Employee accountability has been a top issue for as long as companies have existed, yet both employees and employers still feel frustrated by it. In fact, in a study cited by Ron Carucci in HBR, '... 91% of respondents said they would rank "improving the ability to hold others accountable in an effective way” as one of the top leadership development needs of their organization.'
Despite there being literally hundreds of thousands of pages dedicated to the subject, employee accountability remains an ineffective practice at many companies.
What is Employee Accountability?
Employee accountability refers to the extent to which a person is answerable for their decisions, actions, and performance in the workplace.
When employees are held accountable, they are more likely to take ownership of their work, make good decisions, and strive for excellence. They are also more likely to work collaboratively with their colleagues and take the necessary steps to achieve their goals.
Accountability fosters a culture of trust and integrity, which ultimately contributes to the overall success of an organization. By holding employees accountable, employers can ensure that their workforce is committed to achieving the company's goals and values, which is essential for long-term success.
Employee accountability is essential for creating a culture of responsibility and ownership in an organization.
5 benefits of employee accountability:
improved performance and productivity- Holding Employees accountable in the workplace can result in improved performance and productivity. When employees are aware that they are being held accountable for their actions, they tend to take their work more seriously and are more likely to put forth their best effort.
Improved communication and trust-accountability promotes open communication and fosters trust among employees. When employees know they can be held accountable, they are more likely to communicate openly and honestly with their colleagues and superiors. This, in turn, can help to build trust and foster a positive workplace culture. A study conducted by Great Place to Work found that "trust is the foundation of a great workplace culture," and "that accountability is one of the key drivers of trust."
Enhances decision making- holding employees accountable can also lead to better decision-making. Employees tend to take a more thoughtful and deliberate approach when making choices if they know they are accountable. This can lead to better outcomes and reduce the likelihood of errors or poor judgment. According to a study by PwC, 60% of CEOs believe that creating a culture of accountability is essential for successful decision-making.
increased innovation- empowering employees can also lead to increased innovation and creativity, as employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and taking risks. Overall, employee accountability is a crucial component of a successful workplace. It can result in improved performance and productivity, higher quality of work, and improved communication and trust among employees. By consistently holding employees accountable, businesses can promote a culture of quality, excellence, and accountability.
strengthens culture- according to an article in Forbes, a lack of accountability “can have a snowball effect throughout the team.” When you embed accountability into the fabric of your company, you make accountability everyone’s responsibility by “establishing meaningful goals and team buy-in, building trust through support and encouragement, empowering everyone on the team and celebrating successes together.” Accountability starts from the top. And with accountability at the heart of your organization, you will fortify company culture and achieve greater success.
Employee Accountability Isn't Effective in Many Organizations
Research shows that 100 percent of organizations think accountability is important to their success, and more than 99 percent don't have it in the way they want.
Accountability seems a straightforward subject, but it can be challenging to put into practice. Here are a few reasons why:
Accountability often has a negative connotation. Many people associate accountability with punishment or reprimands, rather than a tool for progress. As a result, employees may feel that they are being judged instead of encouraged to do their best.
- Employees can resent being 'graded.' According to Carucci, "The scorekeeping nature of this process yields a built-in negativity bias, where leaders reflexively hunt for shortfalls, and the tallying usually ends with a forced categorization — a rating system of numbers or labels, sometimes stack-ranking employees against their peers."
- Accountability efforts that force a numeric scoring that is the same for all employees may not consider variations in work requirements or employee aptitudes. This can discourage employees from being innovative or creative.
- Lack of clear goals and expectations can make accountability impossible. When employees are not clear about what they are supposed to achieve, or what is expected of them, it can be difficult to hold them accountable for their performance. Without clear goals and expectations, it is easy for employees to become disengaged, uninspired, and unproductive.
- Holding some employees accountable while others are not can create a sense of unfairness and undermine the overall effectiveness of accountability measures.
- Employees may be hesitant to take on accountability for their actions or performance because they are afraid of the consequences. This fear can prevent them from taking risks, trying new things, or being honest about their mistakes, all of which are necessary for growth and improvement. Without a culture of trust that supports accountability, employees may feel more comfortable playing it safe and sticking to what they know works.
- Managers sometimes fail to distinguish between responsibility and accountability. Responsibility refers to the obligation to perform a task, while accountability refers to answerability for the outcomes; one can be responsible for an action but not accountable for its result.
Interesting point: The closest word to accountability in Spanish is responsabilidad (responsibility), yet English speakers generally view the two as different.
Effective Employee Accountability Practices
“Successful organizations front-load accountability into their strategy. When front-loaded, accountability breeds better relationships, eliminates surprises, and vastly improves job satisfaction and performance.”
― Henry J. Evans
Companies can develop effective employee accountability practices that can lead to improved performance and improved employee satisfaction in the workplace. Working with an employee assistance program is one great way to develop or redesign an accountability program that is more effective.
7 ways to create a culture of accountability:
set clear expectations. the desired outcome should be clear and concise. Employees should know steps required to meet the goal.
get mutual agreement. Show employees how their involvement contributes to the organization’s big picture success as well as their personal goals.
Provide Support. Make sure employees have all the resources needed, including the ability to reach out to you on areas they find challenging.
monitor progress. Track progress so you can course correct as necessary to make it easier to implement changes.
give feedback. Let them know what they are doing right and what needs improvement. This opens the door to action-oriented discussions.
analyze effectiveness. Hold yourself accountable for how effective you have been in keeping the right methods in place. Acknowledge any mistakes you have made.
be compassionate. Talking through challenges of a project helps them appreciate how they have grown and makes it clear you are always available to help.
leaders need to make 3 major shifts:
make dignity the foundation. By adopting a mindset that their role is to help others succeed, leaders can encourage accountability. Employees who feel supported are more likely to seek help when needed and accept feedback.
focus on fairness. Accountability systems often focus on sameness, rather than fairness, which can stunt employee growth. Evaluating the unique contributions of individuals requires recognizing their different strengths and achievements.
avoid blaming. When employees fear being blamed for mistakes, they may point fingers or hide the problem. Leaders who treat mistakes as restorative can help employees learn from them.
In an organization that has effective accountability practices, employees will often hold themselves accountable. This can lead to improved performance, increased employee satisfaction, and an overall more positive working environment.
Leaders must set an example by leading with accountability and providing a culture of trust, alignment, and support to ensure that employees have the tools they need to be successful. With the right strategies in place, organizations can foster an environment of collective accountability that will lead to better results for everyone.
When you partner with Ulliance, our Life Advisor Consultants are always just a phone call away to teach ways to enhance your work/life balance and increase your happiness. The Ulliance Life Advisor Employee Assistance Program can help employees and employers come closer to a state of total well-being.
Investing in the right EAP or Wellness Program to support your employees will help them and help you. Visit https://ulliance.com/ or call 866-648-8326.
The Ulliance Employee Assistance Program can address the
• Stress about work or job performance
• Crisis in the workplace
• Conflict resolution at work or in one’s personal life
• Marital or relationship problems
• Child or elder care concerns
• Financial worries
• Mental health problems
• Alcohol/substance abuse
• Interpersonal conflicts
• AND MORE!
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18th Annual Global CEO Survey; PwC
131 Ways to Win With Accountability, Henry J. Evans and Elaine Biech
Creating Employee Accountability; Keith Ayers, Society for Human Resource Management
Driving High Performance With Accountability; Carolina de Arriba, Leading Yourself podcast, https://www.leadingyourselfpodcast.com/post/driving-high-performance-with-accountability
How to Actually Encourage Employee Accountability; Ron Carucci, Harvard Business Review
How to Improve Accountability in the Workplace; Upwork
Owning It: A Culture of Accountability Drives Success; CultureWise
Power DMS by Neogov, https://www.powerdms.com/policy-learning-center/why-is-accountability-important-in-the-workplace
7 Ways to Create a Culture of Accountability; Jason Richmond, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2021/09/13/seven-ways-to-create-a-culture-of-accountability/?sh=788011b42058