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Transitioning to Remote Teams in Principles of Marketing: An Exploratory Psychometric Assessment of Team Role Effects on Face-to-Face and Online Team Performance


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Marketing programs rely heavily on team projects to foster team performance, however hiring managers continue to note deficiencies in marketing graduates. At the same time, global health concerns accelerate the transition to remote work settings. This exploratory study extends Belbins work on team roles using a novel psychometric assessment of discrete role types. Results suggest unique performance effects associated with certain roles and role combinations that vary F2F and online. Namely, sharing primary role information and dispersing action-oriented students among online groups can optimize team performance. In contrast, F2F teams benefit from both action orientation and role dominance.
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Transitioning to remote teams in principles of marketing: An exploratory
psychometric assessment of team role effects on face-to-face and online
team performance
Debbie DeLong
and Brian A. Vander Schee
School of Arts, Science & Business, Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA;
Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, Indiana
University, Indianapolis, IN, USA
Marketing programs rely heavily on team projects to foster team performance, however hir-
ing managers continue to note deficiencies in marketing graduates. At the same time, glo-
bal health concerns accelerate the transition to remote work settings. This exploratory study
extends Belbins work on team roles using a novel psychometric assessment of discrete role
types. Results suggest unique performance effects associated with certain roles and role
combinations that vary F2F and online. Namely, sharing primary role information and dis-
persing action-oriented students among online groups can optimize team performance. In
contrast, F2F teams benefit from both action orientation and role dominance.
Online teams; role diversity;
role sharing; team
performance; team roles
Global health concerns encourage social distancing
such that a significant portion of business professio-
nals work remotely, with one-third likely to continue
to work from home after world health is stabilized
(Bartik, Cullen, Glaeser, Luca, & Stanton 2020). Even
pre-COVID, it was suggested that organizations were
already using distributed teams as part of the perman-
ent work structure (Gera, 2013). Although business
educators have examined the behavior and effective-
ness of teams operating in person for some time
(Gopinath & Saleem, 2020), there is a gap in the lit-
erature regarding online team performance. More spe-
cifically, this exploratory study answers the research
question, what effect does team role type, role diver-
sity, role dominance, and role sharing have on team
performance, both F2F and online?
Given that teams increasingly lie at the heart of a vast
majority of corporations, it is imperative that business
students acquire constructive team-based experience for
job readiness (Betta, 2016), particularly in a remote team
setting. Despite academias concerted efforts, new gradu-
ates often fall short of employersexpectations (Chhinzer
&Russo,2018). Not all student teams work well together
as diversity in team role composition can result in a wide
variation in studentsexperiences and therefore team
performance (Zeitun, Abdulqader, & Alshare 2013).
The team performance gap is especially dire when
considering the explosive growth of online business
coursework and employment in online environments.
Few studies have examined the relationship between
team roles and team performance in F2F as well as
online settings. We also extend the previous explor-
ation of the team role model developed by Belbin
(1981) to F2F and online teams. Prior research focus-
ing on only F2F teams found preliminary support for
individual and combined role effects on team per-
formance (DeLong & Elbeck, 2019). In this study, role
type, role diversity in team composition, role domin-
ance, and role sharing effects on team performance
are compared F2F and online.
Literature review and hypotheses
The performance of a team, as a mix of individuals,
depends in part on the combination of individual
characteristics or team roles played within that team
(Smith, Polglase, & Parry 2012). Although prior
research provides ample documentation of the
extreme variability in the performance of student
teams overall, team roles as a determinant of perform-
ance have received less attention (Wesley, Jackson, &
CONTACT Brian A. Vander Schee Indiana University, Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, 801 W Michigan Street,
Indianapolis, IN 46202, USA.
ß2021 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
2022, VOL. 97, NO. 6, 357364
Lee 2017). Investigation of this issue is particularly
vital when designing team-based business projects F2F
versus online. A model showing the relationship
between team roles and team performance is provided
in Figure 1. The following sections discuss this model,
noting hypotheses that address how team roles, alone,
and in combination, can influence performance for
F2F and online teams.
Belbin model of team roles
Grounded in team role theory, Belbins(1981) work
distinguished between successful and unsuccessful
team performance regarding behaviors rather than
intellect or experience. Behaviors include the ways in
which team members make decisions, interact with
one another, and apply their capabilities to reach the
team result. Belbin (1981) defined a team role as a
pattern of behavior characteristic of the way in which
one team member interacts with another where his
performance serves to facilitate the progress of the
team as a whole(p. 169). Belbins(1981,1993) team
roles framework is widely used for team and manage-
ment development purposes by organizations that rec-
ognize team composition as a key element of team
performance. The models eight roles, later expanded
to nine, complement one another in the team. The
nine-team roles correspond to three arch-type catego-
ries (see Table 1).
Role type
The three arch-type categories align with distinctive
behaviors and implications for performance (see
Batenburg, van Walbeek, & In der Maur 2013; Belbin,
1993). Specifically, action-oriented roles demonstrate
an adaptive cognitive style, low emotional intelligence,
and achievement orientation. People-oriented roles
demonstrate a bridging cognitive style, high cohesion,
and high emotional intelligence. Thinking-oriented
roles demonstrate a dominating cognitive style, low
cohesion, and intellectual orientation.
Action orientation is positively related to F2F as
well as online team performance. Pollock (2009)
asserted that action-oriented roles catalyze team per-
formance improvement to a greater degree than other
role types. Channon, Davis, Goode, & May (2017)
also found positive effects on performance within all
three role categories but attributed relatively greater
impact on overall task scores to action-oriented mem-
bers. The literature suggests action-oriented team
members outperform people- and thinking-oriented
team members in F2F settings, however, this effect in
the online team environment has yet to be examined.
We, therefore, propose the following hypotheses
where team performance pertains to the grade earned
by F2F and online teams on their semester-
long projects.
: Action-orientation is positively related to F2F
team performance.
: Action-orientation is positively related to online
team performance.
Role diversity
Role diversity reflects the degree to which the three
arch types are represented within a team. According
to Belbin (1981), a balanced combination of all roles
(i.e., a heterogenous mix) fosters team performance.
Figure 1. Team roles and team performance conceptual model.
In contrast, redundant role representation (i.e., a
homogenous mix) leads to unsatisfactory results. The
literature shows weak support for role diversity over
role similarity within a given team (Calvin & Igu,
2019) or no support either way (Smith et al., 2012).
Role diversity is positively related to F2F as well as
online team performance. In an academic setting with
F2F teams, Ibanez and Schaffland (2018) reported bet-
ter performance in homogeneous groups, while
Akhtar, Frynas, Mellahi, & Ullah (2019) reported bet-
ter performance by heterogeneous teams. Role diver-
sity in the online environment has received little
attention, with the exception of Zheng, Zeng, &
Zhang (2016) who noted a positive relationship
between role diversity and online team performance.
Therefore, we propose the following hypotheses where
role diversity refers to the heterogeneous (i.e., high
role diversity) versus homogeneous (i.e., low role
diversity) mix of role types present within each F2F
or online team:
: Role diversity is positively related to F2F team
: Role diversity is positively related to online team
Role dominance
Following Smith et al. (2012), a dominant or strong
role is one in which the individuals primary role
score is relatively higher than other membersscores
on that dimension (e.g., scoring in the top decile of
the distribution). A meta-analysis by Carter, Mead,
Stewart, Nielsen, & Solimeo (2019) highlighted how
every team member brings a unique set of talents,
experiences, and prejudices that collectively and con-
structively inform the teams performance. Channon
et al. (2017) reported that overly dominant individuals
can create conflict within a group, disrupting
team processes.
Role dominance is positively related to F2F and
online team performance. Belbin (1981) hypothesized
that team balance is more important for success than
combined intellect since defined areas of expertise fos-
ter team productivity. Groysberg, Polzer, & Elfenbein
(2011) emphasized that imposing structure is prefer-
able to insufficient differentiation of status or diffused
authority structure. To provide clarity regarding F2F
and online teams, we propose the following hypothe-
ses, with role dominance measured as the proportion
of team members with their primary role in the
90th percentile.
: Role dominance is positively related to F2F team
: Role dominance is positively related to online
team performance.
Role sharing
The literature on team knowledge sharing is consist-
ently positive regarding its benefits to team perform-
ance. Alsharo, Gregg, & Ramirez (2017) asserted that
the more comprehensive the entire teams shared
knowledge is in relation to the task and each other,
the better. Cognitive resources available within a team
remain underutilized if knowledge is not shared
(Fong, Men, Luo, & Jia 2018). When knowledge shar-
ing does occur within a team, improved cohesiveness
results (Schaffer & Manegold, 2018).
Sharing primary role information is positively
related to F2F and online team performance. Smith
et al. (2012) incorporated Belbins role model into a
team-based assignment that included sharing role
information within teams, reporting fewer conflicts
and greater tolerance. Rahmi and Indarti (2020) found
knowledge sharing and building trust by openly dis-
cussing roles and expectations is an effective way to
improve innovation. We, therefore, propose the fol-
lowing hypotheses, where role sharing refers to team
members disclose their primary 123test role assess-
ment scores and use this information to assign pro-
ject tasks.
Table 1. Alignment between Belbin and 123Test nine team roles and categories.
Category Belbin roles and descriptions 123Test roles
Action-oriented Shaper Challenges the team to improve. Driver
Implementer Puts ideas into action.
Completer finisher Ensures thorough, timely completion.
Thinking-oriented Plant Presents new ideas and approaches. Innovator analyst
expertMonitor-evaluator Analyzes the options.
Specialist Provides specialized skills.
People-oriented Coordinator Acts as a chairperson. Chairman
team player explorerTeam worker Encourages cooperation.
Resource investigator Explores outside opportunities.
Sources: (Belbin, 1981), (Belbin, 1993), 123Test.
: Sharing primary role information is positively
related to F2F team performance.
: Sharing primary role information is positively
related to online team performance.
A total of 71 students enrolled in either a F2F section
(N¼37) or an online section (N¼34) of a Principles
of Marketing course at the same university with the
same instructor and two teaching assistants partici-
pated in the study. F2F teams met in person during
and outside of class while online teams only held
online synchronous meetings to work on their team
projects. The age range was 19 to 55 years (M¼25.41,
SD ¼8.21) and 43 (59.7%) of the students were
female. Students were grouped into teams that varied
by role type, role diversity, and role dominance com-
position. Teams ranged in size from 4 to 6 students.
Five F2F teams and three online teams represented
high role diversity (i.e., a heterogeneous mix of role
types), while four F2F teams and three online repre-
sented low role diversity (i.e., homogeneous role
types). The proportion of action-oriented roles and
the proportion of dominant roles ranged from 0 to
100%. Student satisfaction with the course and their
perceptions of instruction quality did not vary signifi-
cantly across teams or course modalities.
Team formation
This study relies upon an alternative team role inventory
comprised of 36 dichotomous items informed by over
700,000 completed surveys (see https://www.123test.
com/team-roles-test/). The 123test instrument closely
mimics Belbins framework, with validity established by
Swailes and McIntyre-Bhatty (2002), as it assesses role
affinity using team member behaviors rather than intel-
lect, experience, or personality factors. Two instructors
reviewed and independently classified the nine 123test
team roles into the three categories shown in Figure 1
(achieving 100% interrater agreement).
Students completed the online team roles 123test
survey to generate scores on each of the nine-team
role scales. Scale scores ranged from 0 to 23, with the
percentile falling at 19. The highest team role
score for a given student identified their primary role
orientation and served as the criterion for forming
heterogeneous and homogenous teams. As suggested
by Pearlstein (2020), students self-selected into the
F2F and online sections, however, team formation was
randomized while ensuring role orientation heterogen-
eity or homogeneity for each team.
Team task and grading
The team project in both the F2F and online sections
was a semester-long marketing plan worth 20% of the
final grade in the course. Similar to Helms and
Whitesell (2017), teams selected different companies to
analyze and devise a structured marketing plan for
launching a hypothetical new product within a speci-
fied target market. Student teams were limited to pub-
lic, B2C, product offering companies to add uniformity
in company selection. Further, student teams had to
use a diversification or product development growth
strategy for a new product offering subject to instructor
approval as a substantive and realistic extension of the
companys current product portfolio.
Teams completed the ten sections of the project in a
sequential fashion as lectures (presented in person for
F2F students and as narrated slides for online students)
and individual homework assignments addressed each
topic. Grading rubrics containing anchored rating
scales and examples of previously completed projects
provided additional consistency and clarity of assign-
ment requirements and evaluative criteria.
The instructor and two teaching assistants inde-
pendently graded each anonymous marketing plan
section using the structured rubrics, followed by com-
parison and resolution of grading discrepancies to
achieve uniform interrater agreement, establishing
grading reliability. Teams received their grades and
instructors comments within one week of each
assignment to make use of the constructive feedback
for continuous project improvement.
Partington and Harris (1999) define team perform-
ance as a measure of the teams output and how it
meets the quality standards of those who must use it.
The 15 teams were appraised of this standard for the
project on a 100-point scale. F2F team performance
scores ranged from 80-89 (M¼84.44, SD ¼3.13),
while online team performance scores ranged from
7086 (M¼77.86, SD ¼7.33). A team-level survey
developed for this study assessed perceptions of the
course, quality of instruction, team experience, and
other subjective measures. Other measures included:
Role type was the proportion of students on a
given team within a specific role cluster (i.e., 1
action-oriented team member out of 5 ¼20).
Role diversity was a categorical variable where
homogenous teams have only one role category repre-
sented (three online teams and four F2F teams) and
heterogeneous teamshavemultiplerolecategories
represented (three online teams and five F2F teams).
Role dominance was the proportion of students on
a given team with their primary role scoring in the
90th percentile (i.e., score greater than 18 on the
23-point scale).
Role sharing reflects the survey item Did your
team assign project tasks according to each mem-
bers team role?(1 ¼yes, 2 ¼no)
Common method bias was reduced by assuring stu-
dents that their responses to the survey items would
remain anonymous, specific language was used in the
survey items, and various sources were used as meas-
ures for the independent variables (Podsakoff,
MacKenzie, Lee, & Podsakoff 2003).
This section provides results of the mean comparison
and multiple regression tests of the proposed hypothe-
ses. Analyses utilize the full sample of 71 students to
ensure adequate power for testing effects within and
between teams. Cohens d (for ANOVA) and omega
squared (for regression) effect sizes are reported as is
appropriate for small samples. Hypotheses 1, 2, 5, and
6 were addressed using regression analysis.
Hypotheses 3, 4, 7, and 8 were analyzed using an
independent groups t-test.
: Action-orientation is positively related to F2F
team performance. Supported.
: Action-orientation is positively related to online
team performance. Supported.
The proportion of action-oriented roles is positively
related to F2F team performance (b¼.480, t(1,35) ¼
3.24, p<.003, x
¼.204) thus H1 is supported. This
F2F effect is largebased upon Cohens(1988) guide-
lines. The proportion of action-oriented roles is posi-
tively related to online team performance (b¼.384,
t(1,32) ¼2.35, p<.025, x
¼.118), thus H2 is sup-
ported. This online effect is intermediatebased
upon Cohens(1988) guidelines (see Table 2).
: Role diversity is positively related to F2F team
performance. Not Supported.
: Role diversity is positively related to online team
performance. Not Supported.
Performance does not significantly differ for F2F
teams with low role diversity (team grade mean ¼
84.25, SD ¼3.38) versus F2F teams with high role
diversity (team grade mean ¼84.61, SD ¼2.69; (t(35)
¼.373, ns), thus H3 is not supported. Performance
does significantly differ for online teams with low role
diversity (team grade mean ¼80.35, SD ¼7.89) ver-
sus online teams with high role diversity (team grade
mean ¼75.00, SD ¼4.33; t(32) ¼2.45, p<.021,
Cohensd¼.841), however this effect is not in the
predicted direction thus H4 is not supported (see
Table 3).
: Role dominance is positively related to F2F team
performance. Supported.
: Role dominance is positively related to online
team performance. Not Supported.
The F2F course format reveals a strong positive
relationship between the proportion of dominant pri-
mary roles and group grades (b¼.61, t(1,35) ¼4.50,
p<.001, x
¼.342), thus H5 is supported. This
effect is largebased upon Cohens(1988) guidelines.
The positive effect of dominant primary roles on team
grades is not evident for online teams (b¼.319,
t(1,32) ¼1.91, ns), thus H6 is not supported (see
Table 4).
: Sharing primary role information is positively
related to F2F team performance. Not Supported.
Table 2. Regression of action orientation on group grade
within course modalities.
BSE Beta tSig. x
F2F (Constant) 82.74 .68 121.01 .000
% Action .04 .01 .480 3.24 .003 0.204
Online (Constant) 75.26 1.50 50.08 .000
% Action .08 .03 .384 2.35 .025 0.118
F2F: F(1, 35) ¼10.47, p¼.003; R
adj ¼.230
Online: F(1, 32) ¼5.53, p¼.025; R
adj ¼.147
Table 3. Mean group grade comparison by level of role diver-
sity within course modalities.
NMean SD tSig. CohensD
F2F Low role diversity16 84.25 3.37 .373 ns
High role diversity21 84.61 2.65
Online Low role diversity17 80.35 7.88 2.45 .021 .841
High role diversity17 75.00 4.33
Table 4. Regression of role dominance on group grade within
course modalities.
BSE Beta tSig. x
F2F (Constant) 81.85 .70 117.11 .000
% Action .05 .01 .605 4.50 .000 0.423
Online (Constant) 80.72 1.95 41.22 .000
% Action .07 .04 .319 1.90 .066 0.321
F2F: F(1, 35) ¼20.25, p<.000; R
adj ¼.348
Online: F(1, 32) ¼3.62, p¼.066; R
adj ¼.074
: Sharing primary role information is positively
related to online team performance. Supported.
When examined by course modality, F2F students
earned similar group grades whether or not they
shared role information with their teams (role sharing
team grade mean ¼83.57, SD ¼3.21; non- role shar-
ing team grade mean ¼84.86, SD ¼2.63; t(26) ¼
1.06, ns). Online students who shared their role
information with their teams earned significantly
higher team grades (M¼81.92) than students who did
not share role information with their teams
(M¼75.65; t(30) ¼2.74, p<.001, Cohensd¼
.761). This effect size is intermediatebased upon
Cohens(1988) guidelines (Figure 2).
Discussion and conclusions
Experiencing high team performance in a business
educational context requires careful planning to real-
ize its benefits. When implemented effectively, team-
work can assist business students to develop robust
team performance enabling future success in a profes-
sional organization (Lemken & Siguaw, 2021). This
exploratory study contributes to the team performance
literature by demonstrating the extent to which stu-
dent teams can differ in their team performance
(Kutlubay & Uslay, 2019). The presence and preva-
lence of role categories within teams and by course
modality offer a behavioral lens for understanding
these differences.
Teams with a higher proportion of action-oriented
members correspond with higher team scores. This
effect was present in both F2F and online course set-
tings and is consistent with Channon et al. (2017) and
Pollock (2009), the latter describing action-oriented
team members as catalyzing. The motivation to act by
certain team members may serve as the engine driving
the team forward in its mission to complete its work
(Wesley et al., 2017).
Consistent with Carter et al. (2019), a higher pro-
portion of dominant roles on a team corresponds to a
higher team grade for F2F teams. This effect may be
due to a strong roles clear delineation of skills and
abilities that makes delegating tasks to specific mem-
bers easier to determine, increases their willingness
and enthusiasm for taking on tasks that are inherently
appealing, and helps a team to hold each member
Online students who shared their role information
earned significantly higher team grades than online
students who did not. This is consistent with prior
research establishing enhanced communication online
advances team cohesion and collaboration (Hansen,
2016). In contrast, F2F students earned similar team
grades whether or not they shared role information
with their teams. F2F teams have relatively vast
resources, methods, and means for establishing rap-
port (Avgerinos, Fragkos, & Huang 2020), such that
sharing role information may constrain and compart-
mentalize team membersperceptions of each other.
While role sharing online may deepen team members
understanding of each other (Handke, Klonek, Parker,
& Kauffeld 2020), F2F role sharing may do the oppos-
ite, though this effect was not significant.
Online instructors can administer the free team
role assessment offered by to form teams
applying the results of this study. Faculty should dis-
perse action-oriented students among teams and
encourage sharing primary role information to opti-
mize online team performance. Role diversity is not a
contributing factor to the higher performance of
online teams. Having students with a dominant role
type fosters team performance for F2F teams, how-
ever, it is not a concern for online team formation
(Ali, Wang, & Johnson 2020). Therefore, the main
consideration is to divide action-oriented students
across online teams as much as possible and encour-
age sharing primary role information.
Limitations and future research
This studys generalizability may be limited by small
sample sizes, course setting and level, project specifics,
as well as student characteristics. Research to cross-
validate these effects should include larger sample
sizes and varying conditions. Additionally, this study
focuses on team role effects in a business education
context; a different pattern of results may occur when
exploring these dynamics in a corporate setting.
The results of this study suggest many avenues for
future research. Considering the positive impact of
action orientation on performance for both F2F and
online teams, it is not clear how greater action orien-
tation ensures that the path forward is the correct
no yes
Group Grade
Role Sharing
Figure 2. Group grade by role sharing and course modality.
one. Competency and aptitude could be examined as
potential moderators in the relationship. Future
research should explore the lack of differences found
for role diversity by course modality. Future research
should also examine mediators, such as leadership and
motivation, to explain why a high proportion of dom-
inant team roles enhances performance for F2F teams
but not for online teams. Finally, future research
should investigate mediators that can clarify how role
sharing enhances performance for online teams but
does not affect F2F team performance.
Debbie DeLong
Brian A. Vander Schee
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