Organizations drive true accountability. I would argue that most people are accountable by nature. In the workplace, like other aspects of life, individuals typically look to adapt to their environment. If your organization doesn’t foster a culture of accountability, then chances are your employees aren’t going to display a whole lot of it on their own. Or at least appear to at a macro level. Likely they will feel they are now in a culture where the imperative is to watch out for themselves rather than the health of your company.
I have heard leaders bemoan the lack of accountability in their employees, pointing to the lists of excuses they receive when a goal or outcome isn’t met. But is the problem really a lack of individual accountability? Could it be that the employee was handed a result to achieve that may run contrary to your organization’s incentive system or defined organizational vision? Part of the problem of assessing employee accountability is teasing out what may be causing this perception. You can’t really know if its the individual if you can’t effectively answer these questions first:
- Have you (your organization) provided a clear vision of where the company needs to be heading?
- Have you identified the skills your company will need to reach the aforementioned vision AND have you trained existing employees and/or aligned your hiring practices to meet this need?
- Have you taken a close look at your incentive tools (e.g. bonuses, etc.) to ensure you are rewarding the behaviors and activities that will get you to your vision?
- Have you ensured that your workforce has the resources they need to effectively get the right work done?
- Have you ensured that the plans (e.g. strategic, action plans, projects, etc.) that are needed to reach the vision are identified and aligned with the common outcome?
If you can confidently answer each of the questions above then you can address individual accountability in a more direct way. If you can’t answer all of these questions confidently then some of your culture’s lack of accountability will fall on you.
When an employee has clear results they are expected to achieve and the organization has a system in place for aligning and supporting the individuals work then accountability is less of an obstacle. If you aren’t ensuring your culture is set up to foster and reward accountability then your employees will feel unsupported and accountable only to themselves.