Over the past decades, team demographic diversity has become a topic of considerable interest to industrial and organizational psychology scholars and organizational managers. However, there is little consistent evidence regarding the relations between team demographic diversity and team performance. There are at least two potential reasons to explain these inconsistencies. First, there are different forms of team demographic diversity and the specific type of diversity should have different effects on team performance. For example, team demographic diversity can be categorized as separation, variety and disparity based on the statistical distribution of team members' characteristics. Second, past researchers suggest considering contextual issues in team demographic diversity research. Rather than test the direct relationship between team demographic diversity and team performance, they have pointed out that contextual factors (e.g., cultural context) should play an important moderating role in the relationship between team demographic diversity and team performance.
In order to explain the inconsistencies in past research examining the link between team demographic diversity and team performance, we conducted a meta-analysis to examine the effects of different types of team demographic diversity on team performance. Our meta-analysis was based on 345 effect sizes from 137 Eastern and Western empirical studies with 79,639 teams. Each author independently coded the data and resolved discrepancies through discussion. In our coding system, we coded diversity as separation, variety, or disparity based on the measures of diversity used in each empirical paper. Further, we collected contextual data to examine the potential moderating effects of contextual factors, such as performance types, cultural context and team types.
Results of main effects showed that team demographic variety had significantly positive effects on team performance, whereas team demographic separation and disparity were unrelated to team performance. Further, moderation analyses showed that the relations between team separation, variety, disparity and team performance were moderated by performance types, cultural context and team types. Specifically, considering performance type as a moderator, variety and disparity were more positively correlated with innovation performance compared to general task performance. With respect to cultural context, team demographic variety in eastern countries was more positively correlated with team performance compared to variety in western countries, whereas team demographic disparity in western countries was more negatively correlated with team performance compared to disparity in eastern countries. Regarding team types, team demographic variety was more positively correlated with performance in top management teams (TMTs) and research and development (R&D) teams compared to general work teams.
Our results showed that different demographic diversity had distinct effects on team performance, depending on the specific diversity type and context (e.g., performance types, culture and team types). However, many researchers rarely distinguish between different types of demographic diversity. Thus, we suggest that future studies should pay more attention on this issue by specifying the demographic diversity types. Further, teams in Eastern countries should increase diversity as variety to improve their performance, whereas teams in Western countries should not only pay attention to team demographic variety, but also need to decrease team demographic disparity to avoid its negative effects on team performance. Overall, our findings have specific implications for companies to improve their performance through team demographic diversity management.