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Revista de Psicología del Trabajo y de las Organizaciones

versión On-line ISSN 2174-0534versión impresa ISSN 1576-5962

Rev. psicol. trab. organ. vol.26 no.3 Madrid dic. 2010



Work Self-Efficacy Scale and Search for Work Self-Efficacy Scale: A Validation Study in Spanish and Italian Cultural Contexts

Escala de Autoeficacia en el Trabajo y Escala de Autoeficacia para la Búsqueda de Empleo: Estudio de Validez en Contextos Culturales Español e Italiano



Silvia J. Pepe, Maria Luisa Farnese, Francesco Avalone and Michele Vecchione

University of La Sapienza

Address for correspondence




The aim of the current article was to investigate the psychometric properties of two self-efficacy scales – the Work Self-Efficacy Scale (WSES) and Search for Work Self-Efficacy Scale (SWSES) – and their measurement invariance (configural, metric, and residual) across two different cultural contexts: Spanish and Italian. The WSES was measured by 10 items assessing perceived work capability, while the SWSES was measured by 12 items assessing perceived capability to manage and cope with different situations in the search for a job. The sample included 658 young adults from Italy and Spain (20-26 years of age). Multi-group confirmatory factor analysis reveal that both configural and metric invariance can be assumed, suggesting that meaningful comparisons of the relations between latent factors and external variables can be made across Spain and Italy.

Keywords: measurement invariance, multigroup analyses, self-efficacy, cross-cultural.


El objetivo de este artículo fue analizar la estructura factorial y la comprobación de la invarianza (configuración, métrica y residual) en dos contextos sociales diferentes: español e italiano. WSES está compuesta por 10 ítems que evalúan las creencias de eficacia sobre las actividades laborales; SWSES está compuesta por 12 ítems que evalúan las creencias de eficacia para hacer frente a situaciones diferentes en la búsqueda de trabajo. La muestra incluye 658 jóvenes de Italia y de España (20-26 edad). Los resultados fueron examinados a través de un análisis factorial confirmatorio multigrupo revelando que puede asumirse invarianza factorial en la configuración y la métrica, al tiempo que sugiere que pueden hacerse las comparaciones de las relaciones entre los factores latentes y las variables externas para España e Italia.

Palabras clave: invarianza de la medida, análisis multigrupo, autoeficacia, trabajo, cross-cultural.


Self-efficacy: A construct between beliefs and action

A vast body of literature attests to the pervasive influence of self-beliefs in several theories of human behavior and on the diverse domains of human functioning. In social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1997), efficacy beliefs are conceived as the foundations of human agency. This theory adopts an agentic perspective in which individuals are self-organizing, proactive, self-reflecting and self-regulating. These various functions, governing human adaptation and change, operate through a set of agentic mechanisms. Among the mechanisms of human agency, none is more focal or pervading than beliefs or personal efficacy.

Self-efficacy beliefs are knowledge structures that reflect the degree of control people exert over the events that affect their lives. They attest to the propensity of persons to reflect on themselves and regulate their conduct in accordance with their personal goals and standards. Perceptions regarding the capacity to master tasks and situations, are at the root of efficacious behavior and successful adaptation: people who perceive themselves as more efficacious expend more efforts to reach desired goals and persevere longer when they encounter challenges. Moreover, people who are more efficacious tend to express positive rather negative judgments (outcome expectancies) about consequences of their behaviors (Bandura, 1997). Both self-efficacy and outcome expectancy influence people's intentions to perform a behavior, and intentions are accurate predictors of behavior (Bandura, 1998; Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975).

People, however, do not live their lives in individual autonomy. Many of the outcomes they seek are achievable only through the interdependent efforts of others (Bandura, 2000). Thus, self-efficacy is a highly contextualized construct: it may be defined as the degree of confidence people has in their ability to achieve a specified level of achievement in a particular context. In addition, social cognitive theory extends the conception of human agency to collective efficacy. Individuals' shared beliefs in their collective power to produce desired results are a key ingredient of collective agency in social cognitive theory (Bandura, 2001). A strong sense of personal efficacy to manage one's life circumstances and to have a hand in effecting societal changes, contribute substantially to perceived collective efficacy (Fernández-Ballesteros et al., 2002).

Efficacy beliefs influence people's thoughts and behaviors, and impact other determinants such as the goals and aspirations individuals choose to pursue, their resilience to adversity, commitment to goals, effort, outcomes and perseverance. This trend can be seen in organizational settings as well. People spend a lot of time in the workplace, expending much energy, emotions and hopes. Work typically represents the principal source of income, but not only: it strengthens personal identity and influences individual well-being and life satisfaction (Argyle, 1999). Self-efficacy is intimately involved with work, since people derive from it a great portion of their self-efficacy. Accordingly, job-loss may determine a decreasing sense of efficacy, generating a vicious cycle: "the more prolonged the unemployment, the greater the erosion for self-efficacy, thus, less effort is invested in job search, and the chances of finding a job decline" (Eden & Aviram, 1993, p. 353).

Different studies have demonstrated the relationship between efficacy beliefs and work success (Bandura, 2001). In particular, efficacy beliefs act as a self-motivating mechanism through which people perceive how high their own level of competence is, and consequently set their goals and become motivated to spend considerable effort and persistence in overcoming obstacles (Bandura, 2001; Garrido, 2000). Individuals who believe they will be able to carry out their job assignments, perform better (Wood & Bandura, 1989), persevere in the face of adversities (Lent, Brown & Hackett, 1994), and are better able to manage changes (Hill, Smith & Mann, 1987). Efficacy beliefs, moreover, have an effect on the following dependent variables in work settings: job satisfaction (Judge et al., 2007; Latham, Locke & Fassina, 2002; Garrido, 2000; Martinez, Marques-Pinto, Salanova & Lopez da Silva, 2002; Salanova et al., 2003); organizational commitment (Bandura, 2001; Gist & Mitchell, 1992; Parker, 1998; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998; Wood & Bandura, 1989); and individual and group performance (Bandura, 1997; Lent et al., 1994; Cranny, Smith & Stone, 1992; Judge et al., 2007; Stajkovic & Luthans, 1998).

Various studies have examined self-efficacy as a moderator between stressors (overload, conflict and role ambiguity, etc.) or job demands and coping behavior. In stressful jobs, individuals with high self-efficacy behave in a more proactive way using problem-centred coping, than people with low self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997; Jex & Bliese, 1999; Leiter, 1991; Lent et al., 1994; Salanova, Grau & Martinez, 2005). These results highlight the role of self-efficacy as a protective factor in individual and collective well-being. Efficacy beliefs also have an impact on organizational outcomes such as turnover and absenteeism (Cranny et al., 1992; Spector, 1985). Furthermore, several studies have shown that self-efficacy covaries with job satisfaction and productivity (Hongyun, Lei & Quingmao, 2005). Finally, a review of the literature reveals how self-efficacy is related to wide organizational processes such as work socialization (Bauer et al., 2007; Saks, 1995), and human resources management (Cisneros, Medina, Munduate & Dorado, 2000; Salanova & Martinez, 2006).

In sum, various studies have emphasized the utility of self-efficacy in attaining individual achievement, as well as their generalizability across cultures. Some authors, according to Bandura, have suggested that self-efficacy functions in a similar fashion across diverse cultures – since it plays a significant role in facilitating desirable behaviors and overcoming adversities and thus – helps individuals of any culture to achieve their personal goals (Bandura, 2000; Scholz, Dona, Sud & Schwarzer, 2002).

Although research often does not explicitly differentiate between general (Schwarzer, 1998) and specific efficacy beliefs, previous research supports the use of specific measures of efficacy beliefs in specific domains, given that they produce more robust results (e.g. Grau, Salanova & Peiró, 2000; Salanova, Peiró & Schaufeli, 2002). In the work setting, many measures of efficacy beliefs have been found. For example, Cherniss (1993) introduced the concept of professional efficacy, understood as the belief in the ability to correctly fulfill one's professional role, and operationalized it using the corresponding scale of the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (MBI-GS, Schaufeli, Leiter, Maslach & Jackson, 1996). Moreover, other measures of work-related efficacy have emerged in the literature. In particular, Bandura's measure concerns the beliefs people hold about their capabilities to manage difficulties related to their work activities (Perceived self-efficacy, Bandura, 1997; Borgogni & Petitta, 2003). Other measures concerns the capabilities to manage and build a new enterprise (ESE–Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy Scale, Moriano, Palacì & Morales, 2006), the beliefs people hold about their capabilities to carry out work assignments (Occupational Self-Efficacy Scale, Betz & Hackett, 1981), or the beliefs people hold about their capabilities to relate to specific tasks (TSOSS–Task-Specific Occupational Self-Efficacy Scale, Osipow & Temple, 1996).

Literature on job search (activities than enhances the probability of employment) reveal that both general (e.g. locus of control, general self-efficacy) and specific (self-efficacy domains) variables may be considered antecedents of search behaviours (see the metaanalytic review of Kanfer, Wanberg & Kantrowitz, 2001). However, since self-efficacy is focused on specific performances and varies form task to task, particularized measures of job search self-efficacy are preferable. These efficacy beliefs play a critical role in the decisions regarding future work, due to the uncertainties of the work world and accessibility in the job market, which vary from one cultural context to the next. Moreover, young adults' hope of finding a job depends on how they perceive abilities they have not usually experienced in real terms.

Some studies have measured job search self-efficacy indirectly. For instance, utilizing measures of career choice (Anderson & Betz., 2001; Bandura, 1997; Betz & Hackett, 1981; Blustein, 1989; Jackson, Potere & Brobst, 2006) and vocational interests (Bieschke, Bishop & Garcia, 1996; Lapan, Shaughnessy & Boggs, 1996; Lenox & Subich, 1994; Lent et al., 1994; Nauta, 2004; Silvia, 2003). Other use close constructs, such as task-specific self-esteem in the job search context (Ellis & Taylor, 1983). Only few research uses specific measurement, relieving the perception of one's capability to accomplish specific job search activities and obtaining employment (Stumpf, Colarelli & Hartman, 1983; Kanfer & Hulin, 1985; Caplan, Vinokur, Price & van Ryn, 1989; van Ryn, Vinokur, 1992; Wanberg, Kanfer & Rotundo, 1999). Items are usually centered on behavioral competencies (e.g. ask individuals how good they feel in completing a good job application or contacting potential employers) and not on cognitive or social skills.

The use of self-efficacy scales and constructs, however, should take into account the recent changes which occurred over the past fifteen years in the labour market. A issue of rising importance in the Western world involve the increasing number of skills required to enter into the labour market and to address its complexity (Bayon, 2003; De Nanteuil, 2002; Medgyeski, 1999). These differentiate into generalized skills, like cognitive abilities (e.g. ability to find solutions and make decisions), relational abilities (e.g. knowing how to interact with others) and emotional abilities (e.g. managing their own emotions) (Luciano, 1999; Reyneri, 2005), and other, more specialized and technical skills. A further important change involves the unemployment rates, which has reached levels never seen before in Europe. In accordance with the requirements dictated by the labour market of many European countries, we used two relatively new self-efficacy measurement scales. Although there are many measures of work self-efficacy, they are mostly unidimensional. We focused on a new scale of work-self efficacy since it provides a multidimensional structure, tapping the key capacities needed to be successful in work, in light of the current complexities of the European market labour. Moreover, we used a new instrument, designed to assess the beliefs people hold about the use of effective strategies in finding a job in the current labour market.

Aim of the study

The aim of the current study is to examine the factor structure of two measures of work-related efficacy beliefs in Spain and Italy, two countries which, because of their geographical proximity, share similar lifestyles, religious values and cultural heritages. Although Spain and Italy may be similar with regard to these characteristics, recent political changes have introduced significant social changes that make these countries importantly different. A number of previous studies have examined the issues of comparability of construct and measures across Italian and Spanish contexts in different domains, among which self efficacy beliefs, values and other psychological constructs (e.g. Arciniega et al., 2009; Pepe, Sobral, Gómez-Fraguela & Villar-Torres, 2008). The current study examined the measurement invariance across countries of two self-efficacy measures, namely the Work Self-Efficacy Scale (WSES, Avallone, Pepe & Porcelli, 2007) and the Search for Work Self-Efficacy Scale (SWSES, Avallone et al., 2007). In this regard, we hypothesize that measurement equivalence of the instruments will be established, as Italian and Spanish cultural contexts are substantially similar in terms of market labour.




A total of 658 young adults from Italy and Spain ranging in age from 20 to 26 years participated at the study. Participants were recruited by psychology majors as part of a course assignment in Organizational Psychology at the Universities of Rome and Madrid, over the course of the 2006-2007 academic year. The instruments were administered using a face-to-face questionnaire. Each student, acting as a research assistant, was briefed on the general aims of the research, instructed in how to administer the questionnaire, and asked to collect data from other people, equally distributed by gender and age. Students received course credits for their participation. Samples from both countries had similar socio-demographic features. Participants were students, workers and unemployed individuals currently in search of a job. All educational levels were represented. The Italian sample included 455 participants (45.6% men), with a mean age of 22.48 (SD=2.03); 70.5% students, 28.9% workers and the remainder (0.6%) looking for a job. Educational levels were: junior high school 9.8%; high school 80.4%; college 9.8%. The Spanish sample included 203 participants (45.6% men), with a mean age of 21.45 (SD=2.39); 48.8% students, 43.9% workers and the rest of the sample (2.3%) looking for a job. Educational levels were: junior high school 3.0%, high school 86.2%, and college 10.8%.


WSES – Work Self-Efficacy Scale (Avallone et al., 2007)

The Work Self-Efficacy Scale (WSES) includes 10 items assessing perceptions regarding specific work domains such as the capability to manage interpersonal relationships (colleagues and direct superiors), to work with colleagues with different characteristics and experiences, to behave efficaciously in the work context, to learn new working methods, to respect schedules and work deadlines, and to achieve assigned goals. For each item, participants were asked to evaluate how capable they felt in carrying out the described action or behavior on a Likert scale, from 1 (Not well at all) to 5 (Very well). The factor structure which emerged in the Italian study (20-60 years of age, n = 3,879) revealed two factors: Relational willingness and Commitment (Avallone et al., 2007). The first factor refers to a predisposition towards or attention to relationships with colleagues and superiors (e.g. "… have good relationships with direct superiors"). The second factor refers to perceptions of being capable of attaining fixed objectives and significantly committing oneself to their work (e.g. "… learn new working methods"). The Cronbach's Alpha coefficients were .85 for the first factor and .82 for the second factor.

SWSES – Search for Work Self-Efficacy Scale (Avallone et al., 2007)

The Search for Work Self-Efficacy Scale (SWSES) is composed of 12 items. The various items concern one's perception of their capability to select among job offers, to build strategies for the attainment of a goal, to respect other people's competences, and to work with new members, to manage time difficulties and stressful situations typical of job searches, to consider a failure a challenge rather than a problem. Participants were asked to evaluate how capable they felt in carrying out the described action or behavior on a Likert scale, from 1 (Not well at all) to 5 (Very well). The factor structure which emerged in the Italian study (20-60 years of age, n=3,879) revealed four dimensions: Frustration coping, that is the subject's perception of being capable of managing difficult moments while searching for a job (e.g. "…consider a failure a challenge, rather than a problem"); Enterprising exploration, that is the perception of being capable of actively committing oneself to searching for a job (e.g. "... understand the found information"); Proactive Career Planning, that is the perception of one's own capability to actively plan their professional future (e.g. "…build strategies for the attainment of goals"); Relational integration, that is the perception of feeling capable of acquiring and maintaining functional relationships in work settings (e.g. "... work with new team members"). The Cronbach's Alpha coefficients for the four factors were .84, .62, .74 and .55, respectively (Avallone et al., 2007).

The Appendix presents the English version as well as the Spanish translation of the scales.

Statistical Analysis

To assess whether the factor structure of the scales replicates across Italian and Spanish contexts, a multi-group confirmatory factor analysis (MGCFA) was conducted, using Maximum Likelihood (ML) as estimation method. Analyses were based on the examination of the covariance structures among the items of the respective scales, through the EQS software (Bentler, 2003). The two dimensions of the WSES included five indicators, while the four dimensions of the SWSES included three indicators, in accordance with the measurement model of the respective scales (Avallone et al., 2007). Goodness of fit was evaluated using the Chi-square, the Root Mean Square Error of Approximation (RMSEA), the Standardized Root Mean Square Residual (SRMR), the Comparative Fit Index (CFI), the Normed Fit Index (NFI), and Akaike's Informational Criterion (AIC).

Before testing measurement invariance, a baseline model has been estimated for each group separately. Then, configural invariance has been examined fitting the baseline model to the data in each group simultaneously, without imposing between-group constraints (Model A). Configural invariance is a minimum condition for factorial invariance. It holds when the overall structure of the scale is the same across groups (i.e. the same number of factors and the same pattern of factor loadings). Metric invariance was tested imposing equality constraints on factor loadings across groups (Model B). This level of invariance requires the size of the factor loadings be the same between countries. When it holds, the scale has a similar metric across groups, allowing meaningful comparison of the relations between latent factors and external variables. Finally, invariance of the uniqueness has been examined by further constraining the error terms of the items across groups (Model C). This is a more stringent condition which additionally requires that the items have similar amounts of uniqueness in each country. When invariance at this level is established, the factors could have equal reliabilities across groups. Vandenberg and Lance (2000), argued this occurs when the factor variances also are invariant. The chi-square difference test was used to examine the tenability of the constraints imposed on models B and C.



The WSES–Work Self-Efficacy Scale

Baseline models. The hypothesized two-factor structure was tested for each country separately. Table 1 shows multiple goodness of fit indices for the baseline model in Italy and Spain. All items showed a loading higher than .60, ranging from .61 to .82 in the Italian sample, and from .61 to .76 in the Spanish sample. In sum, the 10-item baseline model showed an acceptable fit in both countries.

Configural invariance (Model A). In this model, parameters were estimated simultaneously across the groups, allowing factor loadings and error variances to differ across groups. As shown in Table 1, the fit of the configural model attests to the invariance of the factor structure across groups.

Metric invariance (Model B). In this model, all factor loadings were constrained to be equal across groups. The chi-square difference test between this model and the previous one, where all of the respective parameters were unconstrained across groups (Model A), is statistically significant. In other words, the equality constraints on item factor loadings produced a significant increase of the chi-square, Δχ2(8)=22.01, p<.001. Thus, full metric invariance cannot be retained. We examined the modification indices to locate the source of this non-equivalence, relaxing the constraints of the parameters with the two highest values. We then compared this partially invariant model (Model B1) with the configural model (Model A). The chi square difference test was not significant, Δχ2(6)=8,46; p=.20, providing evidence of partial metric invariance (Byrne, Shavelson & Muthén, 1989).

Invariance of error variances (Model C). The last step was to examine the equality of the uniqueness of each item. This implies equal factor loadings and error variances across countries, with the exception of the two items for which metric invariance was not tenable. Goodness of fit indices for this model are presented in Table 1. The chi square difference test between model C and model B1 was highly significant, Δχ2(7) = 43.24; p<.001). Most of the constraints ended in a significant increase of the chi square, as suggested by the high values of the modification indices. Thus, we concluded that error variances are not equivalent across groups.

In sum, we have found partial metric invariance of the WSES–Work Self-Efficacy Scale across Spain and Italy, whereas the invariance of the error terms was not supported. Parameter estimates of the best fitting model (Model B1) are presented in Figure 1.

The SWSES – Search for Work Self-Efficacy Scale

The same analyses were performed on the Search for Work Self-Efficacy Scale. Table 2 presents goodness of fit indices of the examined models. The hypothesized four-factor structure showed an acceptable fit in both countries. Loadings were all higher than .60, ranging from .63 to .87 in the Italian sample, and from .63 to .90 in the Spanish sample. The configural model (Model A) obtained a good fit to the data, revealing that the same factor structure holds across Italy and Spain. The chi square difference test between Model B and Model A was not statistically significant, Δχ2(8)=43.24; p=.14. This finding suggests that all specified equality constraints are tenable, thereby indicating that factor loadings were invariant across groups. In contrast, equality constraints on item uniqueness across the groups (Model C) ended in a high a significant increase of the chi-square, Δχ2(14)=60.64; p<.001. This suggests that the error terms of the items are not equivalent across groups.

In sum, the Search for Work Self-Efficacy Scale was found to have full metric invariance across Spain and Italy. The invariance of the error terms, instead, was not supported. Parameter estimates of the best fitting model (Model B) are presented in Figure 2.



The current study aimed to contribute to the validation of the WSES–Work Self-Efficacy Scale and the SWSES–Search for Work Self-Efficacy Scale, by investigating the factor structure of the instruments and their measurement invariance across Spanish and Italian cultural contexts. Our findings revealed that both scales have good psychometric properties. Confirmatory factor analyses supported the dimensionality of the two instruments: the WSES measures two dimensions related to the capability to behave in an efficacious way in the work context, namely the abilities to manage interpersonal relationships and to achieve assigned goals. The SWSES measures four dimensions related to the capability to select among job offers, to build efficacious strategies, to respect other people's competences, to work with new members, and to manage stressful situations during job searches.

In addition, we used multigroup confirmatory factor analysis to assess the measurement invariance of the scales across countries. Measurement invariance represents a prerequisite for valid cross-cultural or cross-national comparisons, which require that the scale of the latent variable be the same across countries. Results confirmed that the factor structure of the scales replicates between cultural contexts. The properties of the scales, in terms of the measurement of the underlying constructs, remain stable across Italian and Spanish contexts. In particular, results demonstrated full metric invariance for the SWSES and partial metric invariance for the WSES. Statistically, full metric invariance exists when the strength of the relationship between each item and its underlying construct is the same across the groups. However, such a requirement may be too strict and unrealistic. Moreover, it represents a sufficient but not necessary condition for group comparisons (Horn, 1991). Consequently, Byrne et al. (1989) introduced the concept of partial invariance, in which only a subset of loadings must be invariant, while others are allowed to vary between groups. As partial metric invariance is a necessary condition for group comparison, meaningful comparisons of the relations between latent factors of the SWSES and external variables can be made across Spain and Italy.

At uniqueness level some differences were found. However, a lack of uniqueness invariance does not have substantial implications on instrument validity; it indicates that some items may display different reliability across groups. As sustained by Steenkamp and Baumgartner (1998), differences in measurement error may be easily taken into account within the framework of structural equation modelling. Ultimately, as argued by Horn (1991), measurement invariance can be considered an ideal condition which is not expected to be fully realized.

To conclude, the Work Self-Efficacy Scale and the Search for Work Self-Efficacy Scale can be applied in Spanish and Italian contexts, in the field of research as well as for intervention programs related to employment search and career choice. In this regard, it is likely that employment status and self-efficacy have reciprocal influences: on the one hand, work can contribute to promote individuals' domain-specific sense of efficacy (Eden & Aviram, 1993); on the other hand, efficacy beliefs can contribute to effective job search and maintenance (Wanberg et al., 1999). That's why orientation, support and training programs for unemployed persons (that have to enter into labor market or that have lost their job) should consider perceptions of self-efficacy in specific domains, boosting their motivation and persistence in job search, and preparing them to cope with cognitive and relational complex environments.

Future studies should address the concurrent and predictive validity of the scales, as well as their incremental validity with regard to different outcomes. Moreover, the generalizability of findings across western and non western cultural contexts should be examined.



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Address for correspondence:
Silvia Pepe
La Sapienza Universitá di Roma
Via dei Marsi, 78
00185 Roma, Italy

Manuscript received: 23/02/2010
Review received: 08/11/2010
Accepted: 10/11/2010

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