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  • Writer's pictureDavid E. Smith, Ph.D

WHAT SAY YOU? Can you really hire for work attitude?

Updated: 2 days ago

Question Marks

Dear E.A.S.I-Consult,

Experts say an employee’s attitude toward work is essential to job success and is the most important attribute you can look for in a candidate. But can you really measure work attitude when hiring, especially with entry-level positions?

Hopefully True

Chief People Officer

(A Global Retail Supplier)


Dear Hopefully True,

Your information is correct.  Just ask anyone - employers, trainers, researchers, and employees alike - without hesitation, will agree that work attitude is the key to job success.  E.A.S.I-Consult has long supported the well-known adage that smart employers “hire for attitude and train for skills.”  And Yes, you can measure and select for work attitude.  You need to begin by defining work attitude, then identify what is important for your organization.

The term “work ethic” is often used interchangeably with work attitude.  In a January 2017 report by Becky Vaugh-Furlow, a columnist for Clarion Ledger (USA Today Network participant), work ethic was reported to be the top attribute desired by employers.  But how do you define and measure “work attitude”?  And how does attitude make someone a “good fit” for a job and your organization?  In her article, Vaugh-Furlow clarifies what work ethic (or work attitude) means.  She includes traits or factors such as reliability/dependability, goal orientation/productivity, cooperation/teamwork, emphasis on quality, and adaptability/flexibility.

E.A.S.I-Consult® has been assessing work attitude for over 15 years.  Based on our years of research, we offer work attitude measures in our pre-employment assessment tool, the Work Styles Predictor® (WSP®.). Our core measures align with the five factors Vaugh-Furlow offers.  E.A.S.I-Consult’s core work attitude measures include:

  • DEPENDABILITY – can be counted on to take the initiative – to do what it takes to get the job done

  • PRODUCTIVITY DRIVE – takes the initiative to reach and exceed production levels

  • TEAM ORIENTATION – builds positive working relations with others to achieve work goals

  • QUALITY INITIATIVE – shows exceptional effort to maintain and improve quality, and

  • ADAPTABILITY – can easily adjust to work demands and changing priorities.

Kimberly Leonard helps us further understand work attitude/work ethic in her June 2018 article published by the Small Business Chronicle.  Leonard lists five factors that demonstrate strong work ethic: professionalism – showing up to work on time and working consistently throughout the day; productivity – being organized and completing tasks by the end of the day; teamwork and cooperation – understanding you are part of a bigger team and helping others; high-quality work – providing work that goes above and beyond what is required; and determination to succeed – working the problem until it is resolved.  While Leonard uses slightly different labels, her five attitude “factors” also overlap up with our five core work attitude measures.

 So, what now?  Let’s go back to the beginning.  Most everyone agrees that work attitude is the key ingredient to job success.  Ideally, all your workers should have the “right” attitude toward the work you’ve assigned them.  But not all of them do!  And they won’t if you don’t screen them before you hire them.  E.A.S.I-Consult has learned the importance of screening candidates for this through our customers.  We began when a nationwide retail organization asked for help because many of their customer-facing employees were underperforming in customer service and sales.  It wasn’t due to a lack of skills; it was about their attitude toward responsibilities.  

To help them, we studied the requirements of the jobs, the culture of the organization, and the types of disruptive behaviors they were trying to eliminate.  We then designed a pre-employment test to screen candidates with the “right” work attitude.  In a trial run, we assessed a substantial number of candidates and tracked their job performance.  The retail organization reported that higher-scoring candidates demonstrated stronger sales initiative, followed supervisor instructions more often, and provided better customer service!

We recognize that work skills are also important.  We subscribe to the belief that after you’ve found a candidate/employee with the right work attitude, you should then focus on the work skills needed for the job.  Remember to “hire for attitude and train for skills.” And, yes, you can measure work attitude before you hire your work team!  Case in point, E.A.S.I-Consult can customize any WSP® dimension or assessment to fit your industry’s and company’s needs.

P.S. – AN OFFER TO YOU – Where can you go? Who can you trust? You are welcome to contact me for a free, unbiased, pre-consultation. I will discuss any pre-employment selection technique you may be considering for your organization. Just mention this article. (Contact Us)


David E. Smith, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO

E.A.S.I-Consult, LLC


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