Monday AM August 30th, 2010

An employee's cultural background can be a more accurate predictor of job performance than personality tests used by employers, according to a study from Texas A&M University. Ed Mayberry reports.

Data pulled from nearly 600 previous studies analyzed the effects of cultural values on job outcome, examining non-verbal communication, perceptions of justice and employee rewards.  Texas A&M's Brad Kirkman says progressive organizations have been aware of these differences for years.

"And values are things, basically what people believe is right or wrong, deeply-held pretty persistent beliefs about the way the world operates.  And values are shaped by the person's country of which they're from.  Our research has demonstrated for the first time that these cultural values can be just as powerful or in some cases more powerful predictors of employee outcomes than what's been used traditionally like personality tests, intelligence tests."

Kirkman says the findings have implications for multinational corporations with high multicultural diversity.

"Respecting different cultural values should lead to higher performance for employees, because we all have different values and you go to different countries and they manage things differently, so we kind of generally have known that for a long time.  I think our study has taken it to the next level and said exactly how much power is in these values to explain some of the outcomes that we care about.  So we've been really able to quantify the association between the cultural values a person holds and then his or her work preferences, attitudes, outcomes."

Kirkman says the individual reward model doesn't translate well among the Chinese, for example.  And GM finds that self-directed assembly lines failed in Mexico, where workers don't typically seek personal empowerment or self-management. 

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...