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Can you improve a person’s work ethic?

A work ethic refers to a person’s attitude to work, and their personal values surrounding what it means to work hard. We all have slightly differing opinions on what a strong work ethic looks like, but most of us agree that you need a strong work ethic in order to get on in life. In fact, 97.5% of respondents in a Beyond The Skills Gap study rated work ethic as an essential aspect of career readiness, proving that it’s pretty essential to career progression.

However, a person’s work ethic is a hotly debated topic. Are we born with a certain type of work ethic, or does it develop over time? If we manage a team it can be tempting to think that some people are just intrinsically more hard working than others. But can that really be the case?

We’re taking a look at whether your can improve a person’s work ethic, and what factors can impact a person’s ability to work hard.

How Does Work Ethic Develop?

There are many theories concerning how a person’s work ethic is developed. Some people believe that your work ethic is instilled in you from a young age, and might be something that is taught by your parents and then set for life.

Other lines of thought believe that people are continually evolving, and that with the right ingredients, any employee can improve their work ethic and become more hard working. Work ethic is usually a result of practice and habit, which can of course be changed. 

Can We Improve Work Ethic?

One study published by the Harvard Education Publishing Blog says yes. According to the cited book Creating Self-Regulated Learners (Stylus Publishing, 2013) Linda Nilson proves that students who are directed towards being reflective and proactive learners are more likely to continually improve their performance.

For her, the key is accountability – when people feel accountable for their own success they are much more willing to commit to the process and adopt a growth mindset that will help them work harder.

Work ethic can be improved by culture, and when it comes to the workplace, here are a few of the factors that might affect work ethic:

  • How valued an employee feels
  • How engaged they are in developing in their role and moving up the ranks
  • Whether they feel inspired by their coworkers and are able to share knowledge

Do Millennials Have A Bad Work Ethic?

Firstly, it’s not fair to generalise and claim that all millennials are x or y. However, in the world of work the millennial generation have gained a reputation for being less hard working than their coworkers from different generations.

When considering how we manage people, it’s important to remember that certain factors can improve a person’s work ethic. This is especially true for the millennials who make up 75% of our workforce, who have different opinions on work. For the millennial mind, it’s not necessarily how many hours you spend chained to a desk, it’s how valuable you are to a business and what your output is that counts.

For that reason, a millennial is much more likely to put in the hours on the tasks where they can see clear results. If you want their work ethic to improve, the best thing you can do is encourage them to learn more and place them in situations where this knowledge can be put to good use. Millennials need access to real-time knowledge that makes them feel valued, motivated and progressive, or they will struggle to see the point in performing their role.

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