7 Ways to Improve Employee Accountability in the Workplace

Regardless of organization or industry, accountability in the workplace is critical to the success of your employees and your business.

If you manage a restaurant, you want your wait staff to be punctual, responsible enough to mix and match shifts without your aid, and willing to get their hands dirty at the end of the night (that last bit can be particularly tough). 

Unfortunately, people are flawed. Sometimes to an extreme degree.

Each employee holds for themselves utterly unique expectations. Each has an utterly unique capacity for discipline, communication, and growth. As a leader, it’s your job to understand what makes each of your employees tick, then use that information to position them for success. That starts with figuring out how to make every member of your team more accountable.

The 7 ways to improve employee accountability in the workplace are:

  1. Set expectations during on-boarding
  2. Provide performance feedback early and often
  3. Establish a culture of empowerment and trust
  4. Make consequences and rewards clear
  5. Get (a little more) casual
  6. Communication is key
  7. Establish collective values and objectives

Let’s take a closer look at each item on the list.

#1: Set expectations during on-boarding

What’s the expression—“early and often”?

If you hammer home expectations early on, you won’t have to pull employees aside later to remind them what’s expected.

This is especially true for small businesses.

employee onboarding best practices

Let’s say you own a coffee shop. Your staff members are young, wages are low, and stakes aren’t that high. Sometimes you may find yourself bouncing between boss and life adviser.  Present a strict set of expectations to candidates on the day of their interview. Continuing to harp on those expectations during the first weeks of employment; this is key to establishing a culture of accountability.

#2: Provide performance feedback early and often

It’s vital to provide your employees with frequent, actionable feedback—both positive and negative.

The dual benefit of regular feedback is obvious.

On the one hand, your employee will continuously gain a better understanding of how to be better at her job. On the other, the constant contact she gets with her superior strengthens her sense of being valued within the workplace.

Of course, your time is valuable, too. Getting regular face time with your employees may not always be doable. And let’s say you are able to carve the time out of your schedule. The performance metrics necessary to make an honest and critical assessment of your employees may not be readily accessible. This is where having an employee feedback system in place makes life a heck of a lot easier.

Software like SubItUp makes the performance review process significantly less stressful—for you and for your employees. By evaluating things like timeliness, attendance, time off requests, and the frequency with which employees check their schedules, you can gauge their responsiveness to your feedback.

#3: Establish a culture of empowerment and trust

Freedom at work is imperative, especially as the post-millennial generations begins to play a bigger role in the workforce. As such, empowering your employees to take control of their schedules is a small, powerful way to enhance accountability (and happiness!). This is no small task. Giving your team the ability to take charge of their own schedule demands a level of trust.

This trust can be fostered by improving accessibility.

Mobile Employee Scheduling Software

Giving your employees the ability to swap and trade shifts—all via mobile device, conveys your trust in them. Your managers, who used to absorb the time-consuming task of scheduling, are free to focus on more important business objectives.

Allowing your team to establish authority over their own work schedule is the first step in getting them to take ownership of their work.

#4: Make consequences and rewards clear

While you don’t want to be domineering in your approach to management, it’s important your employees understand the consequences associated with the completion or incompletion of certain tasks.

The supervisor of a juice shop, for instance, might want to make it known that cell phone usage during shifts will not be tolerated. By the same token, he or she should add incentive for work done well or efficiently—offering to buy lunch, for instance, if his team doesn’t let the lunch-rush line move out the door.

Clearly establishing employee expectations and the response to your team surpassing or failing to meet those expectations is fundamental in establishing accountability. When everyone has a clear understanding of expectations, everyone benefits.

#5: Get (a little more) casual

There is a fine line between a business interaction and a personal interaction, but it’s a line you should be comfortable toeing. Before you bounce from this page, I’m not suggesting that you install a kegerator in your office.

I’m saying that you should take a more humane approach to your relationships with employees.

Removing the obligation to uphold the utmost decorum at work does two things: it makes the workplace pleasant, and it makes it easier to be open and honest with your employees without devolving into an awkward conversation.

If one of your team members isn’t pulling their weight, or if they’re having issues with another team member, don’t be afraid to take them out for coffee as opposed to, say, hopping in a conference room or office. A casual face-to-face can go a long way in increasing receptiveness and making an impact.

Formal meetings can cause undue stress on some people; feeling as though you’re being reprimanded is more likely to result in shutting down than opening up. You want your employee to leave an interaction feeling rejuvenated and ready to take personal accountability over their own projects.

#6: Communication is key

Another of the unique difficulties facing, say, student employees—as opposed to full-time employees—is that sporadic scheduling can make it difficult for them to keep track of when they are actually supposed to be at work.

SubItUp can go a long way in rectifying this issue. Shift reminders notify your employees 45 minutes in advance of their shift; instant updates notify them of scheduling updates; group messaging allows you to promptly get in touch with an individual member of your team, or with a group of members. Give the members of your team a smorgasbord of channels through which to communicate, and you create a layer of social accountability, too.

In a similar vein, make it clear that even for seasonal or temporary employees who’ll leave after a short stint, you’re just an email or phone call away. The prospect of a glowing recommendation can do wonders for accountability. If you choose to offer something of this ilk, be sure that you remain accountable, too; for each employee, keep notes on performance to refer back to in the event you’re called upon to advocate on someone’s behalf.

#7: Establish collective values and objectives

If mission statements and core values seem nauseating to you, it’s probably because of their ubiquity. Every organization has them these days, and for good reason:  they’re vital to success. Come up with a set of systemic objectives that you want every member of your team or organization to prioritize. Let’s take Zappos, the online footwear retailer known for impeccable customer service despite the insane volume of business, for example.

establishing core values is key to improving employee accountability

As you can see, the company’s core values, while vague, delineate a culture of positivity, hard work, and, most importantly, accountability.

Having a handful of goals to focus on when they’re swamped with projects can go a long way in helping your employees keep things simple and maximize productivity.

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