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How to Increase Accountability in the Workplace - HRDQ

How to Increase Accountability in the Workplace

A culture of workplace accountability means that employees feel directly responsible for the work they produce and share ownership in eventual outcomes. Maintaining a strong sense of accountability among employees doesn’t only keep morale and a sense of purpose high; it also empowers workers, increases trust, and ultimately produces better work. Here’s a useful guide on how to increase accountability in the workplace.

HRDQ offers a range of accountability training materials to help you build a culture of accountability in your organization. Shop Now

A Delicate Balance

Maintaining equilibrium is a challenge. If underperforming employees don’t have the necessary resources and encouragement to improve, then they may feel discouraged or set to fail. If high-performing employees see others held to a different standard, they may feel less motivated to go above and beyond. Communicating to every employee their purpose and objectives helps everyone feel invested in and part of the work.

Talk About It

Holding employees accountable doesn’t have to be a confrontation or source of stress. Simply think about it as an ongoing conversation, and set up a time with individuals regularly to ensure a continued discussion about performance, goals, and expectations. Having a regular check-in makes for more natural conversations and keeps employees from feeling threatened by a one-off meeting. Keep the objective of the meetings clear and set goals coming out of each to measure progress against the previous session.

Systematize Your Evaluation

Especially if you’re removed from one-on-one employee meetings, think about how you can systematize regular check-ins within your organization. This may mean incorporating them as a requirement for managerial positions and putting review structures in place to ensure they’re happening regularly. These meetings should have objective and clear guidelines and goals. Just make sure they incorporate regular employee evaluations on a quarterly or biannual basis (if not more frequently). 

Outline Roles for Managers

The workplace accountability structure should penetrate every level of an organization. Employees should be held accountable for their work, and managers should be accountable for keeping their reports accountable.

When it comes to designing manager positions and communicating expectations of those roles, ensure a regular evaluation is in place for managers. They should meet regularly with their direct reports to assess their performance constructively and proactively. Here, you’ll also want to equip managers with tools for accountability. This might require online or in-person training or regular meetings as a manager cohort to workshop manager-specific issues.

Accountability At Work

This customizable training program leads participants through the concept and practices of accountability in two respects—personal and mutual accountability. Participants can gain a complete understanding of how to affect a culture of accountability in their workplace

Be Specific About Your Expectations

Make sure that employees have a clear sense of the standards they’re being held to. Create S.M.A.R.T goals for every position and ensure those goals are communicated and benchmarked against. S.M.A.R.T goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. In short, you’re able to accomplish them, but they require extra hard work. Setting these goals is also an excellent opportunity to engage employees—you may even consider asking them to define their personal goals in the workplace.

Try sending out a survey to employees to gauge what they’re already thinking about their jobs and responsibilities. Or send around some sample goals to see if employees consider them relevant and essential. Engaging employees in this process gives them an opportunity to be heard and gives you a chance to understand where their expectations are currently at.

Implement Clear Onboarding Processes

From the start, employees should feel that they know and understand precisely what they were hired to do. Make sure your new hire onboarding training covers the specifics of that person’s role, including expectations, SMART goals, and key performance indicators. When an employee fully knows their position and knows how, when, and why their performance will be measured, they will inherently feel more accountable for producing the work expected and required of them.

The Accountability Experience

In this workshop, managers and supervisors learn to encourage employee accountability at all levels, leading to increased engagement and a decrease in the gap between expectation and delivery.

Accountability Experience | HRDQ

Establish a Culture of Trust

Everyone wants to feel trusted to do their job correctly, completely, and efficiently. Discourage micromanagement in the workplace and conduct frequent manager training to improve workplace management in general. A culture of trust starts with those in positions of management. Set those individuals up for management success by instilling a sense of trust for their reports. Continually evaluate employee feedback on managers as well.

Read our blog on How to Change Organizational Culture Successfully.

Incentivize, Don’t Punish

If employees are always worried about punishment for not hitting their goals or achieving expected results, chances are they’ll be less focused on improving. They may be too afraid to innovate and feel less motivated to succeed. You can best encourage critical and creative thinking by focusing on rewards, not punishment.

Depending on your workplace culture, you can put this practice into action as quarterly peer nomination recognition, bonuses, employee spotlights, you name it. Empowering employees to improve—instead of punishing them for falling short—doesn’t just boost individual employee morale, it encourages the entire office culture.

Develop Organization-Wide Principles

Getting on the same page about why everyone shows up to work is essential for creating a sense of personal accountability in the workplace. A great way to create this sense of unity and common purpose is to publicly establish your organization’s mission, vision, and values. You’ll then need to communicate these messages proactively, so they become a part of your workplace ethos.

If you don’t have these stories about your organization, get representatives from different departments in a room to discuss. However, if you already receive these statements, think about how you can more frequently and organically communicate them throughout your workforce. After all, people want to feel proud of where they work and their company’s mission.

Your Turn

As you can tell by now, creating accountability in the workplace is really about transforming your organizational culture. It’s crucial to establish values for your company as a whole and specific goals for every employee function. Then you must actively communicate that information, equip everyone with the information they need to succeed, incentivize innovation, and objectively assess performance. It’s not an overnight shift. This process could take months or even years. But the more focused and consistent you are in your efforts, the better your entire company will feel.

For assistance in this endeavor, explore the library of accountability training resources available at HRDQ.

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.