Imagine your ideal employee. She happily comes to work each day, logs in and gets right to it. After briefly getting her coffee, she says hi to her coworkers. Your employee immediately jumps into the day’s task list, working until it is completed. Besides that, she completes the work even if she has to stay a few minutes over.
Now imagine a nightmare employee who comes in 10 to 15 minutes late every day. He noisily unbags his fast-food breakfast and eats it before checking his Facebook feed. Perhaps an hour or so later he will log in and start looking at the day’s task list and decide which ones look easy enough to get done and still leave early.
When you look around at your employees, which do you see more of; the first scenario or the second?
How big a problem is accountability?
In a perfect world, I think we would all like to have organizations full of the first employee. Alas, the reality of this world is that we typically end up with all types of people, each of whom have different levels of motivation and productivity. Consequently, we probably find that we have way too many of the second employee as well. So what is the key that retains the first kind of employee and transforms the second?
According to a 2018 Gallup survey, “out of 5 billion adults on this planet, 1.4 billion have a good job. Of these 1.4 billion, roughly 16% are engaged.”
From these stats, it’s clear that low employee accountability is a massive issue for organizational leaders.
What is employee accountability?
Employee accountability is an element of employee engagement. Engaged employees see accountability as a matter of personal investment, responsibility, and ownership. They are proactive team players. They complete the tasks they are assigned, perform the duties required by their job and are present for their proper shifts in order to fulfill or further the goals of the organization. Most importantly, they understand their value to the company. As a result, they can focus in a way that achieves brilliance in their daily work.
A culture of accountability encourages responsibility and self-reliance. When this culture is in place, employees are self-reliant and do not need to be micromanaged.
As a manager or owner, how are you supposed to even come near this ideal culture? First, let’s look at a few common causes of low employee accountability.
What causes low employee accountability?
In his book, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, Patrick Lencioni identified Irrelevance, Immeasurement, and Anonymity as leading causes in low employee accountability.
Picture a day at work. Your employee, Bob, is sitting at his desk trying to decide if his sales call went well or not so well. After all, he has only been on the job for 2 months. No one is giving him any help or suggestions. Likewise, Bob’s manager said he just needs to “do more.” On Bob’s first day, he was simply given a workspace, a list, and told to start making calls. Bob never received any sort of mentorship. Also, he has not formed any relationships. Team meetings are cliquey. As a result, Bob leaves the meetings even more at a loss for where he fits in the big company picture. His manager just wants items checked off his bureaucratic lists. Bob sees absolutely no point in being at work. He spends his free time daydreaming of going home. Do you see the problems here?
What does a successful leader do to cultivate employee accountability?
Because employee accountability can’t be forced, you must foster the culture. Nurture the culture in a rich soil of open communication, well-defined goals and strategies, and proactive management that rewards effort and initiative.
A successful leader who builds employee accountability:
- Communicates to employees their value and importance in the company
- Explains how the employee’s work contributes to organizational success
- Encourages employees to take ownership of the company’s results
- Gives relevant feedback
- Promotes a positive environment to share ideas
- Recognizes the worth of an employee’s time
- Allows employees to create value
How can we change our culture of low employee accountability?
O.C.Tanner conducted a survey of nearly 10,000 Millennial employees from 12 countries around the world.
Their results speak to the detrimental effects of low employee accountability. For example, a quarter of millennials (24%) have worked at 5 or more organizations with the majority (60%) having worked at 2 to 4 organizations. Isn’t it frustrating investing time and resources teaching and training an employee only to have them leave?
Some ideas you can try right away include:
- Be proactive. Pay attention to employee behavior; particularly with those employees you’d like to keep. When you see something, say something.
- Provide ongoing management training to equip your leaders with the tools they need to successfully inspire motivating work environments.
- Set goals as a team. Make the goals specific and measurable. The O.C. Tanner survey revealed in more than 10 companies 57% of people felt their organization lacked goal setting. Remember, it’s hard to work towards a vision that hasn’t been expressed.
- Set up programs for the mentorship of new employees to introduce them to your positive, employee-engaged culture.
- Build a culture focused on your best assets: your employees. O.C. Tanner’s survey found 66% of more than 10 companies feel their organization only cares about its profits. Invest in people development and provide ongoing recognition and rewards. Above all, don’t let your employees become invisible.
What should I do now?
You can implement any of these ideas right away. However, making them stick will take time and commitment.
If you are already attempting these steps but still lack employee accountability, an outside observer of your culture will help. Our goal at Painefree Coaching & Consulting is to build better leaders, stronger teams, and Painefree organizations. We love diving into management issues to strategically plan your success, and advance your business.
Schedule a free 45-minute initial consultation. Together, we can work with you to successfully improve your employee accountability.