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Going Global: How to Ensure Accuracy of Employee Assessments Overseas

June 16, 2015

It seems like more and more organizations are getting the “traveling” bug and finding ways to expand their borders. Companies are not just interested in having more locations within the United States, but are interested in widening their reach by opening facilities outside of the United States. This is a trend I’ve noticed in our clients. There is much more interest in going global and using a consistent hiring process across locations.

As with most practices, there are several considerations you must take before rolling out a hiring process into other countries. In particular, when we implement an online assessment into another country, it’s not quite as simple as setting up a new candidate to take the assessment. Below are some questions you should ask before rolling out an assessment in another country.

  • What is the native language of the country?  Will the assessment need to be translated?

When administering an assessment, you need to take into account what language is required for the target job. If the job requires the employee to speak English, it is not necessary to translate the assessment. However, if a different language is spoken or required, then the assessment will need to be translated.

While translating assessments sounds like a straightforward process, it’s critical that you have a trusted vendor do the translation. Assessment items are measuring underlying skills and abilities. Doing a word-for-word translation will not work. We need to make sure that the underlying meaning of the item remains intact so we are still measuring the skill or ability as developed. We partner with a translation vendor that has HR experience and understands the assessment industry. This enables us to maintain the accuracy of our tools.

Translating assessments takes quite a lot of time. It is an iterative process to ensure that the translation is accurate for the particular dialect and country. You will need to build in some extra time for this.

  • Are all of the items contained in the assessment relevant from a cultural perspective?

Regardless of whether you implement an assessment in English or another language, it is important to engage in a cultural review of the content when you implement an assessment in country outside of the United States. This review is intended to ensure that all the items and the language used are appropriate and sound natural. One of the goals of developing assessments is to make sure that the candidate has a positive experience. Ensuring the items are relevant and clearly written will help to meet this goal.

When developing assessments, we do our best to write items and scenarios that would apply cross-culturally. In my experience, we have not had to rewrite entire items, but we have made smaller changes. For example, we have changed names and also swapped words because the others used were not common in that country. Even though they are minor changes, this is still important from a candidate perspective.

  • Would candidates respond the same in this country as they would in the United States?

Another consideration to make from a research and development perspective is to determine the best normative group to use. A normative group is the comparison sample that is used during the scoring of the assessment. For example, when a candidate takes Select Assessment for Manufacturing in the United States, the normative group includes a sample of American entry-level manufacturing workers. We know that individuals have different response biases depending where they are located. Some countries are known to be stricter while others are known to be more lenient when responding to items. Using a comparison group that accounts for these response tendencies based on the country, is important.

  • Are there any unique laws and regulations in the country that would affect how the assessments are administered and utilized?

Some countries have unique policies and practices that you will need to follow during the hiring process.  For example, in the United Kingdom, if a candidate does not get hired, he or she can request feedback and the company is required to provide it because the assessment includes personal information. Also, data privacy and safe harbor language may need to be included prior to taking an assessment. Before administering an assessment in another country, be sure to research the country’s laws and regulations.

A parting comment I’ll leave you with is that the ultimate goal is to have consistent, not standardized, process across countries. We recognize that there may be cultural differences and we want to account for those. However, using the same tools and basing decisions on the same criteria is what is most important.

With this being said, implementing assessments in different countries takes a lot of forethought. There are several things that you need to think through and steps you need to take before implementing an assessment in another country. In the end, we hope that by thinking through the answers to these questions will help you meet your hiring goals across all locations.

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Alissa Parr, Ph.D. Alissa Parr, Ph.D. is a Senior Consultant at PSI. Her areas of expertise include the development, implementation, and evaluation of assessment processes. Alissa has experience managing entry-level through executive level assessment and selection efforts across a number of different industries including government, financial, military, education, healthcare, and manufacturing.