‍Today's workers are more productive, accessible, and networked than ever. That also means their performance is more measurable than ever. But for all the insight we have into how employees operate, a lot remains mysterious. This is particularly true regarding work ethic or lack thereof.

Some employees start with a bad attitude and never recover. Others show up on time and put in their best effort every day but need to care about their job more to go above and beyond as much as possible. With so many other factors being measured and analyzed, it may feel like it isn't much you can do about an employee who doesn't have the right attitude toward their work and the company as a whole. But that couldn't be further from the truth.

Improving an employee's work ethic can be easier than you think – if you know where to start. Here are some ideas on how to improve a lack of work ethic in employees:

Communicate your expectations clearly and often

Different generations have different ideas of what the right work ethic looks like. This can put you in a precarious position where everyone has a different idea of what "working hard" actually means. This can create resentment between generations and conflict within a single employee. They'll feel like they're failing if they don't know what is expected. If they don't know what their manager wants them to do daily, it may feel like they're drowning.

Those who don't care about their job will feel like they're getting away with something when they don't feel like they're being held accountable for anything.

Josh Paternoster, Managing Director of Quick Clear Drainage recommends, “To avoid all this, start having regular conversations about your expectations and what it takes to do the job well. Make sure you and your team are on the same page, and each employee knows what is expected of them.”

Set firm, reasonable limits on behavior and consequences

If you have a culture of work ethic, you can have a frank conversation about expectations. If you have a culture of excuses, you have a problem.

It may be hard to believe, but not everyone will care as much about their job as you want them to. Some employees are going to be late every day. Others are going to take three-hour lunches every day.

If you allow this behavior to go unpunished, it will become the status quo. It will demotivate those who care about their work and make it harder for you to address the problem.

Don't be afraid to discipline employees who don't follow the rules.

If you let one or two things slide, you might feel like you're walking on eggshells around your employees. You might worry that you'll risk your relationship with them if you discipline them.

Mike Owens, Digital Marketing & Growth Director at HostingRevelations, says, “Disciplining employees who don't follow the rules is essential if you want your work ethic culture to thrive. It's how you show someone you care about them enough to correct their bad behavior before it becomes a permanent part of their character.”

When you have a problem employee, don't let their attitude of "I don't care" turn into "I don't care, and you can't make me." Discipline them as soon as possible. Be consistent with your policies to make sure everything is clear. And don't be afraid to let them go if they aren't willing to change.

Offer exciting opportunities for growth and development

This ties into communicating expectations, but it's worth mentioning. New employees, particularly millennials, want constant feedback about their work. They want to know how they're doing, what they're doing well, and what they could be doing better. They want to be challenged and know that their company cares about them as people, not just as workers. 

When you have a clear idea of how your employees want to grow and develop, you can offer them chances to progress in their careers. You can show them that you care about them as people, not just employees.

Darshan Somashekar, who runs the gaming platform Online Cribbage, explains, “We offer a learning stipend for our employees. Even though not everyone uses it, we’ve found that our employee engagement scores improved because our employees know we’re willing to invest in them.”

Implement Rigorous Tracking Measures

Some employees don't care enough to track their time and stay on schedule. For example, they may take longer than they should to finish a task and not care enough to cut the task short or go back and correct it.

If you have one of these employees on your team, you may feel like there's nothing you can do. But that's not true. You can implement time-tracking software to keep tabs on how long each task takes. This can help you spot employees taking too long on specific tasks and then take action to correct the situation.

Provide regular, meaningful feedback.

The best way to improve your employees' work ethic is to give them regular, meaningful feedback. This can help them to see where they're succeeding and where they need to improve. It can help them understand how to do their job better and what they need to do to achieve it.

Regular feedback can also help you identify potential issues with your employees' work ethic before they become a severe problem. Suppose you notice someone consistently falling behind on tasks, taking too long, or simply not meeting your expectations. In that case, you can address the situation before it becomes a full-blown problem.

Silvia Hernandez, Founder of Momtivational says, “Feedback doesn't have to be a one-sided conversation. It should be an ongoing dialog about how your employees are doing and how they can improve. It would help if you also used this time to praise your employees when they do well.”

Bottom line: Culture is everything

Remember that the work ethic of your employees is a reflection of your company culture. If your employees want to thrive, you must nurture their work ethic from the ground up. You have to ensure that you're hiring the best people you can find and that they have the tools they need to succeed. You must ensure they have the right expectations and know what to do to meet or exceed them.

Most importantly, you have to make sure you have the right attitude. It's important not to micromanage your employees or to be too strict with your expectations. It's essential to be open to feedback and to let your employees know that they have an opportunity to grow and develop. If you do these things, you'll have an easier time improving a lack of work ethic in your employees.