Given that companies can spend anywhere from $300,000 to $1 million annually on benefits packages to entice employees – two to three times what the same position would cost in the home country – it is in an organization’s best interest to choose who goes abroad wisely. But where does one start? Is there a way for companies to assess their candidates for the competencies that are crucial to a successful overseas experience?
Spotlight: The Kozai Group’s Global Competencies Inventory
As Douglas Stuart, a noted researcher writes, “In general, the global workplace requires the ability to operate comfortably and effectively within a broad spectrum of difference – human, cultural, and environmental.”(1) The traits that help someone function effectively across cultures have been a much-debated topic among researchers for decades, but the following three categories from the Kozai Group’s Global Competencies Inventory (GCI) are a helpful way to frame the necessary competencies: Perception Management, Relationships Management, and Self-Management. (2) (Full disclosure: I took the GCI Qualifying Seminar in 2014 as part of an independent study for my M.A. program and am certified to administer the GCI.)
Perception management assesses how accurately we learn and take in information across cultures, and includes the following competencies:
- Nonjudgmentalness about the new or unfamiliar
- Inquisitiveness, particularly around difference
- Tolerance of ambiguity in new situations
- Cosmopolitanism, i.e., interest in different countries and cultures
- Interest flexibility, which is indicative of one’s willingness to adopt new interests or routines and see things in a different light.
Relationship management measures how well one builds and sustains relationships generally, and is an essential part of working effectively across cultures. It includes the following competencies:
- Relationship interest, the degree to which one is interested in people from other cultures
- Interpersonal engagement, i.e., how likely one is to actively seek out culturally different friendships
- Emotional sensitivity and the ability to read others
- Self-awareness of personal values, strengths, weaknesses, etc.
- Behavior flexibility in different situations
Self management assesses how well one manages one’s own thoughts, emotions, and responses in intercultural environments, and includes the following competencies:
- Optimism in the face of stressful intercultural environments
- Self-identity in the face of difference
- Emotional resilience after setbacks
- Non-stress tendency, i.e., one’s ability to respond peacefully to stressful situations
- Stress management, like exercise, breathing, and other stress reduction techniques
While the Kozai Group’s inventory is only one of many, the sixteen personality dimensions that it measures cover such a wide range that it overlaps with many other models. In the case of the GCI, longitudinal studies found that higher scores were not only correlated with higher levels of global business acumen, employee management skills, and global administrative skills, but they also were associated with “higher levelsof skill transfer upon assignment to a new position, increased motivation and work attachment, and higher levels of general work performance.” (3)
Additional Candidate Assessment Inventories
Other inventories besides the GCI that can help companies assess which candidates are the right fit for an overseas assignment include:
- The Global Executive Leadership Inventory (GELI), which uses a 360-degree feedback assessment to overcome the subjectivity bias of typical self-assessments. GELI identifies levels of competency on twelve dimensions related to global leadership.
- The Multicultural Personality Questionnaire (MPQ), which looks at five competencies related specifically to the adjustment and performance of expatriates. Longitudinal studies have confirmed its ability to forecast personal adjustment, job satisfaction, and social support. (4)
- Cultural Intelligence (CQ), which is premised on the idea that cultural intelligence is independent from other types of intelligences. CQ measures four dimensions and was found to be predictive of both general and work adjustment among expatriates working in Singapore. (5)
- The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), which identifies six stages of intercultural development corresponding to how individuals think of cultural difference. Stages progress from ethnocentric, i.e. avoiding cultural differences, to ethnorelative, i.e. seeking cultural differences. The IDI has been found to be a reliable predictor of cultural sensitivity levels among students and returned Peace Corps volunteers. (6)
Competence Are Not Set in Stone
In general, while many of these competencies may seem like personality traits that one is either born with or not, many researchers agree that they can be developmental in nature. With enough practice, anyone can improve their intercultural capabilities and help ensure a more seamless transition abroad. For example, those who struggle with nonjudgmentalness can consider going with a friend of a different background to an event that is representative or a celebration of their culture. Afterward, they can compare perceptions and talk about how their experiences were similar and divergent. Those who find it difficult to tolerate ambiguity can begin to note thoughts, reactions, and emotions after challenging situations in a journal; after a few of these events, they can try to identify patterns to overcome. These are just a couple of ways to creatively improve on any weaknesses that may stand between you and the overseas assignment you have always dreamed about.
The Bristol Difference
Bristol wants to do more than help clients send employees abroad. We want to help promote assignment success from start to finish, beginning with proper candidate selection. For more information about how we can assist you in this process, please contact:
Cristina Francisco-McGuire is an M.A. candidate in Intercultural Relations through the University of Pacific and the Intercultural Communication Institute. She spent 2008 and the first half of 2013 traveling through Asia and Europe, and she wishes she had received a pre-departure and in-country orientation. To contact Cristina, please visit her LinkedIn profile:https://www.linkedin.com/in/cristinafmcg
Also see Training: Your Secret Weapon for Assignment Success –http://www.bristolglobal.com/training-your-secret-weapon-for-assignment-success/
(1): Assessment instruments for the global workforce.
(2): Assessing global leadership competencies.
(3): Assessing global leadership competencies.