So, what exactly is accountability in the workplace?

Whenever you hear the phrase “he/she should be held accountable…” there tends to be a disagreeable tone that coincides with the notion of actually being responsible for one’s actions. However, accountability is a thing to be desired and can create a culture of happy people and positive outcomes, especially in the workforce. Whether your team is on the field or connected by cubicles, there is a strong correlation between accountability and productivity that can be seen in your wins to losses columns.

Creating a culture where responsibility is promoted vibrantly, and praised as goals are achieved, will work wonders for your organization.

It starts with the people in your company

In an interview with Matt Mitcham, VP at Thread, he explained, “creating a culture of accountability starts with hiring people who actually want to be held accountable.” He went on to say; when you have people on your team who are not willing to be responsible for their work, you will waste time, money and energy trying to motivate them. If you find that your employees are not too keen on accountability, then you’ll need to hire ones who are.

Accountability requires work on both ends of the office totem pole. First, you need to have employees eager to accept the challenge. Second, you need to work to recognize your employees’ strengths and passions to understand if they are in the right role within your organization, and if not, where to move them.

Time spent evaluating your employees’ strengths, along with your hiring process, and making sure they align with the position will have a bigger impact on your culture, accountability, and thus performance, than almost all other performance strategies combined.

Once you’ve put the right people in the right places, you’ll need to give them the right goals. This is where you work with the employee and their managers or team to implement what they are responsible for doing. These goals need to be both challenging but achievable. This means that while the target may be big and potentially difficult, the employee needs to have the power to make decisions related to the goal, so they don’t have to ask for someone else to sign off. By giving them the authority to make decisions that directly relate to their goal, you are taking away the ability for them to pass the buck, which helps to foster the accountability culture you are forming.

Set Clear and Measurable Expectations

Follow-up is just as necessary as implementation; it’s not accountability if it’s all talk and no action. When setting these goals, and giving your employees their responsibilities, make sure they are measurable, so you can truly determine if they are productive, and hold them accountable one way or another.

Numbers move communication between team members and their supervisors from subjective to objective.  Numbers create accountability.  Without numbers, it’s tough to know what the expectation is.  ‘Do better’ isn’t measurable, so it’s hard to know if someone has done it. Every single employee needs a single, meaningful, and manageable number to guide them in their work. I recommend looking at each position and start with just one key number that is measurable that you can use to measure success.

Creating a company culture with happy employees isn’t about free food and flex time (though, those can help morale). Rather, it is about people who want to prove their worth and can do so by being productive and maintaining a sense of pride in the accountability for their work. Giving employees clear goals, authority to reach those goals, and following up so they can receive praise for a job measured as well done, is key to a culture of engaged employees and a winning streak for your company.