Self-Efficacy is a useful construct for assessing the potential of trainees, designing effective training programs, and for enhancing the socialization of new employees.  This short article discusses the interplay between self-efficacy, training, and new employee adjustment.  The article will look at ways that self-efficacy effects training, and how self-efficacy perceptions can be developed to improve training outcomes for employees and to enhance the onboarding experience for new hires.

Introduction

HR managers are routinely called upon to produce or select training programs to improve employee performance in various areas.  The trap for many lies in the belief that adequate training only entails the distribution of relevant information as it relates to the training subject. It is a widely-accepted notion, however, that the availability of information neither guarantees nor motivates learning.  According to Saint-Onge, when adopting strategies, business leaders must take into account the abilities of their organizations to implement them (1996).  One construct that has received notable attention in relationship to training over the last few decades is self-efficacy.  Self-efficacy is “…defined as people’s judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances.  It is concerned not with the skills one has but with judgments of what one can do with whatever skills one possesses” (Bandura, 1986, p. 391, as cited in Mathieu, Martineau & Tannenbaum, 1993).  This paper will review the reciprocal interplay between self-efficacy and training in human capital development, and its effect on the social adjustment of new employees.

Self-Efficacy and Training Outcomes

According to Mathieu et al. (1993), self-efficacy levels at the end of training have shown a significant link to both the post training transfer of learning and job performance.  According to the authors, research has supported the role of self-efficacy in behavior change within various work settings.  In their study, the group linked the development of self-efficacy throughout a training program to several of its individual and situational antecedents.  Of these antecedents, those that were shown to influence the development of self-efficacy were initial self-efficacy (i.e. the level of self-efficacy as assessed at the beginning of training), and achievement motivation (i.e. the desire to overcome challenging obstacles promptly), (Murray 1938 as cited in Mathieu et al., 1993).  Both of these variables had a positive correlation with the development of self-efficacy.  In turn, both showed a positive influence on training outcomes.

Training Methods and Self-Efficacy Development

Gist (1989) found that training methods can have an effect on self-efficacy development, dependent upon the training topic.  While observing a course in innovative problem solving, the author determined that cognitive modeling, which focuses on human information processing, was more useful in developing self-efficacy than behavioral modeling.  The findings of Dillon et al., (1972, as cited in Gist, 1989) which determined that the value of behavioral modeling in creativity type training was questionable, support this determination.

Performance Feedback and Self-Efficacy Development

Karl et al., (1993) defined performance feedback as being the information provided to trainees regarding the results of their efforts toward performing a particular task.  The authors acknowledged the widely-accepted premise that such provision enhances individual performance Ilgen et al. 1979, as cited in Karl et al., 1993).  Their study strongly supported Their second hypothesis that the type of feedback (positive or negative) would coincide with the direction of change in self-efficacy for trainees.  Also, the study supported their third and fourth hypotheses which suggested that feedback would have a greater impact on those individuals who demonstrated low self-efficacy rather than high.  It is important to stress that while the impact of feedback was higher upon those trainees who expressed low self-efficacy, there was an effect on the performance of all participants (Karl, Oleary-Kelly, & Martocchio, 1993).

Self-Efficacy and New Employee Socialization

Saks (1993) acknowledged that training is among the most formal and planned social activities within an organization and that its role in newcomer intake is growing.  The author suggested that the initial self-efficacy of an employee upon entry may moderate the relationship between socialization training, and their cultural adjustment.  It was the author’s view therefore that new hires with low self-efficacy may benefit from the guidance and structure of formalized training to a greater extent than those with a strong self-efficacy perception since they may be more independent and thus better equipped to cope and survive the entry experience.  The author also stresses that in addition to moderating the relationship between socialization training and cultural adjustment, self-efficacy may also serve as a mediator between the two.  In other words, it can be influenced by the two as well as exerting an influence upon them.  In fact, Tannenbaum et al., (1991 as cited in Saks, 1993) concluded that socialization training had a positive effect on the self-efficacy of military trainees.  Incorporating other information sources such as performance mastery, vicarious learning, and emotional arousal (Bandura 1986, as cited in Saks, 1993) is a good idea for strengthening the self-efficacy perceptions of new employees to enhance their socialization and adjustment (Saks, 1995).

Conclusion

Self-efficacy is an important construct for human capital development.  From an organizational perspective, it can stall productivity if it is lacking, or improve it if it is present or capable of being increased.  Despite this, many within the HR and L & D professions are only marginally aware of the concept, if at all.  Practitioners would be wise to become familiar with it, and the many ways in which it can affect their organizational culture.  They should learn to identify, improve, and exploit self-efficacy within their workforces for the maximum benefit to their organizations.

 

 

References

Gist, M. E. (1989). The influence of training method on self-efficacy and idea generation among managers. Personnel Psychology, 42, 787-805.

Karl, K. A., Oleary-Kelly, A. M., & Martocchio, J. J. (1993). The impact of feedback and self-efficacy on performance n training. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 14, 379-394.

Mathieu, J. E., Martineau, J. W., & Tannenbaum, S. I. (1993). Individuals and situational influences on the development of self-efficacy: Implications for training effectiveness. Personnel Psychology, 46, 125-147.

Saint-Onge, H. (1996). Tacit Knowlege: The key to strategic alignment of intellectual capital. Strategey and Leadership, 10-14.

Saks, A. M. (1995). Longitudinal field investigation of the moderating and mediatng effects of self-efficacy on the relationship between training and newcomer adjustment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80(2), 211-225.