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What Is a Culture of Accountability? (Plus 9 Steps To Build It)
Learn about creating a culture of accountability, including what it is and steps that you can follow to cultivate a culture of accountability in your workplace.
What Is a Culture of Accountability? (Plus 9 Steps To Build It)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated March 31, 2022
Published May 25, 2021
Accountability is essential to being productive and successfully completing projects. Therefore, it's important that workplaces foster a culture of accountability among employees. If you want to cultivate a culture of accountability in your workplace, it's important to understand the key steps you can take. In this article, we explain what a culture of accountability is and list nine steps that you can follow to create a culture of accountability in your workplace.
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What is a culture of accountability?
A culture of accountability is an organizational culture in which employees are held accountable for completing their tasks and working together to reach goals and solve problems. A culture of accountability involves clear expectations and goals, open lines of communication and strong leadership.
Creating a culture of accountability in your workplace can have a variety of benefits, including:
Increasing trust: The open communication involved with a culture of accountability can increase trust among employees as well as trust between employees and workplace leaders. This can contribute to job satisfaction and productivity.
Boosting employee morale: A culture of accountability, which makes employees accountable to one another, can boost employee morale by increasing communication among employees.
Increasing productivity: Often, accountability in the workplace makes employees feel more engaged with their work and helps them understand consequences that can occur if they don't complete their work. This can increase employee productivity.
Improving employee work quality: Creating a culture of accountability can also help employees improve the quality of their work by making them feel more engaged with their work and accountable to their coworkers. This can heavily contribute to workplace success.
Fostering creativity: A culture of accountability can also increase employees' confidence in their work. Feeling confident in their work and understanding their role and responsibilities can help employees feel comfortable being creative, which can lead to new innovations.
Related: Improving Accountability in the Workplace
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How to create a culture of accountability
As a leader in your workplace, there are many things that you can do to foster a culture of accountability among your employees. Here are nine simple steps that you can follow to cultivate a culture of accountability in your workplace:
1. Define workplace expectations
The first step to creating a culture of accountability in your workplace is to define expectations for employees. This can help you create standards that employees are responsible for meeting. Setting workplace expectations can include:
Communicating the mission, vision and values of your organization
Setting standards for behavior, effort, results and more
Specifying the role of each team member
Communicating the importance of each expectation
After developing expectations, it's important to communicate these expectations to your employees. As you communicate expectations to employees, be sure to explain the relevance of the expectations so that employees understand why exactly they should meet the expectations.
Related: How To Communicate Expectations To Employees
2. Set strong goals
To keep everyone in your workplace accountable, it's also important to set strong goals. Setting goals can help everyone in your workplace understand what they should be working toward. To set strong goals, you can use the SMART method to create goals that are:
Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely
Related: Setting Goals at Work: Benefits and Tips
3. Monitor progress
After setting goals, it's also important to monitor your workplace's progress toward accomplishing goals. Monitoring progress involves creating metrics and analyzing data. After analyzing data, you can also determine if goals need to be adjusted or if any specific employees need help.
4. Encourage commitment
Another key part of establishing a culture of accountability is encouraging commitment from employees. It's important for employees to be committed to their work and to holding other employees accountable. This can increase employee engagement and productivity.
5. Communicate consequences
It's also important to communicate the consequences that can occur if employees do not meet expectations. This can help keep them motivated and accountable to complete their responsibilities. Be sure to consider how to motivate different employees.
6. Show leadership
Be sure to showcase leadership to continue developing your workplace's culture of accountability. Showing leadership can help you set a good example for your employees so that they emulate positive behavior. You can develop skills in leadership through gaining leadership experience, reading books about leadership and taking leadership classes. Leadership includes:
7 Step guide to creating accountability in the workplace
7 steps to creating a culture of accountability in the workplace and why it’s an essential part of every high performing team.
EMPLOYEE MOTIVATION Updated Feb 2, 2022
How to make accountability a core part of your workplace culture
13 min read
Workplaces with a strong sense of personal ownership and accountability thrive — but how do you get there?
It’s impossible to create a high-performing team when there’s a lack of accountability.
Put simply, when no one takes ownership of making decisions, addressing issues and solving problems, things don’t get done.
Accountability is when people take responsibility for their own actions. It’s about taking initiative and recognizing not only that individuals have the power to cause problems, but also to fix them. In this article, we’ll dive into what accountability looks like at work, why it’s essential and how to embed it into your culture:
What does accountability mean in the workplace?
What happens when there’s a lack of accountability at work?
How do you show accountability at work?
7 steps to make accountability a core part of your culture
Bonus section: holding coworkers accountable
What does accountability mean in the workplace?
Accountability in the workplace means that all employees are responsible for their actions, behaviors, performance and decisions. It’s also linked to an increase in commitment to work and employee morale, which leads to higher performance.
It’s recognizing that other team members and general company performance depend on the results of your work. When employees are held accountable, they take responsibility for results and don’t assume it’s someone else’s job.
Essentially, it’s the opposite of passing the buck.
The directly responsible individual
The concept of the directly responsible individual (DRI), coined by Apple, is the perfect example of accountability at work. Everything at Apple, big or small, is assigned to someone who’s directly responsible for it.
DRIs are held accountable for the success and failure of the projects they’re assigned to. By explicitly assigning responsibility, there’s less room for passing blame, and more clarity over who’s making decisions.Ultimately, when team members consistently demonstrate ownership and accountability, trust is formed. This results in less micromanaging and higher performance.
What happens when there’s a lack of accountability at work?To put it simply: A lack of accountability damages the team.
When people aren’t accountable, one person’s delay becomes the team’s delay. One shortfall snowballs into bigger shortfalls.
When missed deadlines, lack of punctuality, and unfinished work are tolerated, they have the tendency to become the norm. People learn that the real deadline is a week from the published one; that consistently being 10 minutes late for a meeting is okay; that sub-par work is acceptable. Your team suffers, and ultimately your workplace culture suffers too.
Having a member of the team that isn’t meeting their commitments and isn’t being held accountable causes frustration and disengagement with the rest of the team.
According to Partners In Leadership, a lack of accountability in the workplace leads to:
Low team morale
Unclear priorities across the team
Decreased employee engagement
Unmet team and individual goals
Low levels of trust High turnover Yikes! 😳
How do you show accountability at work?
Clearly, there’s a high cost for a lack of accountability. So how do you either avoid or remedy the situation? Before even thinking about how to embed accountability into your workplace culture, you need to look within. Are you demonstrating accountability at work?
Goals and expectations are a good place to start. You can’t be accountable if you don’t know what you should be taking accountability for. Set goals for yourself and your team that are clear and measurable so everyone, including you, knows what you’re trying to achieve.
👉 We’ll tackle setting goals in the next section, but you can skip there now if you want!
Next, you’ll want to address the gap between expectations and performance. Once you understand your goals and expectations, you can bridge the gap between what you’re actually doing and what you’re supposed to be doing. Is there an abyss where things are getting lost because you didn’t realize they fell on your plate?
Lastly, and most importantly, take responsibility for your actions. When you acknowledge you’ve made a mistake, you’re also recognizing you have the power to fix that mistake. And that’s the beauty of accountability.
Examples of demonstrating your own accountability in the workplace:
Complete tasks that have been assigned to you by the timeline you agreed on.
Be responsible for the success of your team and make the effort to support your team when needed.
When you schedule meetings, respect everyone else’s time by showing up prepared and on time (and expect that others do too).
Take ownership over the problems you flag by coming to the table with solutions too.
Don’t sweep problems under the rug or assume the issue’s already being dealt with. Instead, flag issues as they arise.
It's easy to slough off accountability and make excuses. So how can we, as organizations, encourage and accountability culture?
How to Build a Culture of Accountability in Your Organization
by: Shiv Sharma
Accountability is the ability of a person to accept responsibility for their actions. No matter what industry, size of company, or country (especially for remote teams); increasing accountability is a work in progress for all organizations. It’s not a one-time project that you can finish and dust off your hands.
On the surface, it seems quite a straightforward problem to solve. You tell everyone in your team what they need to do and by when. You follow up with them and voila! However, like all problems that revolve around human behavior, accountability is a complex subject.
How is it that some companies continue to excel in making their employees accountable but others struggle with it? One word answer – culture.
Accountability is contagious and once it’s ingrained in a teams’s culture, it rubs onto other people. You can take some specific steps to build a culture of accountability in your organization. Let’s learn more about them:
1. Start from the top
Accountability comes from the top. This is perhaps the most quoted statement about accountability. What does this “top” mean? Ask this question to anyone and chances are that they’ll say the top management. However, there’s another layer above it that people tend to miss – the organization itself.
Organizations need to be accountable to their customers and third parties. They should take ownership of their actions, even if that goes against traditional business practices. Companies don’t always have to put a rosy facade in front of their customers. People respect businesses that are transparent and don’t shy away from accepting their mistakes.
For example, when KFC had to shut down its restaurants in the UK because they ran out of chicken (imagine the scale of mistake), instead of passing the buck they owned their mistake with a full-page newspaper advertisement.
People appreciated KFC’s ingenious humor and open apology.
When organizations take ownership of their actions, they set a precedent for their employees. This is the single most important thing any company can do to build a culture of accountability.
2. Create a safety net to encourage accountability
Creating a safety net in your team means empowering your teammates to raise problems and acknowledge mistakes. If anyone in your team takes responsibility for a mistake, they should be appreciated for raising the red flag rather than brushing dirt under the carpet.
When employees aren’t scared of owning their mistakes, they’ll stop passing the buck and coming up with excuses.
This doesn’t happen organically in any team. Leaders have to consciously instill such culture by leading from the front and reinforcing the idea constantly.
Here’s a great example of a company celebrating mistakes. Huntsman is a chemical company in North East England. One of the scaffolders that they had hired from a company by mistake discharged chemicals into the local river by unknowingly pressing a button. Nobody saw him do that, but he went to the control room and owned his mistake. The scaffolding company promptly fired him but Huntsman insisted on reinstating him for their project. When the guy went back to Huntsman, they held a party to celebrate.
Because the scaffolder had promptly alerted the control room, the damage was minimized and significant costs were saved. Anyone can make an honest mistake, but what you do after that is what makes the difference.
3. Hire accountable people
While it’s good to focus on increasing the accountability of your existing team, we shouldn’t forget the importance of hiring accountable people. Like we discussed, accountability is contagious and an influx of accountable people will help existing teammates as well.
During an interview ask questions that unveil how much ownership the candidate takes for their previous mistakes. Ask questions like “What was one project in your previous company that failed because of you?” and “What did you learn from your biggest mistake at work?”. If the candidate tries to sugarcoat their answer, pass the buck to someone else for their failure or cheekily avoid the question; probe further. People who are accountable give candid responses to such questions.
When hiring for leadership roles, you can even ask if they have ever taken responsibility for someone else’s mistake at work? Accountable leaders own the mistakes of their team.
4. Articulate goals and responsibilities clearly
― Brené Brown
You can’t expect accountability from your team if you haven’t clearly defined responsibilities for them. This is especially a problem in smaller companies and emerging startups where a typical employee wears many hats. In such cases, it’s critical for employees to know what their core responsibilities are. They need to ensure that their expectations align with their managers.