Many companies invest resources in raising the engagement of their employees, but despite their best efforts, are not able to see anything like the results they were hoping to achieve.
While the specific reasons for this can be just as varied and complex as the company itself, in some cases, a key reason for this is the lack of trust and accountability employers offer their employees when it comes to core business and operational tasks.
Organisations that are able to build a culture where employee engagement and accountability are aligned will be better positioned to drive performance both naturally and sustainably. We explore the relationship between these elements and suggest a few ways companies can start to introduce accountability in their workplaces.
The Effect of Accountability on the Employee Mindset
Being accountable means doing what you said you would do, being true to your word and following through on your commitments. These are behaviours that you’ll no doubt want all your employees to exhibit in their day-to-day working lives.
The opposite of this is doing only what you feel like you must, being happy to let others do the hard work and take the credit, and in the event that something goes wrong, feeling that you have the right to blame someone else who was ultimately “accountable” for a specific task or project.
Within this context, not allocating accountability effectively in your organisation (and to the right people) starts to erode the integrity of your processes. It also takes away from the kind of benefits you were hoping to achieve after investing in other employee engagement initiatives.
How to Introduce Accountability
Setting up systems that afford enough accountability to people within an organisation is ultimately the responsibility of its leaders and managers. For people to eventually feel responsible and invested in a particular process or project, it is first necessary for their seniors to take a step back and trust them to get things done.
This, in almost all cases, requires effective communication about what any given individual is accountable for, whether that’s simply organising the daily calendar or tangibly improving the performance on one of your key accounts.
The other side of this is showing your employees that you yourself are accountable for set activities and outcomes. For team members to exhibit ownership and accountability for their tasks, it’s important that they see this is as part of the company brand and culture to the extent that even the most senior members hold themselves accountable for their activities
Tolerating missed deadlines, decreased productivity, low performance or other shortcomings can quickly lead to an unhealthy work culture. One of the first casualties of this is employee engagement, with individuals detaching from their roles due to perceived lack of accountability and the feeling that their performance is not tied to the success or failure of the company.
Methods for Improving Accountability
As well as leading by example, a number of strategies can be employed to introduce or reinforce the culture of accountability for improving employee engagement.
Define People’s Roles Early
A simple spreadsheet, chart or table can accurately assign tasks and jobs to certain people. However, conversations with employees as they’re coming on board or transitioning to a new role is crucial. Discussing their short and long-term responsibilities is important in making it crystal clear what people are or aren’t accountable for.
Waiting until a project is 90% completed and only then assigning responsibility to someone is a poor leadership choice that results in resentment, especially if that account, project, or task is currently in bad shape.
Provide the individuals tasked with running projects in your company with the right tools and training to achieve the kind of results you are expecting.
Consider creating a resource hub where they can effectively access the information they need or develop mentoring programs where experienced employees can share skills and experience with others.
Create Manager Accountability
Managers are the best advocates for a culture of accountability and it can be useful to let them know that they are accountable for their own team’s engagement to some extent. As they guide, manage, advise and coach their team, it’s only right that they should be invested in the level of engagement they are witnessing in their ranks.
One of the fastest ways of improving employee engagement is to assign accountability to your team. Making them responsible for their failures as well as successes helps to transform idle or complacent employees into drivers of success. When followed up with the right incentives and rewards, companies can vastly improve their engagement levels and improve performance, even in the largest of organisations.