Have you ever googled the word “accountability”?

Do you know what the connotations attached to the word are? It is answerability, blameworthiness, liability, etc.

No wonder improving accountability in the workplace is such a hush-hush topic in the HR space and a rather crucial part of employee engagement.

That's the reason why employees either end up -

  • In a work environment where everything is predestined, employee engagement is null.
  • Or become prey to a blame game where they are held accountable for things they have little or no control over.
  • Then there are some managers who let employees avoid accountability because they hate confrontation

But you know what?

Pushing problems under the rug will not do your organization any good. Employee accountability is important for any organization to work well.

Improved employee accountability directly correlates to higher performance and leads to enhanced capability, fosters innovation, increased dedication to the role, boosted morale, and higher levels of employee satisfaction. Let’s see how to improve accountability in the workplace.

But first, let's understand the true definition of accountability in the workplace.

What is accountability in the workplace?

Accountability in the workplace refers to employees taking responsibility and ownership for their decisions, actions, performance, and behavior. In other words, it also means showing up and setting out to accomplish the things that you said you would do hence increasing your commitment to work.

Accountability is a word that has evolved with its meaning. A word once considered a taint - a punishment, often associated with “being puppet” at the hands of the manager, is slowly turning into something positive.

According to Jennifer Bridges, Management Consultant and Founder of a global mobile media agency - “accountability is all about obligation, ownership, initiative and the willingness to take responsibility. This refers to employees’ inner drive to step up and do what they think is the best for the business.”

Compared to the rabbit, stick, and carrot gimmick, accountability lets employees, take the initiative, make mistakes, and learn from them, leading to acceptance and a feeling of belonging towards their team and project.

When managers and team members both accept accountability, they become more engaged in their projects and stop passing the buck, so to speak- improving levels of employee engagement.

Why accountability is important in the workplace?

A company is nothing but a product of the hard work of a group of dedicated people. Hence, when something goes wrong (or right), it is the responsibility of all members to get involved in the game.

Therefore, improving employee accountability in the workplace is crucial to the efficiency and accuracy of work done by employees because who knows what the future has to follow.

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82% of employees felt that they have no power to hold anyone accountable in the workplace. (Source: Monday)

Here are some more reasons justifying why accountability is important in the workplace:

1. Dividing the burden of responsibility

Running a company is a relay race where all members (employees/managers) hold the baton.

Sharing “responsibility” will help employees learn how to manage things better and reduce the manager’s burden of constant supervision, which is a result of high employee engagement. They can use their free time to address other pressing issues.

2. Boosts self-reliance

Improved employee accountability in the workplace ensures everyone in the team pulls up their share of weight and does not rely on their managers/ other employees to pick up the slack.

3. Instills fairness

According to Tom Ricks, “it is actually unfair on employees if management does not keep all staff accountable.”

Such a phenomenon creates a culture of slackness, where only a handful of hardworking employees do the heavy work, and others get the opportunity to slack off. This not just leads to financial loss but a loss of talent too.

How to increase accountability in the workplace?

Trust and support are very important to build a team of accountable employees. Your employees should feel motivated to do what is right and take responsibility when they are not.

Instead of instilling fear and surveillance, try these five ways to increase accountability in the workplace.

1. Start it from the very start

The best way to infuse and define accountability in your workplace is to align employees to their goals and the company expectations from the very start. If you talk about setting clear expectations early (during hiring), the employees will have an idea of what they are getting into.

Hence, they will feel responsible and have a culture of accountability for their jobs and action from the very start.

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85% of employees don't even know what their organizations are trying to achieve, which spells zero focus and alignment. - (Source: Partners In Leadership)

When taken early on, such measures will help your company set expectations and hopefully will not lead to a situation where you need to “pull your employees aside” to remind them what’s expected later.

2. Instead of weeding out slackers, address their concerns

All organizations have slackers. They are generally the ones who feel they don’t need to be accountable for their work. So, what do we do with these kinds of employees?

Well, we all know hiring and firing employees is expensive. Instead of weeding out the employees who are not working according to your expectations, identify them, and address their concerns. Such an exercise will take away the scope of more excuses for not being accountable and compel them to work.

While there can be a wide range of reasons for slacking off, one of the most common is not getting recognized. As the team leader, you must dig deep and find the real reason for such discrepancy.

If the problem seems to be related to rewards and recognition, there are R&R tools that can provide the transparency and fairness you and your employees crave.

3. Provide frequent feedback

If you want employees to be accountable, you must think more than conventional periodic performance feedback. Your feedback needs to be frequent, actionable, honest, and to the point for employees to feel responsible.

This will give your employee a better understanding of their work. The constant contact with the superior will also increase their trust and belonging towards the team, which directly improves employee performance.

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47% of workers received feedback from their manager “a few times or less” in the past year. (Source: Gallup)

And yes, we understand your time is important, too. Doing face time with your employees now and then might not always seem doable. That’s where an employee feedback system will help you out.

4. Delegate responsibilities

It is important to delegate work to those who are best suitable for a specific task to drive favorable business results. As a well-meaning business owner, you may want to hold employees accountable for delivering results, but you are making a big mistake if you don’t give them the authority to choose their team.

Nothing impacts results than the choice of “who will do the work”. Hence, hold your employees accountable for results by empowering them to make the decisions that impact the results.

5. Don’t cultivate fear

A culture where employees dread their managers might be a hit in getting short-term outcomes. However, it won't make the long haul. They will stop coming to you when they need you the most and might even end up leaving the organization.

Think about positive reinforcement instead. Positive reinforcement is part of behavioral psychology, and it works well in the office sphere. After all, isn’t the act of trying to improve accountability in the workplace nothing but behaving in a certain way and being responsible for it?

Instead of constant criticism, try this - Whenever your employees make progress or breakthrough (no matter how small it might be), praise them and give them pointers on doing it better.

By doing this, you will become more approachable. They will be motivated to take up responsibilities and become more accountable, knowing that you always have their back.

Conclusion

Individuals exhibit responsibility consistently by fulfilling their duties and doing what needs to be done. When expectations are clear, and people have the best possible abilities, learning, and assets to perform, they become accountable.

With the help of leaders who act as role models and show responsibility, the employee gets to witness the contrast between exertion and results and learns from it. This increases employee productivity by a considerable margin and hence increases accountability in the workplace.

Imbibe the feeling of belongingness and accountability in your employees with an all in once employee engagement platform. Try Empuls! Want to see the platform in action? Schedule a demo or start a free trial.

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Poonam Das

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Poonam Das is a Storyteller and Content Strategist from Mumbai, Maharashtra.