Driving High-Performance Through Self-Efficacy

Many organisations aspire to develop talent from within and there is much research to suggest those that are able to consistently fill vacant roles with capable internal candidates generally outperform their peers.  Unfortunately, research has also consistently found a large gap between investments in training and the effective absorption (and therefore utilisation) of the training provided.  The research highlights that quite often training provided to employees is not having its intended impact on organisational outcomes.

The good news is that we are able to improve the return on investment from training expenditure by considering three key elements that impact the effective transfer of training as shown below.

  • Trainee Characteristics;
  • Training Design; and
  • the Work Environment.

Read on to find out more about how you can improve the value of training investments by focussing on improving employee self-efficacy beliefs.

Organisation Design and Workforce Management Strategies

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Considering Trainee Characteristics

Typically when considering the characteristics of trainees, educators will consider the following four factors:

  • The trainee’s self-efficacy beliefs;
  • The cognitive ability of the trainee;
  • Their motivation to learn and apply the knowledge on the job; and
  • The perceived utility of the training.

Of all the factors that impact the effectiveness of the training offered to your employees, we believe there is a significant opportunity for many organisations to better understand the role of self-efficacy beliefs, a key characteristic influencing the transfer of training, which we’ve found continues to be overlooked when considering training strategy.

The Power of Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy refers to our belief in our own ability to complete specific tasks and achieve goals.  The stronger our self-efficacy beliefs, the more likely we are to persevere at achieving a specific goal.  The application of self-efficacy principles as a means of promoting learning transfer is well established across the wider education field but interestingly has been limited in application as part of organisational talent and development strategies.

The correlation between self-efficacy & work-related performance is significantly greater than that found between the transfer of training and performance

Organisations focusing on trainee self-efficacy can benefit from a far greater transfer of training, particularly where novel or difficult work behaviours are involved.  However, benchmarking self-efficacy levels has largely been overlooked as a component of effective L&D strategies – offering a significant opportunity to gain a competitive advantage for those that introduce it.

Improving Self Efficacy Levels

We’ve identified four ways that training interventions can be used to enhance an individual’s self-efficacy beliefs, including;

  • Practice makes perfect; Success breeds success whilst failure erodes self-efficacy
  • Learning by watching others achieve success or by observing what doesn’t work
  • Credible communication and feedback from a facilitator is crucial to the process
  • Reducing stress and increasing positive mood also contribute.

Behaviour modelling is a critical input factor in training design (the second of the key elements that influence the transfer of training) as well as delivery and occurs when trainees are given the opportunity to learn by watching role models and then have the opportunity to practice the what they’ve seen and are then given feedback and social reinforcement following their practice.  The use of behaviour modelling in training is a particularly powerful way of building self-efficacy beliefs.

Measuring Self Efficacy

In order to tap into the potential benefits of a focus on building employee self-efficacy, the key is to establish benchmarks for the individual’s self-efficacy beliefs before, during and after any training occurs.  This is best achieved by developing a questionnaire for employees to complete that focus on the specific tasks they ae aiming to develop mastery of and their relative comfort in their own ability to execute the tasks under varying degrees of pressure.  The ‘scores’ on these measures of self-efficacy belief can then be re-assessed periodically for three reasons:

  • A general improvement in self-efficacy beliefs will reflect increasing confidence amongst employees (alternatively, no or limited improvement means performance improvements will also stall)
  • The measures will highlight specific tasks & behaviours where self-efficacy beliefs are weakest & therefore where remedial work is required
  • Self-efficacy is highly correlated with employee engagement, which itself has a positive impact on performance

Consider a Pilot Exercise

If like many your organisation is new to the idea of addressing employee self-efficacy as part of your talent management strategy you will likely find that starting with a pilot exercise is the best way to get started.  We’d recommend focusing on an area such as customer service where there is great potential for improved customer experience outcomes.

The two key steps involved in setting up your pilot study are:

  • Development of a robust, online self-efficacy survey for selected employees to complete before and after training.   You may find this requires an iterative process to ensure the questions and rating scales are effective.
  • Identification of appropriate performance measures so that you can correlate performance improvements with the self-efficacy scores and training delivered.

Our advice is to involve key stakeholders in the survey design process, including those that know the jobs best.  Be prepared to take an iterative approach and acknowledge up front that this will likely be required.  The added benefit is that simply by involving employees and line management in the process they’ll likely appreciate the opportunity to input and feel more engaged and valued as a result.

Developing the tools to measure employee self-efficacy is challenging – we’re here to help.

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