepts, all perfectly understandable to other Americans, can have very different meanings in other cultures. For example, being able may mean being highly connected with colleagues, being sociable or being able to command respect from a hierarchy of subordinates, whereas the intended meaning is more about being technically competent, polite and relatively formal. Similarly, what is nice in one culture may be considered naïve or immature in another. It all depends on the cultural context.
Some international companies, like Shell, Toyota and L’Oreal, have identified very specific qualities that they consider strategically important and that support their business requirements. For example, the criteria that Shell has identified as the most important in supporting its strategy include mobility and language capability. These are more easily understood across cultures because people are either willing to relocate or not. There is less room for cultural misunderstandings with such qualities.
From Managing Cultural Differences
Exercise 1. Reading tasks:
1. Mark these statements T (true) or F(false):
a) Many international organization have decentralized selection.
b) They look for different personal qualities in different cultures.
c) The “SWAN” criteria have international validity.
d) The definition of some qualities can lead to cultural misunderstandings.
e) Mobility and language capability are clearly understood across cultures.
2. Match the cultures with the qualities or attributes according to the text:
1 Anglo-Saxon 2 Germanic 3 Latin 4 Far Eastern
a) being able to fit in with the organization
b) having the relevant kind of education for the job
c) having the right intellectual or technical capabilities
d) having good interpersonal skills
e) having attended the “top” universities in the country
f) being able to carry out relevant tasks and jobs
3. Find at least five methods for testing or assessing a candidate’s suitability for a job (e.g. assessment centers) which are mentioned in the text.
Exercise 2. Vocabulary:
The acronym SWANs stands for ‘people who are Smart, Willing, Able and Nice’. Depending on the context, these words can have different meanings. Match each word: with one of the SWAN words:
a) charming nice i) well-dressed
b) helpful j) pleasant
c) clever k) eager
d) friendly l) intelligent
e) sociable m) beautiful
f) competent n) neat
g) enthusiastic o) kind
h) enjoyable p) skilful
Use an appropriate word or phrase from the box to complete each sentence:
for example though whereas in addition similarly
The Internet is changing the way the companies work; _ _ _ , some use their website to advertise job vacancies.
Some companies use newspaper advertisements in the recruitment process, _ _ _ others prefer to use consultants.
With the boom in hi-tech industries, well-qualified software specialists are difficult to find; _ _ _ , in the automotive industry, there is a shortage of engineering graduates.
To get good management jobs, an MBA is now often a requirement; _ _ _ , knowledge of two foreign languages including English is increasingly demanded.
The Internet is being used more and more as a recruitment tool, _ _ _ there are few statistics available yet about how successful it is.
3. Match these terms with their definitions:
1 assessment a) finding out
2 the norm b) noticeable
3 ascertaining c) pay and conditions
4 elitism d) evaluation
5 striking e) usual, standard
6 compensation and benefits f) concern for status
SELECTION AND STAFFING
The organizing function defines the job requirements and predetermines the skill requirements of the jobholders. These requirements vary in degree of specificity, depending on the nature of the task. On the other hand, the job requirements of management and staff personnel are more difficult in concrete measurements.
Preliminary control is achieved through procedures that include the selection and placement of managerial and non-managerial personnel. One should distinguish between procedures designed to obtain qualified subordinate mangers (staffing) and those designed to obtain qualified non-managers and operatives (selection and placement). Although basic procedures and objectives
are essentially the same, the distinction is important because managerial competence is a fundamental determinant of the organization’s success.
Candidates for positions must be recruited from inside or outside the firm, and the most promising applicants must be selected from the list of contenders, based on the matching of an applicant’s skills and personal characteristics to the job requirements. The successful candidate must be trained in methods and procedures appropriate for the job. Most organizations have elaborate procedures for providing training on a continual basis. Careful attention to a preliminary control of human resources is important to all companies.