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What's Past Is Prologue: Exploring a Biodata Approach to Team Selection

Michael J. Stevens University of Missouri - St. Louis 8001 Natural Bridge Rd. St. Louis, MO 63121 (314) 516-6297 Robert G. Jones Donald L. Fischer Southwest Missouri State University Department of Psychology 901 South National Avenue Springfield, MO 65804 (417) 836-4790

Address correspondence to: Michael J. Stevens University of Missouri - St. Louis College of Business Administration, SSB 487 8001 Natural Bridge Rd. St. Louis, MO 63121 (314) 516-6297

2 What's Past Is Prologue: Exploring a Biodata Approach to Team Selection Abstract One of the original key assumptions underlying biodata inventories is that knowledge about past behavior can help us predict future behavior (Owens, 1976). This assumption should hold true for self-directed teamwork environments just as readily as it does in other areas of work. Consequently, a 64-item Teamwork Biodata Inventory (TBI) was developed to test this assumption, and was evaluated on field subjects for its validity in making teamwork staffing and selection decisions. Both team and individual performance were both predicted by some, but separately predicted by different TBI scales. Introduction Staffing teams requires consideration of both individual effectiveness regarding core task proficiencies, as well as "mix" variables associated with team coordination (Klimoski & Jones, 1995; Stevens & Campion, 1994; Jones, Stevens & Fischer, 2002). Although there is a growing body of research that addresses these two issues separately, there is little work which has simultaneously considered both team and individual effectiveness prediction together. This is an important issues since both team-level and task-specific components of performance may influence effectiveness of work teams and its members (Bannick, Salas & Prince, 1997). Further, while the current literature has looked at individual member characteristics and team composition as they affect processes and outcomes, most of this work done to date has been done in laboratories (Levine & Moreland, 1990), while team composition is generally treated using demographic variables of team members, rather than experience and background variables (see Barrick, Stewart, Neubert, & Mount, 1998 for a notable exception). By taking into consideration important background experiences of the individual team members, this study attempts to extend these previous research inquiries. Simultaneous examination of both predictors of individual effectiveness within teams and of biodata predictors of team performance has not been accomplished. Still, theoretical work on relationships between individual member characteristics, team composition factors, and their combined relationships with processes and performance in group situations provides some useful directions for dealing with these questions. In particular, several theorists (Heslin, 1964; Jackson, May, & Whitney, 1995; Levine & Moreland, 1990) have suggested that team performance can be understood as a function of both member characteristics and the relative mix of these characteristics. Evidence has supported the idea, at the group level, that heterogeneity (usually defined in terms of demographics rather than experiential variables) facilitates performance in creative problem solving tasks and reduces performance in structured tasks (Heslin, 1964; Jackson, et al., 1995). Similarly, team processes may be facilitated by members general sense that the team is effective (Guzzo, 1986; Hyatt & Ruddy, 1997; Sniezek, 1992), though there is less evidence concerning this notion. Heterogeneity may also reduce group cohesiveness, though the exact nature of this relationship appears to be contingent on which aspect of cohesiveness is considered (Mullen & Copper, 1994) and what sort of task the group performs (Saavedra, Earley, & Van Dyne, 1993). Empirically, and without reference to process and context moderation, there is some

3 evidence of composition being related to team outcomes. For example, in two field studies, elevation and dispersion of several big five personality characteristics related to team process and performance (Wagner, Neuman, & Christiansen, 1996; Barrick et al., 1998). Similarly, combined member ability has been associated with performance (Colarelli & Boos, 1992; Tziner & Eden, 1985; Wright, McMahan, Smart, & McCormick, 1995) though the nature of this set of relationships is controversial (Hill, 1982; Watson, Michaelson, & Sharp, 1991; Brannick et al., 1998). Finally, Campion Medsker and Higgs (1993) found significant correlations with performance only for some composition factors. These mixed results of course suggest a need to evaluate moderation of composition effects on team outcomes, and return us to the problem of particularistic selection. The interaction of individual performance with team contextual factors in predicting performance is also a potentially important issue we examine in this study. Exactly which individual characteristics may be related to which team outcomes has been less clearly delineated at the individual level (Barry & Stewart, 1997). Some have suggested that individual personality (e.g. Schlenker, Weigold & Hallam, 1990), interpersonal skills (e.g. Campion & Stevens, 1994), and preference for working in teams (Campion et al, 1993; Eby & Dobbins, 1995) may predict individual performance in teams, as well as team performance as a whole. However, the questions of which team processes interact with these individual level differences remains a matter for conjecture, since methods for statistical evaluation of interactive relationships between individual and group levels of analysis do not yet exist. However, individual performance within a team context can be assessed using traditional analytic tools. In summary, relationships between individual member characteristics (on the one hand) and team composition and team outcomes (on the other hand) require further research. Where research has been done, it tends to have been carried out in laboratory settings with limited generalizability to the complex world of workplace teams. This study therefore uses a multi-level approach to examine relationships between individual team member background and experiences (e.g., personal motives; preferences for working teams; knowledge of and experience in team settings; age, gender, language, and ethnicity demographics), team process and context, and performance in intact teams in a field setting. In particular, we will explore the relationships (at both the individual and team levels of analysis) between predictors and effectiveness. The same individual characteristics aggregated for team level analyses will also be used to predict individual performance in the team context using multiple rating criteria. Moderating effects of process and context on team level predictor-performance relationships will also be explored. Method Sample and procedure Data for this study were gathered from a large metal refinery in the Southwest U.S. in twelve, two-hour sessions during work time. Individual participants were 458 employees and their 57 managers. Employees had been organized into semi-autonomous teams for approximately six years, during which time the organization had experienced significant increases in production and profitability. Team members who reported ethnic information (67.8% of the total) were predominantly of Latino ethnicities (50.4%), with fewer European- (13.5%), African- (3.7%), and Asian-Americans (.2%). Of the 321 people reporting gender (70.3%), most were male (65.3% of total) and fewer female (5% of total). Education levels varied, with 38.9% having completed high school, 21.1% with some college, and 5.3% of the sample having completed college or education

4 beyond college. Median age of the team members was approximately 42. There were 57 teams, of which 56 provided more than one participant response. Teams varied in size from three to 16 members, with a mean of 8.24 members (S = 3.78). Size was used as a covariate in certain analyses. Teams performed a variety of tasks, from manual labor to technical tasks (e.g. electrical or auto maintenance), and 18 were formally classified by the plant as "self managing." All teams had team leaders (n = 57), and non-self-managing teams had team coaches as well. Only six teams had women leaders. Measures Teamwork Biodata Inventory. Items for the Teamwork Biodata Inventory (TBI) were written based primarily on the content domain of individual level teamwork knowledge, skills and abilities for teamwork presented by Stevens and Campion (1994). This domain consists of competencies in the areas of interpersonal effectiveness (i.e., conflict resolution, collaborative problem solving, and interpersonal communication) and self-management capabilities (i.e., goal setting and performance management, and planning and task coordination). Items were written to capture aspects of subjects' personal background and experience that would be strong indicators of successful involvement with teamwork (or at least successful involvement with the interpersonal and self-management aspects that are known to be indicative of successful teamwork). Beyond the content domain of the Stevens and Campion framework, additional biodata items were also written based on the expectation that other content areas might also provide a valuable source of prediction for the TBI. These additional areas included such things as group attitudinal constructs, cultural values and personal preferences (or predispositions) for group work. Thus, after a review of the relevant literatures, the following specific content areas were identified as a basis for potential TBI items: self-monitoring (Gangestead & Snyder, 1985, 1991; Miller