The Importance of Accountability in Business

Accountability in business and in the workplace has not traditionally been easy to find – the old archaic processes of management and leadership, still being passed down from the 20th Century, were not known for creating a positive and engaging work culture. But what we’ve been discovering in the last decade or so, is that a positive workplace culture plays a huge role in the successful growth of any organisation, and accountability in business, as well as employee accountability and engagement, is a crucial step in creating that growth culture. Accountability in business, as in life, is where leaders, employees and management are all accountable and responsible for their actions, results and outcomes.   

Why is workplace accountability so important? A lack of accountability in the workplace results in employees being consistently late for meetings, missing deadlines and not completing assigned tasks. Without accountability, there’s a level of dissatisfaction in the workforce which can lead to communication issues, conflict and a culture of blame. When important revenue goals are not met, instead of problem-solving, people offer excuses and waste time searching for the cause.  

But, when workplace and employee accountability is strong and valued, rather than engaging in the ‘blame game’ when things don’t go to plan, accountable leaders and employees step up and take full responsibility in business, focussing on finding solutions. In a culture that respects accountability, no longer is it acceptable to blame the dog, the traffic or other employees if the required outcome is not achieved.   

However, respecting accountability in the workplace also comes with a responsibility for the leaders in an organisation to be approachable. If employees are struggling to achieve the required outcome by the desired time, they should feel they can comfortably ask for help and admit when they need further education or support.  It’s character-building, team-building and trust-building to set boundaries and be accountable for our actions and outcomes. This kind of culture can support the organisation and the employees to thrive, scale and grow. 

You’re going to mess up. So instead of trying to be perfect, learn how to be accountable.” - Whitney Goodman 

So, what are some benefits of accountability in business? 

As an essential component of a productive and growing organisation, workplace accountability can improve communication, increase productivity, and foster a culture of trust and respect, leading to higher employee satisfaction and engagement. 

  • Improved communication 

Accountability in business improves boundaries which then encourages clear communication and expectations between managers, employees and within teams. When employees understand what is expected of them and how their performance will be evaluated, they are better equipped to communicate with their colleagues and managers more effectively.  This can lead to less conflicting situations as clear communication and boundaries are known by all involved. 

  • Pick up issues early – with increased trust in teamwork 

When there is employee accountability and improved communication, any project issues can be picked up quickly and solutions found.  With less accountability in business, these issues were previously left to grow and become bigger issues, as no-one wanted to take responsibility for the problems.  When employees are held accountable for their work, it becomes easier to spot areas where they may be struggling or falling short. This enables managers to provide support and guidance before the problem becomes more significant. 

  • Greater employee satisfaction and engagement 

Clear expectations and boundaries established through workplace accountability, allow employees to understand exactly what is expected of them, creating a sense of clarity and certainty. Employee accountability also adds to a sense of loyalty, as clear expectations often add some flexibility for work/life balance.  This overall enhancement of job satisfaction and engagement helps to improve relationships with management, colleagues and team members. 

  • Enhanced productivity and performance 

With improved communication and a more satisfied workforce, accountability is a factor in improved productivity and performance.  An article from the London School of Economics* strongly suggests that higher employee well-being is associated with higher productivity and performance. Employees who are held accountable for their actions tend to be more motivated and focused on achieving their goals. This is likely to see an improved performance in many key areas of business. 

How to Encourage and Develop Workplace Accountability 

Accountability doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a process of developing trust and responsibility, and it comes from the highest level of leadership within the organisation.   

  • Lead by example 

You can’t expect your employees to develop accountability and responsibility in business if CEOs, managers and team leaders don’t lead the way.  Creating a strong culture of accountability in business comes when employees can see their leaders being accountable too.  It comes from the top; a high level of consistency with accountability from the leaders within the organisation will trickle down over time to impact employees and positive workplace culture. 

  • Accountability as a core value 

In growing a company culture, organisations today must live and work by their ‘core’ values, which should be known and understood, not just by employees within the organisation, but external contacts, partners, suppliers and collaborators too. Defining core values is a whole topic in itself, but for now, let’s just say that accountability in business can only be developed when it is known by all to be a value that cannot be compromised. 

  • Celebrate and reward accountability 

Employees should feel comfortable and trusting when it comes to acknowledging their accountability.  Include accountability in employee feedback, publicly thank employees for problem-solving and recognise successful accountability initiatives within teams. Celebrate and support successful workplace accountability with social media posts. 

Ways to Improve Employee Accountability 

When employees are held accountable for their actions and outcomes, it creates a sense of fairness and equality in the workplace. All employees are held to the same standards, regardless of their position, length of employment or relationship with management. Once you’ve begun to establish the core value of workplace accountability, there are several ways in which you can engage employees to increase their accountability. 

  • Model daily accountability and routines 

Accountability in business isn’t something you can ‘do every now and then’.  Set up systems, processes and routines so every team member understands the importance of daily open communication, task reporting and sharing of commitments if they are falling behind. As a team leader, you can model this by actively promoting routines you set in place. 

  • Assign clear ownership to tasks and projects 

Understand your team member’s strengths and weaknesses and ensure you assign tasks they are capable of. Clear ownership of a task is imperative to employee accountability, and if they want to be stretched, be aware of their goals and aspirations.   

  • Leaders must be trustworthy and trust in their team members 

Team members and employees must trust they can approach their manager, in confidence if necessary, at any time. Employees should feel confident that anything they take to their leader, whether it’s related to a professional or personal matter, will be met with an open-mind and an understanding approach. Employees must also feel valued and trusted in their responsibility for meeting their job expectations and contributing to team goals.  

  • Prioritise employee development and growth 

If you really want to establish a strong core of workplace accountability, then it is the responsibility of leaders in business to ensure employees continually grow and develop new key skills, which in turn, will enhance their productivity and performance.  There’s also a lot to be said for team-building development activities, as this too will improve accountability in business by improving relationships between colleagues and building trust.  Make employee development a priority when considering employee accountability. 

We hope our brief introduction to the Importance of Accountability in Business has given you some insights into how you can improve workplace accountability in your organisation.  If you want to know more, or discuss this in detail, don’t hesitate to contact us at District32, where we have a wealth of business resources to assist businesses in all stages of growth. 

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