Accountability is a crucial element of every high-functioning workplace. Accountability in the workplace has a clear correlation with higher performance, and research by the US Office of Personnel Management has also indicated that it leads to heightened capability, increased dedication to the role, boosted morale, and higher levels of workplace satisfaction. Accountability also fosters innovation as staff members become more invested in the company going forward.
Nevertheless, studies have shown that there is quite a deficiency of accountability in most workplaces. A survey conducted by AMA Enterprise saw that 21% of those interviewed saw their workforce consisting almost half of ‘unaccountable employees’. So, what is workplace accountability, why is it important, and how do you foster it?
What is accountability in the workplace?
Accountability at work is essentially about ownership and initiative. This refers to employees stepping up, and doing what is best for the business. An employee who is accountable will take responsibility of results and outcomes – they won’t presume that this is purely the concern of management.
Accountability at work includes:
– If you acknowledge that a task, duty or job is crucial to results, you ensure that task comes to the attention of the relevant staff so that it can be completed accordingly.
– If a task that is crucial to results falls to you and your department, you should ensure that it gets completed to the best possible degree.
– If you have committed to assisting on a certain task, ensure your contribution is of high quality.
– If your work has effects on the work of others, let them know how you’re progressing – their results will rely on your work too.
– If an issue arises with a project completed by yourself, you are honest with management about how you undertook the project and what you could do going forward to rectify the issue.
Why is accountability so important?
Accountability is crucial to the efficiency and accuracy of the work produced by employees. If employees aren’t held accountable for late work, lack of punctuality, or incomplete projects, you send the message that these occurrences aren’t so important, even though they truly are. Furthermore, it helps to ensure that all staff members are pulling their weight, and not relying on others to pick up the slack. In a Harvard Business Review Article on the topic of accountability at work, Thomas Ricks states that it is actually unfair on employees if management does not keep all staff accountable. This creates an environment where slackness thrives, and a handful of hardworking employees will have to carry the weight of a large number of unreliable ones.
How do you foster accountability in the workplace?
There are a number of steps you can take in order to encourage accountability in your workplace.
Make it a value
Accountability needs to be integrated into your workplace’s everyday operations. Explicitly bring up the concept in team meetings, encourage staff to share their ideas about it, and come to a common definition of what it means in your workplace. However, it needs to be more than a common definition. Accountability must become an organisation-wide goal, with consequences for when it is or isn’t met. It is terrible for office morale if there are one of two consistently low performers who never face repercussions.
Setting goals for each department or team – broken down to each employee – is one of the easiest ways for accountability to flourish. Goals with visible or tangible metrics will work best. This will set a very clear outline of what is expected from each employee. Personalised goals are especially important in teamwork as they highlight just how important each employee is to the whole project’s completion. If one team member doesn’t pull their weight, it will become blatantly obvious as other team members will not be able to complete their tasks. Also important in goal-setting is outlining what is not a priority. Overwhelming employees with too many tasks is a sure-fire way to reduce productivity and accountability. Ensure the goals set are realistic.
Highlight key metrics
Showing your employees the metrics of their performance is a great way to encourage accountability. Highlighting these metrics ensures that each employee will have to engage with the outcomes of their work. Sharing the outcomes of each goal set is a really effective way to validate commitment as well as communicate a clear outline of what is expected. Furthermore, highlighting figures encourages a little healthy competition. Accomplishing a goal and being recognised for doing so is a great feeling for an employee. Acknowledgment that you didn’t reach your goal this time around will incite the need for harder work next time around.
Include everyone in accountability
This goes hand-in-hand with setting individual goals. It is very easy for employees to assume that the team goal is the responsibility of the project or team leader. However, we know this isn’t the case. It’s important that each employee is aware that their contribution is both highly important, and valued. Furthermore, employees should be encouraged to speak up when another employee isn’t pulling their weight.
Create an environment of support and trust
When trust in absent in the workplace, employees focus on who is at fault when a problem arises, as opposed to crafting a solution. In a low trust environment, employees dread accountability as they worry about the consequences of their mistakes. In a high-trust environment, employees will try their hardest, stay accountable, and will be confident that they can rectify the issue with the help of their team. A high trust environment flourishes when managers provide praise when it is earnt and build their teams’ confidence.
There are many tools on the market that help you to keep your employees accountable by tracking the work they’ve completed and assessing performance. Not only will this allow you to better track the progress of projects, but employees are more likely to buckle down and get working when they know how easy it is to check up on their work. Workplaces thrive with accountability – employee turnover is lowered, teams function more efficiently, and innovation flourishes. Following these steps will help to foster and encourage accountability in the workplace!