Creating a Culture of Accountability

Lacking a culture of accountability in the workplace can spell doom for companies, especially those in high growth and working on employee retention and engagement.

  • A strong culture of accountability means your leadership team is able to trust your employees to bring their best work to the table.

Promoting accountability and ownership in the workplace is essential and engrained in day-to-day work life. The good news? There are many ways to encourage accountability in the workplace, starting from when new hires first join the team.

How to create a culture of accountability in the workplace: A guide for business leaders

Establishing a consistent accountability for employees in your workplace starts with:

  1. Considering how each employee can demonstrate accountability in their respective role
  2. Ensuring every staff member can take ownership of the duties related to their positions

After getting together as a team to determine and define accountability and success at your organization, you work has only started. These three simple steps will ensure all of your hard work is carried out and lived out through your employees.

Step #1: Set clear and attainable expectations for employees.

Before you present your expectations of accountability responsibility ownership to your employees, it’s important to really narrow down what you expect from them and why.

  • It is also helpful to present examples of ownership in the workplace that act as a sort of FAQ for your current accountability standards and ultimate goals.

Since these expectations of accountability are (or will become) standards, you should involve many stakeholders in the process of perfecting and formalizing your efforts.

When your employees are clear on company’s objectives and the standards they are being held accountable to, it reduces stress by creating a direct pathway to success.

For example, when providing context to taking personal responsibility at work and clear examples, setting a goal to be accountable, such as “increase sales from last year” might be too broad an ownership competency example.

Better examples of sales reps taking personal responsibility at work might sound like:

  • “Increase sales by 3x through the creation of new distributor relationships.”
  • “Increase sales by 2x on the East Coast by gaining significant market share on competitor who was beaten to market with our next gen software.”

Be specific and tangible with goals set across the organization so that your employees can do their best to meet company goals: providing a range of target numbers, for example, is an excellent way to set realistic goals for employees to be accountable for.

Another way to increase empowerment and accountability of employees is to instill clear accountability competency for how fast work must be completed (i.e., deadlines).

  • While you don’t want to discourage your employees with huge, lofty goals that are out of sync with reality, your employees should be challenged so that they will drive company performance and be proud of their achievements.

By setting clear and attainable expectations, you will promote a sense of ownership in employees and help them become more self-motivated with clear examples of accountability to refer back to along their journey to success.

how to improve company culture

Step #2: Ensure new hires understand your accountability culture.

Your employees are your company, and you should always communicate your definition of ownership in the workplace from the start and make it easily accessible to your staff.

You must discuss the relationship between freedom and accountability at work from day one so employees can become self-directed and autonomous more quickly.

If you’re wondering how to increase accountability in the workplace, a tried-and-true way to start is at the beginning of each new hire’s employment:

  • To hire employees who are a good fit for the job, look into where they are coming from. Notice what past employers have to say about your new hire in relation to your company’s employee accountability definition.
  • During the hiring process, make it clear to newcomers how to take ownership at work by showing them accountability examples in business that are relevant to their work.
  • When expressing how employees will be held to company standards and should be taking accountability at work, take into account how they respond to these standards and what kind of questions they ask about them.

By observing new hire questions, you can address knowledge gaps to ensure that they are absolutely clear on your standards for employee accountability in the workplace.

Hiring can be a long and costly process; so focus on accountability in the hiring process to make hires who will perform at a high level and be retained long term.

Step #3: Address all accountability issues as they arise.

If you want to learn how to teach initiative to employees and create a culture of accountability and responsibility in the workplace, you need to create an environment where the elephants in the room are addressed and worked with, not ignored.

Your employees are not always going to be perfect, and part of how to teach accountability is navigating when employees do not live up to expectations and reinforcing pictures of accountability in the workplace.

  • In order to maintain company accountability standards, it’s a good idea to also have criteria for coaching your employees when they slip up and to provide examples of being accountable in the workplace and what success looks like.

Although correcting your team can be awkward or unpleasant, it’s an important part of freedom and accountability at work. It’s important not to let behavior that violates company policy to become habitual.

The goal should never be to berate or embarrass the employee you think needs to be coached. Rather, it should be impressing on them is “more effectively taking ownership of your job” and being adept and listing out why.

Offer your employees regular private reviews, short meetings where you review their job performance and figure out how to help them live up to your ownership competency definition for their job duties.

If you feel that multiple employees are unclear on what is expected of them, call a team meeting where members can better learn your employee accountability policy, learn what does taking initiative at work mean and voice concerns that you may not be aware of.

  • A team meeting will take pressure off of any specific employee and will build a sense of unity.

Take the time to go over expectations and examples of ownership at work to make sure your employees’ ideas and questions are addressed: that’s how to create a culture of accountability in short, through ensuring everyone is on the same page.

Your team will respect you if you respect them, and this respect should be visible in frequent job accountability examples demonstrated by leaders. Mentoring your employees in a way that is professional, respectful and effective will let them know they play an important part in your company, which will lead them to feel a more solid sense of ownership at work.

Watch our Lever Ascend session on the future of work with business expert Eric Termuende to learn how you can hire top talent and build a stronger company culture.

Further reading