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What is a Culture of Accountability - and Why is it Essential in Workplace Success?

The "Great Resignation" of the past few years has seen corporations reckon with a new workplace reality: the millennial/Gen Z workforce is demanding and expecting a culture of accountability in their workplace.

Gone are the days when employees would blindly follow orders without question or pushback; today's workers want to be a part of the decision-making process, and they're not afraid to hold their employers accountable when they feel like they're not being heard. This shift in workplace culture is positive, as it can lead to increased employee engagement and retention. After all, why would anyone want to stay at a company that doesn't value their opinion or contributes to their professional development?

Understanding what a "culture of accountability" actually looks like is the first step in creating one at your workplace. In this guide, we will take a closer look at workplace accountability, what it means for employees and employers, and how you can create a culture of accountability at your company.

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Defining Workplace Accountability

The growing expectation for workplace accountability has seen the rise in "quiet quitting" - where employees simply stop showing up to work without notice or explanation.

This is usually a sign that the employee has disengaged with their work and doesn't feel like their voice is being heard. A recent report from Gallup found that 21% of American workers are either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged" with their work - leading to a $7.8 trillion loss in productivity. This frustration can arise when team members feel disconnected from their leadership or company culture.

So how can you create a workplace where everyone feels valued and empowered to do their best work?

It starts with creating a culture of accountability. Simply put, accountability in the workplace means holding employees and executives responsible for accomplishing goals, completing assignments, and making decisions. Creating a culture of accountability helps employees show up for shifts, understand what's expected of them, and meet deadlines. When everyone is held accountable for their actions, it creates a sense of ownership and responsibility that can lead to increased employee engagement.

5 Ways to Improve Employee Accountability

  1. Define Accountable Behavior

The first step in creating a culture of accountability is to define what accountable behavior looks like within your organization. Without a clear and concise definition, it will be difficult to hold employees accountable to specific standards. However, this doesn't mean creating a list of punishable offenses. Rather, focus on creating a set of expectations that everyone can agree to and commit to. These can include:

- Being on time for work and meetings to support team productivity

- Communicating openly and honestly to avoid misunderstandings

- Taking responsibility for mistakes and learning from them

The goal is to create accountability definitions that focus on the growth and support of your employees, rather than punish them for their mistakes. When individuals feel that they are being supported rather than chastised, they are more likely to be engaged with their work.

  1. Create SMART Goals And Measurable Metrics

One of the best ways to hold employees accountable is to create SMART goals - goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. When team members clearly understand what they need to accomplish and by when, they are more likely to stay on track and meet deadlines. In addition, setting measurable metrics will help you track progress and identify areas where employees may need more support. For example, rather than setting a goal to "increase sales," a more specific and measurable goal would be to "increase sales by 10% within the next quarter." This gives employees a clear target to aim for and provides you with concrete data that you can use to measure progress. Then, within that goal, create a roadmap that includes consistent check-ins and deadlines to help employees stay on track and help them succeed.

  1. Communicate Expectations Openly and Clearly

One of the most important aspects of workplace accountability is open and clear communication. If team members are not aware of their goals or the expectations for their role, it will be difficult to hold them accountable for meeting those standards. That's why it's important to have regular check-ins with employees to ensure that everyone is on the same page. In addition, be sure to share any changes in company goals or policy so that everyone is aware of the new expectations. By combining expectations with performance metrics, you can create a clear picture of what success looks like within your organization. 

  1. Encourage A Growth Mindset

When employees feel like they are stuck in a rut, it can be difficult to hold them accountable for their work. This is because individuals who feel stagnant are often less engaged with their job and may not see the value in meeting company standards. To help encourage a growth mindset, focus on providing opportunities for employees to learn and grow within their role. This can include offering training courses, development programs, or even mentorship opportunities.  When employees feel like they are supported in their career growth, they are more likely to be engaged and accountable for their work.

One practical method to encourage growth is to link employee development goals with performance reviews and engagement surveys. This way, employees know that their development is important to the company, and they are more likely to be motivated to improve their skills. 

When you give employees the ability to speak into their own development, they are more likely to buy-in and be held accountable for meeting those goals.

  1. Provide Feedback and Recognition

When employees feel like their hard work is going unnoticed, it can be difficult to hold them accountable for meeting company standards. This is why feedback and recognition are essential components of workplace accountability.

Make sure to give employees regular feedback - both positive and constructive. This way, team members know what they are doing well and where they need to improve. In addition, be sure to recognize employees for a job well done - whether it's through public recognition, awards, or simply saying "thank you." By showing your employees that you appreciate their hard work, you can create a culture of accountability that will help retain top talent.

The Power of Accountability

You need to go beyond setting goals and measuring success to see your company thrive in a competitive workforce. You need to create a culture of workplace accountability so that your employees feel supported, engaged, and motivated to do their best work. Otherwise, you’ll wake up one day and find that your highest-quality employees have fled to other companies. When you focus on these five key areas, you can set your team up for success and ensure everyone is working together to reach company goals. Building a culture of accountability can create a workplace that attracts and retains top talent. Start investing in workplace accountability today to see your company reach new levels of success


PSS cannot and does not provide legal advice. It’s important to consult with qualified counsel before adopting any new policies. It’s also your responsibility to determine whether legal review of work product is necessary prior to implementation.