Performance Management

Are Jobs Really Global? Job Similarities Across Countries

As companies seek to expand beyond national boundaries, one question becomes particularly relevant: is the “job” the same in different countries? Are the functions of a bank teller in the United States the same as those of a teller in Japan? When companies seek to become multi-national, it becomes increasingly important to determine if the job companies are moving from the United States (U.S.) will end up being the same job in another country.

The Global Movement

Services typically performed at corporate headquarters in the U.S. – e.g., technology, call center functions, product testing, and research & development — are increasingly being moved off-shore to other countries. Global developments require the use of information about jobs to be applied across country boundaries. As such, an understanding of how job demands may differ across those boundaries is essential – particularly for the cross-country application of job models and competencies for performance appraisal systems. Typically job information has been developed using U.S. jobs/workers, which then is used by other departments and organizations overseas.

The Influence of Culture

Research has shown that cultural values, combined with the organization’s environment, influence human resource management practices. Specifically, the degree to which a country values individualism versus collectivism typically emerges as important. While it is true individualistic/collectivistic value differences do exist, they do not appear to affect the importance of different work activities, skill requirements, and work-style requirements of the same job across countries/cultures. The US Department of Labor’s O*NET is the most comprehensive and readily accessible repository of occupational information, available via Thus, generally speaking, the detailed job information available on O*NET may be useful for a multitude of applications across countries, including the beginning stages of a global job analysis. The implication for practitioners is that for uses like developing job descriptions, matching applicant KSAOs with those required by the job, and creating realistic job previews based on information measured from jobs in the U.S. , much of this information is likely to transport (or “translate”) for the same job overseas – regardless of the job’s – or company’s – country of origin!

A Word of Caution

One important caveat to keep in mind, though, is that the transportability of job information from the U.S. to other countries and cultures still depends on the level of precision and detail required by the situation. For high-stakes applications requiring great levels of precision, such as validation of selection assessment instruments and creating norms/ranges for test scores, use of local detailed job analysis data is much more appropriate for ensuring that country or cultural differences do not negatively affect the results.

Interpretation by:

Kathleen Melcher

DeGarmo Group

This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Taylor, P. J., Kan Shi, W.L., & Borman, W.C. (2007). The Transportability of job information across countries. Personnel Psychology, 61, 69 – 111.