Assessment Issues in Estimating Managerial Potential in a Global Context

Article excerpt

[Abstract]

Business leaders are predicting a talent shortage of high-quality senior managers and executives. Companies are establishing programs to identify managerial potential early in a career. The "early identification of management potential" (EIMP) process depends on selection tools (e.g., ability tests, personality tests, assessment-center exercises, weighted biographical data, and past performance reviews) that were typically developed in Western Europe or the United States and validated using Western research samples - but they are now being used in other parts of the world to evaluate non-Western managers and professionals. In this paper the author hypothesizes, reviews and analyzes potential problems using these tools across cultures.

[Keywords] early identification of management potential; cross cultural issues; selection

Introduction

Business leaders throughout the world predict that there will be a talent shortage of high-quality senior managers and executives. To preempt this problem, many companies are now establishing programs designed to identify managerial potential early in a career. Once identified, these "high potential" candidates are placed into accelerated development programs that attempt to prepare them for seniormanagement assignments. It is also believed that these types of programs help to retain top talent. The "early identification of management potential" (EIMP) process currently depends on selection tools (e.g., ability tests, personality tests, assessment-center exercises, weighted biographical data, and past performance reviews) that were typically developed in Western Europe or the United States. Many if these tools were validated using Western research samples - but they are now being used in other parts of the world to evaluate non-Western managers and professionals. In this paper the author hypothesizes potential problems when using these tools across cultures.

There are a number of predictors of leadership potential that have been empirically studied and deployed in management practice. While a full review of this literature is beyond the scope of this paper, the author did want to review and analyze the four assessment tools - cognitive ability testing, weighted biographical data, personality assessment, and managerial simulations. These four predictors are used widely in industry, have had extensive coverage in the academic literature, cover the key domains of managerial competencies proposed by Hogan and Warrenfelts (2003), and seem particularly sensitive to the moderating effects of culture and ethnicity. A brief review of each tool follows.

Review of Four Predictors

Cognitive ability testing has been used extensively in a variety of selection contexts - from academic admissions to employment and placement activities in the military and industry. These are generically described as aptitude, achievement, and or intelligence tests and have been used to predict career attainment as well as job performance. They tend to measure the ability to mentally manipulate items such as words, figures, numbers, and symbols, as well as the ability to learn in formal educational or training settings. Meta-analytical reviews of this literature have supported the view that mental ability tests are valid across organizational settings and across a full range of occupational categories (Gatewood & Feild, 2001). These reviews, however, are limited by the almost exclusive reliance on studies based on research samples comprised of North American and European test takers.

Weighted biographical data is typically gathered via a multiple choice questionnaire and typically focuses on information about a person's developmental and educational history/experiences. Items in lengthy questionnaires are empirically keyed to differentiate between successful and less successful managers and professional. This weighting scheme is then cross-validated and used to assess future rounds of job candidates. …