7 Significant Factors That Drive Accountability 

Accountability involves absolutely everybody in your employ, with leadership leading the way.

While the word itself has Latin origins dating back to the ancient world, unbelievably, “the late emergence of accountability as a specific concept” is marked by “its historical absence from dictionaries and encyclopedias until the 1980s.” Over the fairly recent time since, the concept has evolved and taken on monumental importance in the modern world of business management, albeit with a few detours along the way.

In the not-so-distant past, a good many HR practitioners served as accountability torchbearers of a sort. Sparked by intentions to solicit employee insights, the flame was lit with an annual or biennial employee survey. Data was collected, collated, analyzed, distilled, and eventually relayed from the HR department to senior leadership to mid-management to team leaders to everyone else.  Unfortunately, all that time later any enthusiasm for action and accountability was extinguished by other more pressing matters of the moment. Insights became less-applicable. With the next survey exercise not expected for another 12 or 24 months, infrequency typically meant inaction. And employees, justifiably, felt like they were not being heard.

So much for accountability. But that was then.

Today’s Culture of Accountability 

Nowadays we’re not talking about gathering insights and comparing benchmarks once every year or two. We’re talking about being as immediate as the morning news.

In an accountable workplace culture, survey “conversations” are ongoing. Fluid. In fact, it’s more common than not these days for thought-leading employers to issue continuous listening surveys quarterly, monthly, bi-weekly, or even once a week. The main goal: measurable progress. When managers are able to see how their teams respond to actions (or lack thereof) accountability is, well, inevitable – on several fronts.

Here are 7 significant factors that drive accountability:

7 Accountability Factors - Man being helped

1. Recognizing and responding to significant moments in time 

Employees have their ears to the ground through their own networks, their own contacts with customers, their own experiences with processes, procedures and management. Give your workforce a voice to share insights on a regular basis and you’ll find a better ability to ACT with agility. Covid-19 has shown us the importance of agility and how checking in to find out what our people are experiencing fits into the accountability equation.

2. Acknowledging feedback 

Acknowledging employee observations and opinions carries more power than one might imagine. It’s a clear signal that “hey, they’re actually paying attention to what I have to say, so I’m going to keep on sharing my thoughts.” It sets the stage for regular two-way dialogue.  When pulse survey results come out leaders can step into the conversation with their team members. They can talk about where things appear to be going well or could use some fine-tuning. And accept responsibility for addressing areas of concern.

Surveys…serve two purposes—to help ensure that we do not overlook problems or issues that need to be addressed and to develop a baseline of performance and a means to measure progress over time in critical areas of our operations. …the honest, insightful feedback it generates cannot be overstated. – “Leading by Accountability” BDO

3. Digging deeper to understand 

Accountability is defined as “the obligation to explain, justify and take responsibility”. But how does one take responsibility and address something if that something isn’t clear? People leaders can use an anonymous conversation tool built into WorkTango’s platform to clarify uncertainties without compromising confidentiality. Leaders can further reinforce their commitment and accountability by using frequent pulse surveys to dig deeper: “You had lots to say last month about “XYZ” and we have a few more questions about it this month.”

4. Taking Action 

Frequently monitoring the pulse of employees helps leaders make the kinds of decisions that can bolster their team’s success. Plus, data is more manageable in smaller chunks. It gives leaders something they can focus on. It becomes a shift from measurement to action.  Double-plus, regularly checking in to get employee feedback gives leaders a quick snapshot of whether the actions they’ve taken are working. Accountability is inextricably linked with these quantitative and qualitative insights and allows for more actions of revision and refinement.

7 Accountability Factors - Plant

5. Measuring Progress

When a leader sees what their scores are, how they’re trending, where they’re moving, what their own personal management results are (and knowing that the data is public to the executive team!)  – whether they like it or not that access to feedback builds accountability. Giving leaders permission-based access to insights beyond their team heightens accountability even more. Comparative progress results draw attention to high potential or problem areas that a leader can do something about when it comes to managing their team.

Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to the result.” – Bob Proctor, Author/Philosopher

6. Removing Roadblocks 

When data is segmented by management level, manager results, question type, positive/negative/neutral responses, or other attributes –and selectively shared – the ultimate intent is to identify trends, flag gaps or opportunities, and provide support to those tackling progress barriers. An advanced survey platform like WorkTango’s features an intuitive way to support accountability and action. Based on survey feedback, leaders are offered recommended learnings and actions, or receive access to the Learning Coach resource centre to upskill themselves. “Coaching nudges” serve as reminders to do what needs doing in the areas where more focus is needed (similar to smartwatches that nudge us to take more steps or tuck in for a good night’s sleep).

7. Promoting Individual Responsibility 

While we all want to see our leaders accept responsibility for creating conditions that foster a positive and productive employee experience, we want to see that sense of responsibility extend across the entire organization; to convey the responsibility individual contributors have on employee engagement. Giving people a say in the direction and progress of their organization galvanizes that sense of accountability.  It’s supported by clearly defining individualized goals and expectations, sharing timely transparent metrics, recognizing personal successes and linking those successes to broader organizational achievements.

A culture of accountability is what makes a good organization great and a great organization unstoppable.”  – Henry Evans, Author of Winning With Accountability: The Secret Language of High Performing Organizations

Additional Resources

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