Did you know that employees believe 30-50% of their peers lack accountability, according to a study from the American Management Association? Of course, accountability can refer to a number of different traits. Are they socially accountable, and willing to admit a social faux pas? Are they accountable in their performance and effectiveness? Are they accountable to their team and collaborators? Do they appropriately prioritize their tasks and inform stakeholders of changes? In truth, accountability is all of the above and more.

To inject accountability into a team that is lacking it requires a concerted effort from the top of an organization. To encourage accountability, employees must have a clear definition of the standard that they are being held to. Defining clear and realistic goals is crucial. Accountability is driven by company culture and that culture comes from the top down. Goal-setting is the most critical component for fostering an environment that encourages accountability.

Learn the right way to set and track goals, establish a cadence, and drive your organization forward using accountability.

Setting Goal Scope and Creating Shared Purpose

Accountability is driven and facilitated by the culture within an organization. The policies that shape that culture must be expected of all employees, from the owner down to new hires that are just learning the ropes. Successful teams must embrace accountability as individuals and groups, but organizations must also be accountable as a whole.

Accountability works its way into company culture when teams are willing to take ownership of their objectives, not because they have to, but because they want to. When they are unsuccessful, those same individuals should be willing to take ownership of their failures. Passing the buck and making excuses leads to resentment and ultimately works against an accountable workplace. Accountability doesn’t come from strict rules and discipline. It comes from an open environment where stakeholders aren’t afraid to contribute.

The goals that you set within your company should encompass all levels of work and collaboration:

  • Organizational goals. Goals that encompass the company or organization as a whole. Organizational goals are the driving force behind shaping all other goals.
  • Team goals. Goals for departments, teams, and collaborations. These goals should help dictate the individual goals employees set for themselves.
  • Individual Goals. Individual goals help advance careers while progressing toward a company's larger objectives. These goals should build toward both team and organization goals.

Creating a shared purpose for teams ensures that no large goals fall squarely on the shoulders of one person. Instead, those successes and failures fall on the company as a whole. According to Partners in Leadership’s Workplace Accountability Study, 85% of those surveyed were not sure what their organization was trying to achieve. This kind of disconnect actively works against accountability in the workplace. Clearly defining the organization’s goals and connecting them to smaller team goals provides clear insight into company direction and motives. Every employee should have clarity on the importance of specific goals to see the bigger picture.

Setting Effective Long and Short-Term Goals

When setting goals, each type should include both short-term and long-term goals. Long-term goals are completed after successfully completing a series of short-term goals. One goal should build to the next, one step at a time toward a larger company vision. Although long-term goals mark the finish line, short-term goals play the largest role in daily accountability. Fast, sustained completion of goals provides consistent rewards.

To set realistic goals, those goals should be tied to specific business metrics that set a clear line for success. These metrics, known as key performance indicators (KPIs) may include metrics like revenue, sales figures, or job-specific metrics such as first call resolution rate and cost per incident.

Accountability is a Two-Way Street

According to the Workplace Accountability Study by Partners in Leadership, 80% of respondents surveyed said that feedback was only provided when something went wrong with a project. This sends the wrong signal to employees, who begin to see feedback as a negative development. A step where feedback is given should be a part of any project, regardless of the outcome. That feedback shouldn’t just focus on negatives, but highlight the positives as well. This promotes a culture of accountability for both the good and bad and lets employees know they are appreciated.

Next Steps for Improving Accountability

Accountability matters, but is not easy to achieve in large companies. It starts from the top down, from organizational goals through helping employees define their own. Performance accountability is achievable when employees have clear initiatives, but too often organizational accountability is misunderstood and confused with discipline. This does more harm than good. As you make changes to facilitate more accountability within your company, remember to take things one step at a time. You can’t make an unaccountable workforce change their stripes overnight, but you can make progress overtime with a game plan and consistency.

Are you ready to take the next step in setting up a culture of accountability in your company? Learn more about the right way to set and track goals, establish a cadence, and drive your organization forward using accountability.

Download the guide to driving accountability

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