“Accountability” is another word for ownership—the attitude that “when an employee says that they will do something, they follow through with it and get it done” (of course, the same attitude applies to business owners and managers across the board). When a company’s culture is suffused with accountability, people take responsibility for the results of their jobs and do whatever is necessary to accomplish those results.
Instilling a sense of accountability in your workforce is (or should be) a workplace objective every bit as important as closing deals and growing the business. Why? Because having a workforce comprised of employees who are accountable for their decisions and actions means everyone within the organisation has a stake in making sure the right actions and decisions are taken.
Here are tips on moulding the culture to incorporate round-the-clock accountability in your workforce:
Ensure that all job duties are clearly defined.
A recurring issue around accountability stems from an employee’s murky sense of their responsibilities. All too often, these duties veer away from what they understand to be “part of the job”—such as when they’re asked to pitch in on a special project, or to abruptly fill in for an absent co-worker. This can be avoided by clearly defining the individual’s responsibilities and ensuring that everyone understands they will be held accountable for the actions they take—in whatever on-the-job capacity they are involved in.
It’s up to managers and supervisors to stay on top of ever-changing workplace duties and to be firm (but also reasonable) in assigning tasks that go above and beyond an employee’s normal tasks (for which they are, of course, always responsible).
It’s virtually impossible to instil a sense of accountability when a supervisor micromanages employees. Implied in this approach is the attitude that “nobody can do things better than they can” and that the supervisor feels obliged “to step in and direct business operations at every level … and react to shortcomings in a punitive manner.”
Assuming you have carefully recruited and hired an individual because of their maturity and ability to get things done, all you should do is delineate the responsibilities of the job and then step back and let them do what’s asked of them.
When you “demonstrate that you trust employees by allowing them to figure out the course on their own,” notes Glassdoor, “you will empower them to succeed and take responsibility over the outcome.” In other words, “give your employees an opportunity to problem-solve on their own rather than doing it for them.”
Address specific issues, not the individual employee.
No one’s perfect (including small business owners), so mistakes sometimes happen. In a culture of accountability, an employee who errs in their duties will accept responsibility and do their best to make a better decision in the future.
But this positive approach can only work in an environment where mistakes are addressed and discussed in a constructive manner—with the focus on an action or decision that fell short of the goal, not on any personal shortcomings or other criticism that seems to attack the individual.
Celebrate the act of taking chances.
Too much emphasis on failures or mistakes only serves to sap employee morale. By contrast, when an employee achieves their goals after taking independent actions, it’s important to “celebrate risk and encourage your employees to keep giving their all,” notes Inc.
In a workplace where taking reasonable risks is accepted (with an emphasis on learning from any mistakes), this “will help everyone on the team to take more chances” and be more accountable for their actions.