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Enhancing Self-Efficacy in the Workplace: A Key to Motivation and Performance (CHRO’s take)

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“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” - Mahatma Gandhi

That’s what self-efficacy does to any ordinary person (or animal), as we’ll learn in the following story.

At the depths of a well, a determined frog found itself trapped. Wanting to escape sooner than later, it kept leaping day after day. Despite discouraging remarks from fellow animals who kept saying, “Abandon hope; escaping such a deep well is impossible”, the frog refused to give up. After trying for many days and seeing incremental success, the frog could finally leap out of the well. The fellow animals were surprised and congratulated the frog on this accomplishment. In the original story, the frog was deaf. But in this one, it isn’t. Surprise Suprise!

So, what really happened with the frog?

What is Self-Efficacy in the workplace?

Self-efficacy is what helps one succeed just by merely believing in the idea that they can succeed. That’s what happened to the frog in the earlier story. It needed no external validation ( towards its own capabilities to succeed in that scenario), so it succeeded quite stupendously.

Once a person believes in his/her own capabilities, it provides a medium of self-motivation to perform well. In the 1990s, Fletcher was the first to suggest that the effect of self-efficacy should be considered while looking at career development and workplace learning.

The Importance of Self-Efficacy in the Workplace

Self-efficacy is needed in workplaces to build motivation, efficiency, positivity and resilience.

Doing the following things like:

  • Acquiring new skills
  • Repeatedly doing complex tasks
  • Coming up with creative strategies to complete tasks and
  • Focusing on getting tasks completed on time and with the desired quality
    can have a great impact on self-efficacy and vice versa.

Albert Bandura's Self-Efficacy Theory -

Self-efficacy is a social cognitive theory developed by Dr. Albert Bandura. This theory is based on the belief that a person is more likely to succeed based on how they think, behave, and feel — and the support of those around them.

The four types of experiences that contribute to greater self-efficacy at work include:

1. Mastery Experiences– This one is a no-brainer. It discusses the outcomes of previous experiences wherein one mastered a particular task. This provides a base of the scenarios wherein one is likely to succeed. For e.g., If one has succeeded in public speaking on a smaller platform earlier, the confidence to succeed on a larger platform is much higher than someone scared of public speaking.

2. Vicarious Experiences– This is about observing one’s successful social role models accomplish a task with ease that one feels is difficult. When one has positive role models to emulate, one is likely to absorb some of the positive traits the role model displays.

3. Verbal Persuasion– When one gets convinced about doing a good job w.r.t. a complex task and receives verbal appreciation for the same, one can be persuaded about having the necessary skills and confidence to succeed further.

4. Emotional and Physiological States– One’s moods, emotions, and vibes on a particular day can definitely boost one’s confidence. A person's emotional and physiological states can indicate how they would behave in a particular situation. However, Bandura (1977) states, “It is not the sheer intensity of emotional and physical reactions that is important but rather how they are perceived and interpreted. People with a high sense of efficacy are likely to view their state of affective arousal as an energizing performance facilitator. In contrast, those who are beset by self-doubts regard their arousal as a debilitator.”

Examples of Self-Efficacy at Work

Self-efficacy is needed to ensure that the intrinsic motivation that incentivizes one to work toward an organization's vision keeps flowing in.

A blog by BetterUp states that at BetterUp, members high in self-efficacy are likely to receive 2.3X of promotions or pay raises.

Here are a couple of examples of how self-efficacy can positively affect the workplace.

  1. A is an established, tenured professional with a new initiative to boost client sales. Since he has done the same thing for the previous 9 years, he is motivated by mastery experience and has confidence that he can do a great job here, too. Thus, his self-efficacy is very high, which increases his chances of success.

  2. B is someone who has been trying to stick to the habit of maintaining a daily checklist of work. C is someone he admires who does this well. B sits down with C to understand what drives C to maintain a task checklist on a daily basis. Through vicarious experience, B decides to be more disciplined while building and maintaining a task checklist frequently.

  3. D recently took on a new project at work and had some self-doubts about her abilities to achieve 100% in the new project. However, after receiving praise and support from the senior leadership, D felt great about her abilities and experienced a higher range of self-efficacy to perform the job well.

Strategies to Foster Self-Efficacy in the Workplace

Self-efficacy can be practiced in the workplace through various channels. Some of them include:

1. Setting relevant goals to align with the organization's vision– Setting up goals to repeat past success and try newer initiatives that align with the organization's vision can help build high self-efficacy.

2. Seek training and mentorship opportunities– Continuous learning and observing more experienced role models can help boost confidence.

3. Reflecting on one’s performance and seeking frequent feedback– Self-efficacy does not mean seeking external validation. It means being aware of one’s own strengths and weaknesses. Seeking constant feedback and reflecting on one’s performance helps one gauge if they are intrinsically motivated to do what it takes to redefine success for themselves.

4. Building healthy habits– Everyday routine healthy habits such as exercising, waking up early, sleeping for 8 hours, eating healthy, journaling, etc., can help bring in high self-efficacy, which reflects in top-notch work.

How to Measure Self-Efficacy in the Workplace

Self-efficacy, which is a great trait to protect oneself against psychological stress, can be measured using the following:

  1. Surveys which can be answered honestly to know one’s appetite for self-efficacy

  2. Setting stretch goals and comparing the set vs. achieved targets every quarter

  3. Looking at past successes in similar scenarios

  4. Sharing ideas amongst everyone and consolidating everyone’s reaction to it

Measuring self-efficacy is often pretty difficult since it is an intangible trait. However, HR and leadership can still look at how many people set stretch goals and set out to achieve/overachieve them.

HR can also run self-efficacy surveys for people to realize their own worth through the lens of self-efficacy. While interviewing, HR and leadership can look at previous experiences to see if the potential candidate can succeed in the current role.

While high self-efficacy is desirable, repeated high self-efficacy, which goes unchecked, can lead to overconfidence. It may give one an illusion of success in every situation, even when things fail on the ground level. It may also lead to arrogance or the person's inability to accept others’ points of view.

How Can Managers/CHRO Encourage Self-Efficacy in Employees?

As someone in the HR space for a decade, I have witnessed how high self-efficacy is often more beneficial than harmful. My job as an HR leader is influencing employees to make the best decisions for themselves and the organization.

I often use influence, encouragement, role modeling, and gauging a person's emotional state to get something substantial done. Employees with high self-efficacy often end up achieving what was thought to be impossible earlier. They are the ones who push the boundaries of an organization. They are the ones who create history!


As we have now seen, the benefits of high self-efficacy are many. Both employees and employers can benefit from this trait, as it creates a win-win for both parties. And the management needs to make the best use of the resources available to improve the self-efficacy of the organization.

Deepti K S is an experienced and award-winning HR leader with over 11 years of corporate experience, currently leading the HR efforts at mirrAR, a start-up that creates immersive and personalized shopping experiences using augmented reality and artificial intelligence. She is responsible for everything from hiring to off-boarding, as well as aligning the people processes and policies to the business goals and investor expectations. To get in touch, reach out to editor@vantagecircle.com

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