Measuring an individual’s beliefs in the moral benefit and importance of work can be difficult. Although discussions relating to and research about work ethics dates to about 1905, both the processes and measurements used to assess work ethics remain an inexact science. Although the concept of work ethic is multidimensional, quantitative measurements traditionally consider one dimension at a time. Despite this, quantitative methods for objectively measuring work ethics within the realm of research are vital for providing information business owners need when making hiring decision.

Work Ethic Components

Determining work ethic first requires a researcher to fully understand what’s being measured. In defining a good work ethic, most employers identify employee productivity, promptness and dependability and consistent, positive contributions to the business and fellow employees as the most important components. In establishing ways to objectively measure these components, researchers have options such as percentage or ratio calculations and attitude identification. For example, attitude identification can include positive-attitude indicators such as active participation in team or group work and demonstrated good listening skills. Negative-attitude indicators can range from quiet disinterest to repeatedly disrupting a group with verbal or nonverbal actions.

Traditional Measurement Instruments

A number of traditional methods enable researchers to measure work ethics. Some common measurements instruments include the "Survey of Work Values," the "Protestant Ethic Scale" and the "Occupational Work Ethic Inventory." The Survey of Work Values reflects an index of an employee’s general attitude toward work using scales that measure work and occupational values. The Protestant Ethic Scale measures individual differences in work values in terms of how an employee’s occupational interests relate to other personality variables. The Occupational Work Ethic Inventory, which is composed of 50 one-word descriptors relating to work ethic, value of work and work competencies is intended to measure vocational aspects of the work ethic.

Sampling and Data Collection

Measurements are often based on judgmental sampling according to the experience and knowledge base of the person conducting the research. The process, which involves handpicking research subjects, can be an effective way to assemble a truly representative sample of the employee population, especially if the researcher knows a reliable professional or authority -- such as human resource personnel or the business owner -- who is capable of assembling the sample. Data is often collected by means of personal interviews, surveys and questionnaires.

Work Ethic Measurement Challenges

Any employee can have a bad day or a bad week and still have a good work ethic. This does, however, highlight an issue surrounding accurate work ethics measurements. For research to produce accurate results, data must be collected on a long-term basis and research must be ongoing. In addition, measurements can’t focus on a single component but instead must address each component of the work ethic. Once data collection is complete, individual measurements can then be combined and analyzed as a group.