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How to Make Employees Accountable?

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One may say that accountability in an organization exists when all employees can be depended upon to do what they have acceded to do without any exceptions. Accountability is often an innate commitment that comes from an employee—it is not something that can be written, recorded and signed.

Actual accountability is an intangible feeling rather than something that can be enforced with rules, threats, coercion or intimidation. It is voluntary. The commitment is about going beyond the call of duty and contributing to the well-being of the organization without really having been told to do so.

Lack of accountability can have debilitating effects on the structure and growth of an organization. Financial losses, loss of business opportunities and reputation are only a few of the measureable damages that it can cause.

If people are what make the organization, then getting the right people for the job makes all the difference. Slipping into an organization’s work culture, understanding its goals and supporting it go a long way in getting employee accountability into place. Here are a few time-tested ways of making employees accountable for their actions:

Go for a one-on-one approach. As the head of the organization, taking the trouble to work with each employee at some level or other helps move a step closer to achieving accountability. Leaders can be advisors, guides or trainers even to employees who are well-experienced. This approach can work as a morale-booster for an old-hand as well as a newbie.

Break it down into bits. Target specific goals for each team member. Throw in an incentive or a bonus and be innovative with ideas. Every task that a team member performs eventually affects the final performance of an organization. Let every employee know this. Monitor progress at frequent intervals. This can bring forth issues that may otherwise go unnoticed until it reaches a point of no-return. Nip problems in the bud. Provide resources and feedback and clear hurdles and you will find that success is within reach and so also accountability.

Consistency is the key. Keeping at it may seem tough at first, but if you see the rewards, being systematic helps you be consistent, so you might not want to be to the contrary. Stay with it, make it a habit and accountability can be achieved and so also success.

An approach geared towards creating greater employee accountability in an organization has a lasting effect on an employee’s work performance and ultimately of the organization as a whole. To do this, it is important to know and convey the core values of the organization to all employees. Clarity is always better than ambiguity, as far as accountability is concerned. Employees should ensure that the processes and yardsticks to measure work productivity are a proper match. If the two are incongruous, the results will be distorted.

Do share your thoughts on the same.

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  • While everything that you mention helps to provide the pieces that make accountability, what is missing from this article is motivating employees to invest themselves in the company, and to take on the accountability. That happens when they are given responsibility, which includes decision-making (at the right level for their job). Have you seen the RSA Animate video on what drives and motivates us, by Dan Pink? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

  • steve b

    Perhaps the most important aspect is to make sure the employee – or anyone – understands his or her responsibility in any given situation. There are those who are self starters and will take the leadership or immediately see what has to be done and do it. The rest will wait for instructions or direction. By assigning responsibility to a person two things happen. First the person can refuse to take the responsibility – for example they are overloaded with other responsibilities or do not have the skills or training to carry out the responsibility. In this case, it is good to know in the beginning rather than later on, when you have the chance to make the adjustment. If you can’t make the adjustment at least you know the risks involved with the person you have assigned or requested and can act accordingly.
    The second thing that happens by assigning responsibility instead of tasks or jobs is that when the employee takes the responsibility he or she also makes a personal commitment to it. It is the “personal” aspect that is important. Most of us take personal responsibility seriously because our name, self worth, and reputation are on the line figuratively if not literally.
    If you can make the responsibility public (after getting confirmation that the employee accepts the responsibility) you have an even greater chance of success. Peer pressure is a powerful prescription for performance.
    In the end, if the employee still does not perform and avoids accountability, then that employee is not one you want around. If the employee has no pride in what they do, or respect for their own name and reputation, then nothing you can do will make them accountable.

  • Lani Watson

    Management by Objective is a good system to make employees accountable. You first need well thought out Key Performance Indicators that support the Vision of the company and cascade (can be interpreted and acted on) to all levels of the organization. Each KPI is assigned an improvement target and each department a portion of that target to achieve. Each manager or supervisor works with his team to decide how they will achieve their targets and once there is some confidence the plans are capable, the team manages according to the agreed to plans. Regular follow-up meetings check results to plan. Each member of the organization has their performance evaluation based on the results they achieved and the process used to achieve the result. The focus on process as well as result is to ensure the process is captured and is repeatable. This is an over-simplified description of a process that takes 2 or 3 annual iterations to work effectively…but it does hold employees accountable to what is important.

  • Jim Woodburn

    To make employees accountable you need a management culture of support. the process starts off by creating awareness of an issue, target etc. The setting of expectations and the providing of support via progress meetings giving support to overcome obstacles (tip: Ask why – not who). Aligned to this is the R.I.C.A. model i.e Who is Responsible for delivery, who is Accountable, who is to be communicated with and who has to be informed. Too often in my experience the senior mangager often abdicates the accountability through “delegation”. This then leads to “accountability” being cascaded down the organisation. Accountability can not be delegated. All of the above have to supportive of the company’s vision & values. Strong and relevant KPI’s track progress and are a measure of target achievement

  • There has to be a set KPIs (Keep Production Indicators) set for every individual in order to evaluate his/her performance, but it depends on the points that are needed to be identified that would indicate the production of an individual.

    The salary, bonus or incentive has to be based on these set of KPIs in order to make the individual realize its importance and make him/her accountable for achieving or not achieving it.

  • TRUST is key to being able to establish Accountability for employees within an oranization. Vulnerability-based TRUST allows employees to develop a bond with one another and admit when they need help and have made a mistake. Without establishing TRUST, you have people going through the motions of working together and being accountable. Whenever I’ve been part of a team wherein the Leader spent the time getting to know each one of us, made him/herself vulnerable to each of us on the team and encouraged team members to open themselves up and be vulnerable, Accountability within team members flourished – and so did the company.

  • I think you’ve brought up some great points that are very crucial to developing employee accountability. I think what has also become obvious from the additional comments is that the topic is not one easily addressed or solved. There are many ingredients. What I do feel is that you’ve brought forth three critical ingredients. Thank you for the good read.

  • Who was it that once said, “Money doesn’t talk it swears..”.

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