With the increasing pace of business and changing nature of work, fostering accountability in the workplace is a critical component of running a successful organization. Accountability is much more than simply assigning blame. It’s about taking ownership of one’s actions, acknowledging mistakes and working toward solutions — as well as rewarding successes.
Learn more about the importance of accountability in the workplace, the role of leadership in promoting accountability, overcoming challenges and measuring the impact of an accountability culture in your organization.
What is accountability in the workplace?
In a professional context, accountability is the act of taking responsibility for one’s actions, decisions and outcomes. This means having clear expectations, delivering on commitments and having to answer for results.
Being accountable as a worker – whether you’re a manager, leader or individual contributor – means acknowledging mistakes and learning from them. It means being transparent about challenges and seeking solutions, or even asking for help. It also means taking proactive steps to improve and grow professionally.
The importance of establishing a culture of accountability in the workplace
Accountability is an important part of employee performance. Workplaces that want to foster a culture of accountability have to create a work environment where employees can hold each other accountable and trust that everyone will be held accountable to the same standards.
Some of the benefits of a culture of accountability include creating:
- Clearer expectations
- More realistic goals
- Better transparency from all team members
- An environment of trust through fairness and equality
- Employee appreciation
- Higher employee engagement and satisfaction
- A more positive work environment and better employee morale
- Opportunities for growth
- More data to develop better processes
Examples of accountability in the workplace
Employee accountability is one part of workplace accountability. When demonstrating accountability is an integral part of company culture, it creates more high performing teams, better organizational processes and an environment where all team members feel like an important part of the whole.
A few ways accountability is shown in the workplace include:
- Responsibility: Employees, managers and leaders all take responsibility for their actions, decisions and the ensuing outcomes.
- Timeliness: This includes meeting deadlines, being punctual for team meetings and showing up when scheduled to work.
- Truthfulness: Every member of the team, from the top down, is honest about what they can get done and when they can do it.
- Vulnerability: When employees and managers trust each other to get their work done, they also trust each other enough to ask for help when they need it. This means people are more willing to admit their mistakes because they know everyone will work to fix the problem rather than wasting time trying to blame someone.
- Foresight: When employees have the space to take ownership for solving issues, they are more likely to think ahead and keep problems from arising.
- Gratitude: Teams ask for help when they need it and pitch in to help others, but congratulate each other when a job is well done.
7 steps for fostering accountability in the workplace
Building a culture of accountability doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does require a proactive approach. Some effective strategies for building accountability in the workplace include:
1. Set clear goals and expectations
Clearly communicating expectations and goals ensures that employees understand what they need to do and who they should turn to when something isn’t right. Leadership should set clear goals and expectations for the entire organization and make sure employees are informed about them, as well as given an opportunity to contribute to the overall mission. Managers and teams should clearly communicate tasks, including quality standards and deadlines, as well as who is responsible for completing them, auditing projects and following up on issues. This clarity helps employees understand both their individual responsibilities and how their work contributes to the overall success of not just the project, but the organization.
2. Encourage open communication
Creating an environment where open and honest communication is expected helps establish trust and transparency. This allows employees to ask for help when they need it, discuss challenges and seek feedback, which leads to more accountability and improved performance. One way to encourage open communication is by implementing regular team meetings where employees can openly discuss their progress, share ideas and address and roadblocks they may face. This also fosters a sense of collaboration and open accountability.
3. Implement regular feedback
Timely and constructive feedback is an important aspect of fostering accountability. Regular performance evaluations and ongoing project communication helps employees understand how their contributions align with organizational goals. It also keeps managers and employees aligned on paths to growth. It’s important to make sure these meetings are constructive and planned, so employees are prepared to take ownership of their work and strive for improvement.
4. Create rewards for accountability
Establishing a recognition system goes a long way in encouraging employees to be accountable. Rewarding employees for their hard work and achievements allows them to take pride in their work. Public recognition in team meetings or employee of the month programs are tried-and-true methods for rewarding employees. Extra paid time off, bonuses, promotions and raises are other ways that organizations can reward employees for their contributions. Every company will have its own culture and each individual may have different ways of accepting recognition, but even a simple, heart-felt “thank you” can go a long way.
5. Provide growth and development opportunities
In an environment of accountability, the organization can hold itself accountable to its employees by providing opportunities for growth and development. Instead of blaming an employee when something doesn’t go as planned, such as a marketing campaign, use the opportunity to find a way they can improve for the next problem. This may mean external classes, brainstorming sessions with other colleagues or possibly even finding a project they may have more success at based on their skills. At the same time, high-performing employees can be given more responsibility or the ability to use their creativity in other areas.
6. Foster trust
It can be difficult for leadership to rely on employees to carry out the work necessary to reach organizational goals. But delegating is a big part of accountability. Trusting that your team members are skilled enough and responsible enough to complete tasks allows them to take ownership of their projects and flourish. At the same time, employees should trust that their supervisors and leaders are communicating their overarching goals in a way that the work of each individual can be meaningful towards those goals. Team members also need to trust that they won’t be punished for failures, but instead be given an opportunity to grow and learn, ultimately leading to better outcomes for everyone.
7. Lead by example
While a culture of accountability will permeate throughout an organization, it’s important for leaders – including managers, supervisors and executives – to ensure they’re accountable. At the end of the day, leadership is the responsible party for a company’s success or failure. A lack of accountability from the top will mean that employees don’t feel the need to take responsibility for their actions, either. Leadership should hold themselves accountable to the organization as a whole and take the initiative to establish trust, communication and openness.
Foster accountability in your workplace with ActivTrak
Are you ready to elevate accountability and improve productivity in your organization? Use ActivTrak’s comprehensive workforce analytics software to get the insights you need to foster a culture of accountability and drive success.