Accountability in the workplace means that all employees should be responsible and aware of their actions, performance, decisions and behaviour. It is also something which is linked to increasing commitment at work and boosting employee morale, which then leads to higher productivity in the workplace. However, accountability is something which is seriously lacking in a number of companies.
Accountability in the workplace is all about ownership. This means that when an employee says that they will do something, they follow through with it and get it done. Results should then be communicated and understood by everyone. Accountability is something which should be determined in a proactive manner before the fact, and not reactively after the fact when mistakes have been made. Every employee should feel a sense of ownership for their workplace results and what it takes to achieve those results.
Accountability starts and ends with leadership at all levels, so what can you do as a leader to encourage and create a culture of accountability in your workplace?
Define results and expectations
Instead of waiting for mistakes to happen and then wasting time and energy finding the person at fault, set clear standards and expectations before work is begun. Then, be sure that all employees understand and are aware of the results which your company is trying to achieve. Every employee should have a clear line of sight to the company’s desired results, so that the decisions they make have positive impacts on this.
Employees need to have clear and defined expectations in order to achieve goals. Companies have evergreen responsibilities which need support in order to meet their mission, purpose and values, whether they be customer-focused or quality-based, which need teams and employees to focus on on a continuous basis.
Provide updates on results and progress
Employees need updates and information in order to get closer to their goals. The most effective form of feedback comes from frequent conversations between employees and managers. When you are providing progress updates, as a manager or leader you should ask yourself whether you have the right data to give proper results and progress feedback. Data which is performance-driven is best, as it allows you to discuss with the employee what behaviour or actions have lead to this progress.
Work on feedback skills
Giving tough feedback and criticism isn’t easy, but one of the most important things you can do as a manager is to provide your team and/or employees with feedback. However, many managers actually shy away from giving feedback. Whether it’s fear of giving bad news, nerves when speaking or just general dislike of them, as a manager it is important that you learn to give feedback.
In actual fact, development and learning is one of the top priorities for Gen Z and Millennial employees, behind things such as advancement opportunities and fair pay. Negative feedback is often better than no feedback at all as it allows the employee to set their sights on an end target. By regularly giving feedback, it makes both giving and receiving tough feedback much easier to deal with.
Be considerate of your employees
We all want to perform well at work. For many of us, our job is a part of our personality and is something we spend a large majority of our time doing and specialising in. Remember that, as a manager, you need to be considerate of your employees as well as their driving force.
There are a number of things which can take a toll on our performance at work, whether it be a personal matter or a workplace factor, all of which can dampen spirits and productivity. As a manager, you need to remember that the health and well-being of your employees is vital and that this plays a huge part in employee performance.
It is also an important factor when it comes to creating accountability within the workplace, as you need to encourage your employees to be responsible for themselves. If you notice an illness, such as a cold or cough, spreading around the office, then you need to encourage your employees to take time off or look after their health with the use of a proper diet and getting the right amount of vitamins. If employees don’t take breaks, then relay to them the importance of regular screen breaks and taking a break away from the office, as this can also boost productivity.
Making accountability a core part of your culture
As mentioned, accountability is about initiative and ownerships. It’s recognising that when you say you will do something, you follow through with it and get it done. It’s also about recognising the fact that other team members are dependent on the results, meaning that open and proactive communication is key. This ensures that key team members are informed of the situation as it has a direct impact on their ability to keep to and achieve their own commitments.
Two of the biggest reasons as to why many managers resist from holding others accountable is because we are uncomfortable doing so, and because we often forget to do it. As a manager, you are the pacesetter of the tone in the office, team performance and workplace culture - people will take your lead when it comes to their behaviour at work. If you want to create a culture of accountability in your workplace, then you need to demonstrate how this is done and what you expect.