Why Work Ethic?

When educators and human resource professionals from around the world search the Web for information on work ethic, work competencies and employability skills for workforce development, they often find the research of UGA education professor Roger Hill.

Hill, a professor and head of the College of Education’s department of workforce education, leadership and social foundations, developed his work ethic Web site in 1995. Today, it receives more hits than any other site in the college.

But what is work ethic? And how does one go about developing a better workforce?

“There are some people who would say that being dependable, having initiative or just having good interpersonal skills are characteristics that are formed early in one’s life,” said Hill. “But if we give up on trying to have an impact on that, then basically we give up on a huge part of what makes people good workers.”

The materials on the site include online lessons for use in education and training, two self-scoring work ethic inventories, a history of work ethic, information about available work ethic curriculum materials and links to other work ethic resources. They were an outgrowth of his dissertation research, according to Hill.

The curriculum includes lesson plans and instructional materials built around case studies designed to facilitate small-group discussion. Hill receives hundreds of e-mail requests from around the world each year for the teaching materials, which he provides free of charge to educators and human resource professionals.

Another area of the Web site that receives significant attention is the Occupational Work Ethic Inventory and the Employability Skills Assessment. After answering questions related to personality and work ethic, respondents receive interpersonal, initiative and dependability scores that are then compared to the mean responses of a representative sample of working adults.

According to Hill, these tools are primarily intended for discussion purposes, wherein a group of employees or students can compare their scores and discuss what they mean in relation to their individual skill sets.

“The outcome that we are looking for is for someone to recognize that ‘It is important for me to be dependable if I am going to hold a job and be successful,’ and as a teacher or professional in human resource development working with that person, you can come up with some strategies to achieve this,” Hill said.

The site’s resources are used by multiple organizations in this capacity. For instance, Grady County Schools in south Georgia utilized the Web site as a tool for long-term tracking of work ethic scores in collaboration with their program on work ethic and employability skills.

Hill’s research also focuses on technology education that supports the technical content that is inherent in his assigned instructional load. The work ethic research informs the affective instruction that also is critical to those classes.

“The implementation of new technologies, particularly information technologies, has produced a high-discretion workplace in which workers must make good decisions regarding use of time and resources,” he said. “To be appropriately prepared for this work environment, workers must develop technical skills and knowledge, but work ethic and affective work attributes are equally important for success.”