Accountability isn’t just a buzz word. It’s a very real, very important concept with businesses and organizations of any size.
Why is a culture of accountability so necessary?
There are so many reasons, but a few include the fact that accountability improves efficiency and productivity, it eliminates potential compliance and regulatory issues, and it serves as a way to identify problems that could not just be affecting culture, but also profitability.
When there’s no accountability, expensive mistakes can continue happening, without serving as a learning opportunity. The same clunky, outdated or simply wrong things can keep going on throughout the organization, which ultimately drags it down.
So what can be done? How can organizations improve accountability?
It Starts At the Top
If you ask so many managers and executives whether or not they believe a problem of accountability exists in their organization, they’ll say yes, but they’ll just as likely put the blame squarely on the shoulders of employees.
That’s a big problem.
Accountability has to start at the top.
To make it part of the leadership culture, organizations can start by using things like expense reimbursement software and other technology tools that provide visibility into what’s really happening.
Having software in place not only helps to enforce rules, but it provides the data necessary to see where those rules aren’t being followed, which can pave the way for greater accountability at every level.
To show that the rules apply to everyone equally, company leaders should be using the same software (i.e., the expense software) as the other employees.
Their spending rules may be different, but the overall concept is the same, and consequences for not adhering to company guidelines should be the same as well.
Regularly Review Compensation Policies
There’s a lot of debate and back and forth over compensation. On the one hand, there’s often the feeling that CEOs are executives are being paid too much, even when they’re not performing as they should be, while employees are left waiting for raises that never come.
For an organization to have a culture of compliance, it’s important that they’re regularly looking at their compensation policies and making sure they’re appropriate.
For example, are executives being given bonuses even when they don’t meet objectives? If so, behavior is being rewarded when it shouldn’t be, and the effects can be trickling down in a negative way to employees.
Along with that, the idea that setting goals and objectives is meaningless bureaucracy should also be eliminated.
According to an article on Forbes.com, objective-setting is so frequently seen as bureaucratic, and as a result, there’s no real way to measure performance or ensure accountability.
Make Room For Initiative
As much as accountability is about recognizing and taking responsibility for failures, it’s also about being willing to step up to the plate and take the initiative.
For that to happen, however, an employee has to feel like they have the freedom to do so.
Encourage not only initiative but also innovation by making sure that while employees have clear objectives, they don’t have rigid ways they have to do things. Allow them to be accountable for their work by letting them find their own path to get to the objective that’s outlined.
There’s more than one way to get to the desired solution, and a culture of accountability encourages creative thinking along the way.
Focus on Feedback
A lot of companies, even very large ones, tend to either share away from providing employees with regular feedback, or they just don’t put the focus on it.
Providing employees with feedback is difficult in some cases, but it’s also necessary.
Without feedback, you can’t expect a culture of accountability to exist because employees don’t have any idea what they need to be accountable for. Good feedback happens regularly, is direct and is clear with no room for misconceptions.
Finally, accountability doesn’t mean punishment. Employees who are afraid of punishment aren’t likely to step forward and try new things or be innovators. Instead, they’ll follow the status quo to avoid the potential for punishment.
Accountability is about finding creative ways to have people adhere to guidelines and meet objectives, without making them feel as if a mistake means they will be punished.
Of course, fraud or other blatantly unethical behaviors should be punished, but getting employees to be accountable doesn’t mean that the alternative is punishment.
Instead of being about punishment, accountability should always be about improving. This can be achieved not only through recognition of strengths and weaknesses and regular feedback but also by promoting a culture of continual learning and training.