How to Create Accountability and Improve Performance in Your Business

By Hayley Furer

Accountability within the workplace doesn’t mean clock-watching or micromanaging your employees. In fact, creating accountability within your teams is a key part of employee engagement and business success, as it can increase motivation to achieve their goals. On the other hand, a lack of accountability sends the message that lower standards and underperformance are okay and will be tolerated. Read on for some simple and positive ways you can implement more accountability into your organisation and in turn, improve employee performance.

Set SMART goals

Regularly setting clear goals for your employees helps provide a structured path to work towards. In order to increase the likelihood of your team achieving these objectives, the goals should be:

  • S – Specific: Does the employee have clearly defined deliverables to work towards?
  • M – Measurable: How will your employee identify and measure progress towards this goal?
  • A – Attainable: Is this goal realistic to achieve with the resources and time the employee has been given?
  • R – Relevant: Does the goal align with the wider purpose and values of your organisation, as well as the employee’s role within the company?
  • T – Timely: Have you set a timeframe within which the goal should be achieved?

Follow up the right way

It’s one thing to set strong goals for your team, but it’s equally important to regularly check in on their progress towards them. Regularly following up on goals and tasks is crucial for creating accountability in the workplace. Holding consistent one-on-one meetings is a great way to do this, as it means your employees will have a timeline to work within.

It’s a good idea to set goals verbally and follow up in writing, to avoid any miscommunication. However, if an employee isn’t hitting these deliverables, speak to them verbally in a one-on-one setting, rather than sending a detailed email — as this can often be construed the wrong way and can demotivate.

It’s also important to avoid confronting individuals about underperformance or non-achievement of goals in a team environment. It can actually demotivate and disengage employees when they are criticised in front of their colleagues and it’s unlikely to increase their performance.

Hold team meetings

However, when it comes to goal-setting, there is a time and place for team meetings. Getting the whole team together is a great opportunity to set and follow up on company-wide or team goals. It can also improve morale and motivation, as employees feel they’re a part of something bigger and don’t want to let other team members down. Considering setting a reward (for example, a team night out, trip or fun team-building exercise) to incentivise participation towards these team goals. You may also want to consider holding competitions within teams or depending on the size and industry of your organisation, introducing a company league table.

Lead from the front

Accountability trickles from the top down and a non-accountable manager often leads to non-accountable team members.  Not only should you train your managers on how to keep their staff accountable, but you should keep them and yourself accountable, too. Set goals for your senior leadership team and yourself and ensure you communicate these goals to your team and identify how these contribute towards the overall business. Be sure to recognise achievements consistently and always make a point of noticing the good things employees are doing, not just the bad.

Have the difficult conversations

Don’t shy away from confrontations with your employees. Be candid in the conversation and ask open-ended questions like “How do you think you are performing at the moment?”. It’s more beneficial if an employee can recognise and admit they are performing poorly, before a manager actually tells them.

However, you’ll find some employees are genuinely unaware of their non-constructive behaviours or sub-par performance, so simply recognising the problem can increase accountability.

Empathise with your employees

It’s the responsibility of leaders and managers to practise empathy when dealing with employees. The employee could have personal issues that are affecting their performance. While this doesn’t make non-accountability or underperformance okay, it means the business may be able to support them through their situation (for example, an employee help program, HR assistance or support from their manager). Disengagement may also be a reason for under performance.  Having this discussion and addressing the issues (if they are reasonable) should assist with this.

Conduct performance appraisals

Keep your performance appraisals simple and ensure you utilise them consistently throughout the year, so that they don’t become just a box-ticking exercise that waste the employee’s and business’ time.

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