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Accountability – Why all the buzz?

By April 13, 2016July 23rd, 2018Human Resources

by Nancy Owen, PHR

So you heard all about it at the town hall meeting. You hear it from the president of the company and the executive team and you even trickle it down to your front line supervisors. But what exactly does accountability mean in the working world today and accountability3 how do you make sure it is happening?

If you look up the definition of accountability you’ll find “the fact or condition of being accountable; responsibility”. In essence, you are responsible for your actions. So if your employees know that there will be a consequence — good or bad — for their actions, will they act differently? There are a lot of articles that suggest if an employee knows they will be held accountable they will try to act better and work harder. There is truth to it, but only if you set a clear expectation and hold your employees accountable. Meaning there will be a consequence if the performance or conduct expectation is not met.

Of course the process must be fair and you need to be consistent.

Despite what some leaders believe, your employees want to be held accountable for their work. When employees are held accountable they have a feeling of purpose and accomplishment. They feel like they are a significant piece of the organization and they feel they are of value. In return, accountability motivates people to do well and be successful. They are more likely to remain engaged because they are accountable. Unfortunately millions and millions of dollars are lost in U.S. companies every year from lack of engagement.

Setting metrics and goals for your employees is a good start. Get it down on paper. Document so your employees have something to refer to. This spells out exactly what the expectation is. It also leaves no room for interpretation.

Accountability1It is just as important to track or measure those expectations in a fair way. Make sure you have a process in place that allows for accuracy in tracking and track each employee’s performance the same way.

Then make sure you have a consequence when the expectation is not met. You need to be consistent with the consequence for each employee. Many companies also provide a consequence if employees meet or exceed the expectation, such as bonuses or pay outs for good work. Many leaders believe meeting an expectation is what the company should expect and it should not be rewarded above keeping your job. I tend to agree; however, going above the expectation is another story.

This is not a ‘one and done’ process. It should not be set and forgotten. You accountability2have to continually work with your employees, meet with them regularly and continue to monitor the expectations often.

If you want to create true accountability and get buy-in from your employees you have to take this one seriously and keep it at the top of your priorities. This will help your employees believe that you mean what you say and that they will be held accountable.

The last thing you want to do is start this process and not continue it. It would be best if you did not start it at all rather than to lollygag through it. Your employees will never take it seriously and they will not work to meet an expectation. They will become complacent and never believe that there will be a consequence should they not perform.

So how can you be successful in holding your employees accountable? For starters hire the right people for the job. You should be hiring people based on their skills, knowledge, experience, work ethics and cultural fit to your organization.

Use the SIMPLE Methodology to help you remember and stay on track.

S = Set expectations – The first step is to be crystal clear in setting an expectation. The success of your organization can boil down to how well its members focus, stay engaged and work toward the same objectives. Employees must know what is expected of them before they can be expected to be accountable.
I = Invite commitment – Buy into the goals. Now that your employee knows what is expected of them you must get commitment from them. Make sure they understand how it benefits them. When the company is successful how does that success impact the employee personally?Accountability5
M = Measure progress – Measure their ongoing performance. Measure whether or not the employee has met his goals. This is a way to fill in where it is not met. Set guidelines to be successful.
P = Provide feedback – Honest, open, ongoing feedback is critical. Give your employees real-time feedback so they have time to improve in areas where they may be falling short. If you set expectations and give real-time feedback you are setting your employees up to meet expectations.
L = Link to consequences – Administering appropriate consequences will motivate your employee to reach their goals.
E = Evaluate effectiveness – Review how the process has been handled. Review the process often and make changes as necessary. Making sure you have a solid process in place will allow a positive outcome.

This buzzword just took on a whole new meaning!

If you would appreciate a little help with performance management or employee engagement issues, or any other HR issue, send an email to

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