Criteria for virtual teams
An important consideration that needs to be taken into account in any selection system is how success is defined in a team environment. Success can be examined at the individual-level and/or at the team-level of analysis. At the individual level, researchers have looked at criteria such as member satisfaction, creativity and customer service (Jessup & Tansik, 1991; Ocker, 2005; Weisband & Atwater, 1999). Studies have shown mixed results with regard to satisfaction. The size of the team appears to have an impact as members of smaller virtual teams express greater satisfaction than members of larger teams (Bradner, Mark & Hertel, 2005). Also, higher levels of trust and project structure increase member satisfaction (Edwards & Sridhar, 2005). With regard to idea generation, groups relying on electronic brainstorming had better outcomes in terms of number of ideas, production blocking and evaluation apprehension (Gallupe et al., 1992). Brainstorming in virtual teams where members are anonymous was also found to be more successful than brainstorming in teams where members could be identified (Mejias, 2007). Gibson and Gibbs (2006) found that diversity and geographic dispersion affected team innovation negatively.
Several studies have looked at outputs at the team level of analysis. The introduction of appropriate virtual tools appears to increase team efficiency, sales volume and flexibility, and reduce time and cost (May & Carter, 2001). Efficient team processes and good member relations also affect team performance positively (Lurey & Raisinghani, 2001). Studies also show that greater geographic dispersion leads to lower performance, increased costs and reduced earnings (Boh, Ren, Kiesler & Bussjaegar, 2007; Cramton & Weber, 2005; McDonough, Kahn & Barczak, 2001). However, shared leadership and responsibility among team members, development of effective work patterns, appropriate training and active management can increase the chances of success for global virtual teams (James & Ward, 2001).
We have thus far reviewed the dynamic nature of virtual teams and the many contextual factors that affect their success, including the boundaries separating team members, the team’s life span, task complexity, leadership structure and the criteria for virtual team success. Careful consideration of these factors is necessary when designing a selection system for staffing virtual teams. Context not only affects virtual team performance and member satisfaction, but also influences the KSAOs required in virtual team members.