11 Tips to Hold Your Employees Accountable (2024)

11 Tips to Hold Your Employees Accountable (2024)

In addition to providing growth opportunities for their employees, managers are also responsible for creating a culture of accountability within their team. Accountability is an essential leadership skill. 

If any employee fails to meet their goals or company’s expectations, it is up to the manager to hold that team member accountable. An excellent manager creates a sense of responsibility into the DNA of their team and drives excellent outcomes as a result. 

However, creating accountability is not simple. Some leaders hesitate in doing so, as they’re focused on how they’re perceived by their team more than the outcomes produced. 

According to a CEO survey, 18% of the CEOs cited “holding people accountable” as their biggest weakness and 15% said they struggled with “letting go of underperformers.”

Leaders need to understand that holding people accountable for their work is essential, as it improves overall employee performance, empowers team members with a sense of ownership, and drives organization growth.

What is employee accountability in a workplace?

Accountability for employees means managing workload according to team objectives, meeting assigned deadlines, achieving targets, delivering on commitments, and taking responsibility and ownerships for any errors.

An accountable workforce is made up of high-performing employees who prioritize their day-to-day initiatives to align with overall business objectives. In an accountable work culture, mistakes and failures are acknowledged and embraced, contributing to learning and development.

11 Tips on How to Hold Employees Accountable in 2024

When done right, accountability leads to high employee performance, improves work standards, and increases employee confidence.

Here are 11 tips for you on how to hold employees accountable in your workplace.

1. Leaders should first hold themselves accountable

As a manager, you serve as a role model for your team members. Employees will always follow your lead. That’s why it is as important for leaders as it is for their employees to demonstrate accountability in the workplace. 

If you’re a manager, you can set an example for your employees by:

  • Completing your tasks on time and never miss deadlines.
  • Making efforts to support your team whenever it is required. 
  • Showing up prepared and on time for all your meetings.

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2. Set clear expectations

Setting up clear expectations for your employees means being crystal clear about what you expect, the outcome you’re looking for, how you’ll measure success, and how they should go about achieving their objectives.

It is crucial to set up clear expectations for your employees because it’s hard to hold someone accountable if they don’t know what is being asked of them.

Established expectations need to be communicated clearly to your employees, and documented in writing. This allows you to easily reference the conversation should an employee fail to deliver on expectations.

Employees develop a sense of accountability when they are certain rules for their role, responsibilities, and what is expected of them. Clear expectations also help employees understand that there are consequences to poor performance, and continuous failure on their performance metrics without a valid reason is not acceptable.

3. Don’t Solve — Empathize

As a leader, you need to realize that not all problems are your problems. You need to get in the habit of resisting the urge to solve every issue for your direct reports. Playing the hero will eventually steal the glory away from your team.

Whenever a team member comes to you with a problem, do not immediately jump to the solution. A more useful approach is to ask them how they’re planning to handle the issue, and provide the required information or resources to help get them there. This makes your employees capable of taking responsibility and finding solutions to their problems.

4. Provide the necessary resources

It is important to know from the beginning that you’re setting your employees up for success. Support is the key – be sure your team members have the resources, knowledge, and assistance they need to achieve their goals and objectives. This helps employees increase their skills, confidence, and ownership.

It’s your responsibility to provide the necessary resources to your team – otherwise you’re setting them up for failure. If employees do not feel that they are set up for success, they are more likely to place blame on outside sources to explain why they were not able to achieve their goals, rather than holding themselves accountable.

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5. Address poor performance ASAP

It is important to proactively deal with an individual’s poor performance one-on-one before it becomes a huge issue. You can use a 9-box grid format to assess employee performance.

Here are a few concrete steps for you to take for underperforming employees:

  • Investigate the root cause of an employee’s poor performance – It’s not always the lack of responsibility. There are many other reasons for an employee’s inadequate performance, such as:
    • Not having clear instructions
    • Lack of training
    • Technical issue
    • A personal issue
    • Conflicting priorities
    • Communication issues due to things such as remote work
    • Workplace disengagement
  • Reflect on the part you played – Ask yourself some reflective questions to see if you might be responsible. For instance,
    • Did I assign them too heavily of a workload?
    • Were their targets unrealistic?
    • Was I not clear in defining their role?
    • Did I make myself available to give them proper guidance?
  • Ask and listen – Attempt to find out if your employee is aware of their poor performance by actively discussing and listening to them. This allows you to let them explain where they think it’s coming from.
  • Create an action plan – Create an employee development plan where employees are placed on custom learning pathways based on their individual needs. Set measurable goals and timelines to help them perform better. Do this collaboratively with the employee so it feels like a solution rather than a punishment. Invest in digital training software that generates custom learning experiences based on your employees’ current responsibilities and future goals. Personalized training increases employees’ motivation to learn because it gives them the ownership of their learning. Employees know a personalized learning path will help them achieve their goals faster.

6. Set SMART goals

Goal-setting is the most critical component for fostering an environment that encourages accountability. Employees must have a clear understanding of the standard they are being held to and what is expected of them. 

Setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound) remove any potential ambiguity or confusion about the company’s expectations from an employee. It makes measuring progress towards goal completion easier for both managers and employees.

7. Provide data

Performance metrics are used to measure how well your team members are doing their jobs. They provide performance data that sets benchmarks for employees to work towards.

Performance data is important to maintain accountability. Some employees tend to believe that they are targeted personally. Performance data can be used to demonstrate that it’s not personal, but more so on achieving set goals. Committing to transparency and accountability creates ownership leading to an empowered and engaged workforce.

8. Consistent, ongoing feedback

Feedback plays a vital role in communication. Holding regular feedback sessions with your employees (including positive and negative feedback) makes the tough feedback much easier to give and receive. 

Honest, open, ongoing feedback is critical for employees to know where they stand. If an employee fails to deliver on the set goals and lacks valid reasoning to justify their position, it’s important to hold them accountable. While sharing this feedback, be constructive in your approach. 

Make feedback a two-way street that allows employees to share their feedback as well. Employee engagement surveys are useful in encouraging employees to share their feedback as they are more personalized and yield deeper insights. Additionally, they help you understand your employee’s feelings towards workplace accountability.

9. Embrace mistakes

Nobody likes mistakes. They’re bad news for your clients, business, and the employees who made them. However, employees feeling hesitant to approach you after making a mistake can escalate the problem. 

It is important to create an understanding environment for your employees to feel safe coming up to you with any problems. When leaders look at mistakes as a learning opportunity for the future, it gives employees the confidence to own up to their mistakes. This prevents the issue from escalating and becoming much worse.

10. Do not lower work standards

Employees should abide by the standards of a company and understand that they need to submit their work according to set deadlines and standards. Their quality of work needs to improve with every project, to help employees learn and grow. 

Managers should not allow the work quality to worsen because they’re afraid of confronting an employee on their underperformance.

11. If an employee doesn’t improve, take the hard call

While it may sound harsh, managers need to take the drastic step of letting an employee go if – after all measures have been taken – they fail to show a lack of progress. If you have tried every possible way of helping an employee improve, and they still fail to show improvement it may be time for you to take the hard call. If not, it could start affecting the entire team and its reputation.

Firing an underperforming employee is never a solution that managers want to take – but it does show that employees will be held responsible for their work.

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Enable your employees with better leadership and motivation

Fostering a culture of accountability boosts employee morale and productivity. It gives your employees the sense of ownership they need to thrive and grow in an organization.

Remember, your team relies on your leadership to help them achieve their expected goals. But without accountability, your team has no reason to comply with expectations. Leaders are responsible for creating a culture that motivates the team to put their best foot forward and deliver expected results.

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