In the fields of behavioral change and psychology, self-efficacy is recognized as a significant learning theory in terms of which a person can identify personal abilities to achieve certain goals and demonstrate a high level of performance. Innovation is another important aspect of human behavior that may define the level of performance through intentional implementations of new ideas and processes.
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In this paper, the role of self-efficacy in the process of improving the innovation performance of employees will be evaluated and discussed through the works of Bandura, Zimmerman, Luthans, and other researchers who investigated the concepts of self-efficacy and innovation separately or within the same framework.
The paper will be divided into several sections to explain what self-efficacy means, why innovation performance is important in the workplace, and what employees should know about the connection that may exist between self-efficacy and innovation performance to know how to use self-efficacy and improve the results and outcomes in different fields. Managerial implications and recommendations will be given at the end of the paper regarding Bandura’s ideas about self-efficacy influence.
Human behavior is usually defined by numerous environments and social systems where different psychological mechanisms and factors are introduced. Social cognitive theories are used to explain how people behave, decide to use available resources and ideas, and cooperate to achieve success in business or other activities. The assessment of personal skills and knowledge is also an important factor in performance.
Therefore, the concept of self-efficacy helps to identify which beliefs may influence people’s choices and efforts. According to Bandura (1977), self-efficacy is a type of judgment of individual capability to take steps to complete a certain task. It is not enough to combine self-efficacy with several personal factors and abilities and make sure that this theory is properly integrated into human activities. It is important to understand that self-efficacy can become a good predictor of human behavior regarding all possible environmental, social, economic, and personal factors.
To demonstrate a high level of performance, employees have to use self-efficacy as a possibility to check if they are ready to take some new steps and innovative approaches and be involved in creative practices and actions which go beyond prescribed roles and duties (Consiglio et al. 2016). Innovation performance, as well as self-efficacy, is frequently discussed by behavioral researchers and scientists in their intentions to understand what actions employees have to take to meet or even be over the expectations.
The role of self-efficacy in employee performance is a burning managerial topic. Some organizational leaders can explain they’re possible effects to make employees work better and more effectively. Still, there are also companies where the innovation performance of employees is not at a high level, and self-efficacy understanding remains to be a good chance to promote necessary improvements.
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At the end of the 1970s, Albert Bandura presented the theory according to which specific psychological procedures and ideas may be used as a powerful means to create and improve personal efficacy expectations. Bandura (1977) offered to pay attention to four main sources of information which might have an impact on human behavior and performance, including physiological states, performance accomplishments, verbal persuasion, and vicarious experience.
Zimmerman (2000) suggested considering self-efficacy not only as a predictor of human behavior but also as a predictor of motivation with the possibility to measure performance capabilities. Regarding such interpretation of self-efficacy, it is possible to admit that self-efficacy beliefs introduce not only a single disposition. These beliefs are multidimensional depending on functions, professional goals, and personal abilities.
Bandura (1977) stated that if people had a high sense of self-efficacy, they were more likely to demonstrate a higher level of performance and avoid professional or personal problems, frustration, and failures. Therefore, to understand the impact of self-efficacy on performance, it is also important to clarify the role of innovation in a working process and understand what innovation performance means.
Innovation Performance Definition
In the workplace, much attention is paid to innovation and the necessity to promote change to stay competitive, successful, and satisfied. Innovation, as well as creativity, is defined as one of the core concepts in different human activities, discussions, and plans (Puente-Diaz, 2015). The peculiar feature of this concept is that innovation may be interpreted in different ways. People use their imagination, abilities, and resources to clarify what innovations are appropriate within their workspace and which improvements have to be postponed or changed. Innovative performance shows how people can use their creative ideas to improve products, services, and processes, increase the significance and usefulness of an organization, and demonstrate their competence.
The performance model developed by Welbourne, Johnson, and Erez (1997) explains the role of an innovator in a changing environment as a possibility to stay creative on behalf of the whole organization, but not only in one’s job. Employees have to demonstrate their behavior and innovative performance beyond traditional rules and requirements. Innovation performance expects to observe employees who can choose new ways to complete their tasks and continue developing their skills and knowledge as innovators and supporters.
Separately, the concepts of self-efficacy and innovation can be properly explained and used in different contexts. Gerber et al. (2012) investigate innovation from a self-efficacy survey and prove that innovation self-efficacy is the term that may exist as an explanation for an individual’s belief in their abilities to work on the tasks where innovation becomes an integral point. However, even if employees can use their self-efficacy, they should also be supported by their leaders. Compensations in the forms of cash rewards, extra days off, or personal gratitude are highly appreciated by employees who have to deal with innovation in the workplace.
The level of self-efficacy defines the level of performance in the workplace. Stajkovic and Luthans (1998) explain that employees with low self-efficacy cease their efforts to cope with new tasks and challenges in a short period, and high self-efficacy is the possibility to succeed in task completion and achieve a great result. In their systematic reviews and evaluations of employees’ behaviors, such researchers as Gerber et al. (2012), Stajkovic and Luthans (1998), Welbourne, Johnson, and Erez (1997), and Zimmerman (2000) believe that Bandura’s approach (1977) to deal with prospective situations using personal knowledge and skills being properly judged (self-efficacy) is beneficial and effective due to the possibility to rely on personal and outside factors.
Sometimes, employees are challenged to estimate their self-efficacy and make mistakes in their suggestions and expectations. Therefore, it is possible to investigate the impact of self-efficacy on the improvement of employees’ performance relying on the role of leaders as the main supporters of employees. For example, Mittal and Dhar (2015) believe that transformational leaders are the best examples of leaders who know how to motivate and support employees in their intentions to use innovation in their performance. The theory of self-efficacy and the idea of innovation in transformational leadership have a significant impact on the development and success of an organization.
Transformational Leadership and Employees’ Self-Efficacy
Factors that may influence the quality and outcomes of work create a significant area for discussions and investigations on how to improve the productivity of a company and achieve success. Competitive advantage turns out to be a serious task many organizations are not able to cope with due to the necessity to improve the quality of management, employee involvement, and job enrichment (Welbourne, Johnson & Erez 1997).
Some leaders find it necessary to analyze the issues which may improve their employees’ productivity. Some leaders believe that employees have enough knowledge and experience to understand their mistakes and make certain improvements. Such leaders neglect the fact that they are responsible for a balance between such aspects as a motivation of employees, the development of their skills, and the delivery of high-quality performance (Mittal & Dhar 2015).
Bandura’s (1977) self-efficacy theory proves that individuals believe in their possibility to develop creative ideas and demonstrate appropriate organizational outcomes. The nature of the transformational leadership style provides these people with a chance to trigger employees and inspire new creative steps and decisions explaining the relation between transformational leaders and self-efficacy of employees (Mittal & Dhar 2015). High-level self-efficacy supported by transformational leaders is a pledge for effective solutions to different organizational problems.
The complexity of Self-Efficacy among Employees
The use of the chosen learning theory of self-efficacy may cause several problems among employees and their leaders due to the complexity of tasks and the possibility to introduce faulty assessments (Beatti, Fakehy & Woodman 2014). High-complexity tasks require the recognition of numerous demands, including persistence, cognitive development, good memory, and appropriate behavior. Lower complexity tasks may not be challenging, but employees have to understand how to evaluate different situations regarding their skills and knowledge.
Self-efficacy is used for regulations of employees’ efforts regarding accurate awareness of tasks and expectations (Stajkovic & Luthans 1998). There are multifaceted constructs that may be developed in different ways, and it is impossible to predict the results of self-efficacy because of the sudden appearance of new demands or a shortage of sources. Distorted self-knowledge is another challenge for self-efficacy being used as an improvement of innovative performance.
Employees’ incompetence maybe not be defined at the initial stage, and human perceptions of the reality and obligations guide people in the wrong way. However, neither leaders nor employees can understand where a mistake takes place and what corrections are appropriate. There is a need to defend the ego or to change the situation when employee voice aversion occurs (Fast, Burris & Bartel 2014). Innovation helps to indicate new solutions and ideas. Employers have to be ready to accept change and help their employees to succeed in such acceptance as well. Self-efficacy may improve the innovation performance of employees in case it is supported by leaders and explained theoretically.
Self-efficacy is defined as one of the possible ways of how employees may promote change in the workplace and what expectations they may set. Taking into consideration the information obtained from the literature review, several managerial implications may be offered to understand how to accept and use innovation in performance, how to assess personal skills, and what kind of cooperation between leaders and employees is necessary.
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Self-efficacy is a judgment that employees can form themselves, meaning that no additional sources are required. However, even self-assessment and the recognition of personal skills should be supported. There may be a momentary belief that an employee is ready for any challenge and any task that was given. Many innovative ideas can be developed and used. The only challenge is to take the first step and choose the right direction.
Three main areas have to be observed and improved in terms of employee performance: transformational leadership as a means to support and guide employees, innovation awareness as a chance to understand what improvements are appropriate, and personal assessment as a way to realize if an employee is ready for new tasks and responsibilities. Self-efficacy is a method of how employees estimate their skills and recognize the tasks in their organizations. Innovation is the nature of tasks to be performed. Its peculiar feature is the necessity to learn something new or use additional approaches to achieve the required results. Finally, transformational leadership is a means in terms of which employees comprehend how to develop self-efficacy in innovation performance.
The first step towards an effective innovation performance is the promotion of cooperation between leaders and employees. There is no need to make employees do something. It is enough to show one of the possible directions in work and explain that self-efficacy is what employees should be focused on. No one but employees themselves can understand what they may or may not do in the workplace. Communication is a method to exchange experiences, clarify all challenging points, and find solutions.
The second step that should be offered to managers who aim at improving the innovation performance of employees through self-efficacy is based on knowledge improvement. Innovation may help organizations, as well as destroy all previous achievements. Therefore, awareness and competence are crucial for employees in their intentions to deal with innovation. They should not be afraid to take new steps or offer ideas that have not been implemented before. As a rule, organizations hire a person or a group of people who focus on knowledge improvement.
Self-efficacy development is a final step that can be used to improve performance in the workplace. Progress is an ongoing process that is the core of self-efficacy. Employees try to take the same steps at different periods and compare the results achieved regarding the conditions offered. Self-efficacy is also the possibility to observe the achievements of other people and evaluate if personal results may be improved or not. It is also important to look back and consider past experiences and accomplishments. Such evaluation will allow observing personal development and growth, learn from personal mistakes, and identify new goals.
Many advantages may be linked with self-efficacy, including insignificant expenses, background knowledge, and short deadlines. Self-efficacy does not require another person to be involved in a process. Employees watch what they have already done, introduce what they have to do soon, and explain if they are ready to use what they have to achieve what they want. There is a threat that employees with low self-esteem may not cope with such an assignment. In this case, employers have to think about the professional appropriateness of these employees and consider staff change as a possible solution in the workplace.
The above-developed managerial implication is characterized by several benefits and challenges for both employees and their leaders. Much work has to be done, and certain evaluations are required. Regarding the latest achievements and the theoretical background based on Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy, several recommendations may be given to managers, as well as researchers who are going to develop a similar topic in the future.
First, it is recommended to focus on innovation as a strong requirement in employee performance. Self-efficacy may deal with past experiences, and the task is to remove all past accomplishments and use innovative ideas only. Second, the combination of self-efficacy and innovation may lead to change being implemented in the organization. Therefore, it is reasonable to consider change theories (e.g., Lewin’s change theory or the theory of planned behavior by Ajzen).
In the end, a recommendation to recognize personal and professional needs will be given. Self-efficacy and performance are closely connected to the needs of a company, as well as staff needs and expectations. The theories developed by Maslow (Hierarchy of Needs) and McClelland (Three Needs Theory) may be helpful for employees.
Such theoretical background is used to clarify what people want or may want regarding the conditions under which they have to live and work. Sometimes, it is not complicated to stop working, evaluate personal accomplishment, and compare expectations with accomplishment. Lewin’s theory of change may be appropriate when there is enough time to freeze, change, and unfreeze a situation. In some cases, employees have to develop self-efficacy during the working process. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a helpful tool in this situation because it establishes priorities and makes people move in regards to their needs and demands. The combination of both these theories under the theory of self-efficacy developed by Bandura may be a powerful weapon in innovation performance employees have to succeed in.
In general, the investigation developed in this paper proves that self-efficacy is a learning theory with the help of which it is possible to improve the innovation performance of employees and provide leaders with a chance to stay competitive and successful. The connection between self-efficacy and innovation exists. Still, its importance is not as significant as it may seem because self-efficacy should not be based on future accomplishments and achievements (as presupposed by innovation performance). Self-efficacy is a possibility to judge relying on past work and background knowledge to make certain improvements in the future.
Self-efficacy influences different areas of human affairs, including cognitive development, memory, psychological factors, and organizational pursuits with the help of which employees may communicate with their leaders, exchange their experiences and knowledge, and ask questions to clarify controversial points. Self-efficacy may improve organizational performance. Still, this theory has many other valuable functions that may be implemented to promote organizational development, growth, and competitiveness.
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