How to take the sting out of holding your employees accountable?

Ensuring that your employees fulfil their responsibilities and meet expectations may feel like a daunting prospect. However, a lack of policy around employee accountability can cause a wide variety of issues for your business.

Each member of your team has responsibilities that you, as their manager, will have assigned to them. The smooth running of the business relies on these tasks being performed satisfactorily.

Any gap caused by an employee not completing their tasks as expected has a knock-on effect on their team members who are left to pick up the pieces. This can lead to colleagues becoming disaffected and disengaged, which will negatively impact the overall performance of your business.

A company with a solid accountability policy will make it easier for their leadership team to encourage their employees to take responsibility and feel accountable for their duties.

Ultimately, underperforming employees can reflect badly on you as a manager.

Holding your team accountable doesn’t have to be a negative a process. In fact, when done constructively, it can lead to a more positive company culture and increase team confidence.

So, why do so many companies struggle with the successful design and implementation of an accountability policy?

In a recent blog, The Predictive Index outlines what companies may or may not do on a daily basis which sheds some light on this issue. Here are two examples:

Communicating expectations clearly: Do your employees have a clear understanding of what your expectations are and what they are responsible for? Clearly outlining their obligations and goals will give your team more security and confidence within their role. Setting clear expectations will lead to a better performance and higher productivity.

Regular employee feedback: Does your leadership team hold regular one-to-one meetings with your employees to provide feedback and identify areas for where additional coaching might be beneficial? Gallup talks about the importance of regular coaching and, according to their findings, 47% of workers said that they hadn’t received any regular feedback from their manager over the last 12 months.

This can leave employees uncertain of whether they are fulfilling the company’s expectation. Uncertainty breads disengagement and can affect their own performance and that of the company overall.

Investing in developing leadership skills: The relationship between a manager and their employee is crucial to the latter being successful in their role. Managers are human and wanting to be liked by every member of the team is a natural response. However, this can make situations where an area of improvement has to be raised with an employee very difficult. It can also cloud your judgement.

If you, as a manager, are seen to ignore issues around the underperformance of one employee due to a fear of constructive confrontation, this can lead to a lack of respect from other team members and affect your leadership credibility.

According to the recent 2019 CEO Report published by The Predictive Index, 18% of CEO’s considered holding people accountable one of their biggest weaknesses.

So, what processes can you put in place to turn this weakness into a strength?

From the above, the following points emerge as key for a successful accountability strategy:

  • Setting and communicating expectations and goals clearly to your employees
  • Providing regular and constructive feedback and making an actionable plan – this provides a reference point for future sessions
  • Exercising managerial self-awareness and investing into leadership skills
  • Being a coaching manager who enables employees to find their own solutions

It’s important to know how your employees are wired so that you can design an informed approach to how best to manage them. But how can you ensure that you know what communication style to use for a given employee, so that you can be sure that your employee has understood the goals and expectations that you have given them?

Whilst some people will need little instruction and interaction, others may require more nurturing. So, how do you know how much support to give to your employee? How can you determine your employee’s individual behavioural and motivational needs?

Using talent assessment tools can provide you with scientifically validated insights into your employees by determining their behavioural and cognitive pattern. Understanding and knowing your employees is the first step towards ensuring that the experience of being held accountable is a positive one.  

Having this objective data about your team members at your fingertips is crucial to successfully tailor the execution of your accountability strategy to each employee. This will undoubtedly have a positive impact on their confidence, engagement and overall performance.

So, what’s next, once you have set and communicated the goals and expectations to your employees? It is now time to decide how to measure their performance, and schedule regular reviews. Feeding back to your employees in a constructive way ensures that you have a clear picture of what they have or have not achieved.

Based on your objective people data, you can then work on how to address any emerging issues or gaps with your employee before they turn into big problems, and determine any necessary improvements within a set timeline.

If accountability seamlessly flows into your talent onboarding and development strategy, you and your team will feel better equipped to tackle any issues in a timely manner and avoid unpleasant surprises. This will have a positive impact on your credibility as a leader, and the engagement and performance of your team.

This will also ensure that your employees are optimally positioned and supported as part of your people strategy. Talent Optimization is a framework that you can use to align your employees with your business strategy by taking into account their working styles and motivations.

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