Identifying the causal impact of national diversity on the value of teamwork is problematic because teams are selected and not randomly assigned. This endogenous team formation makes it difficult to disentangle both the value of teamwork as compared to independent work and the differential impact of teamwork for nationally diverse teams. For example, it is plausible that employers and workers choose which jobs to complete as a team and that they choose who should work together in teams according to their performance expectations. To address these concerns, I test the effects of national diversity on work team success by conducting a field experiment on the world's largest online contract labor platform, oDesk.
To perform the study, I set up an employer account on the oDesk website and posted jobs to attract contractor bids. I hired contractors who met the requirements for participation in the experiment and randomly put them into groups of two to complete a programming task. I define teams in this study as pairs of contractors working towards a common goal.
There are several reasons I chose to run this experiment on oDesk. First, oDesk provides a team room application which allows employers to put hired contractors into teams so that they can work together online. In particular, contractors working in the same team room can monitor what the others are doing and chat with each other through instant messaging. Contractors can only be logged into one team room at a time. Employers on oDesk frequently require that multiple hires work in the same team room. Second, the team room facilitates contractor monitoring by employers through frequent screen shots, memos, work diaries, and activity meters. As a result, the majority of employers on oDesk require that their hires complete their tasks while logged into their team room. Another important feature of oDesk for this research is the option to interview. oDesk encourages employers to interview contractors they are interested in hiring before making any offers. These interviews can take place through messages exchanged on the site. Lastly, oDesk is an international labor market which contractor participants have selected into knowing they would almost surely be working with employers and contractors from other countries. Therefore, we might expect to see less distaste for working with a nationally diverse organization than in more local labor markets.
In order for the contractors in the teamwork condition to be able to work with each other, I gave them a total of eight hours to complete the task; they had to work these hours within the same period as the other contractors in their groups.
To control for country-specific differences in contractor quality, I limited the number of countries from which I hired. Based on information about the set of applicants my job postings attracted during the pilot phase of my study, I included English speaking contractors from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh in the experiment. Contractors from these countries frequently applied to my job postings and bid an amount that was within the hourly wage criteria. Moreover, workers in these countries have very similar time zones making it easier to allow for remote team work among them.
In addition to describing the features to be added to the code, the instructions noted the timeline for the task and the country that contractors' co-worker lived in because it is not possible to restrict access to this information in the team work treatment, so I controlled for this knowledge across treatment groups to ensure that it was not driving my findings.
I asked contractors who had not turned in their work by the deadline to submit any work they had completed. Once contractors had turned in their work or after the deadline had passed, I asked them whether they would be willing to answer a few questions about the job for a $0.50 bonus. The purpose of the survey is to obtain a measure of how well contractors think they did on the job and their perceptions on teamwork.