Organizations with high levels of accountability have been show to have increased performance, and a more positive company culture, vision, and ethics. While genuine accountability from employees may seem like something that is largely the result of intrinsically motivated individuals, there are in fact several things that leaders can do to ensure that accountability is not limited to a few keen employees. business-man-hiding-under-desk.s600x600
4 Things Leaders Can Do to Increase Employee Accountability
There are countless factors that can have an impact on the level of ownership that employees exhibit when they are at work, but there are four influences that leaders can greatly impact that drive levels of accountability within a company.
- Setting Clear Roles, Expectations, and Goals – Leaders that define clear margins for responsibility, standards, and targets create an unmistakable understanding of an employee’s function within an organization without any ambiguity of what it means to be accountable in their role.
- Giving Timely & Accurate Feedback – Tying directly into the first point, feedback is crucial for individuals to understand how they stack up against the expectations of them. With feedback expected regularly, there is no way for employees to “stay under the radar.” When accurate, useful, and timely feedback is intended as a tool for improvement rather than punishment, it can create a culture of genuine individual accountability within an organization.
- Not Focusing on Punishment – Fostering accountability in an organization does not mean knowing who to punish for not hitting targets or finding a scapegoat to take the fall for the team. This only breeds fear and inhibits innovation and creative risk taking, and will have the opposite effect than is desired, by making sure no one takes initiative to find solutions. A true culture of accountability means holding everyone accountable equally and fairly, without inducing fear.
- Leading by Example – It almost seems cliché to include this in the list but it could be the most important. Leadership that avoids denial, blaming, and excuses will see the highest likelihood of employee engagement. A culture of employee engagement and high levels of accountability will be impossible to achieve without the model for this coming from management.
It is important in organizations for a culture of accountability to be present, while providing leadership and management with the ability to confirm that individuals are being accountable to themselves, each other, and the company. This Confirmation of Accountability is especially difficult in organizations where many people contribute and are responsible for the success of a project.
The Problem of Many Hands and its Effects on Accountability
This situation is known as the problem of many hands and is present and becomes a problem when so many people contribute to one goal that it is hard to distinguish one person’s responsibility from another’s. This problem of many hands is not an issue because it disguises who is to blame when things go wrong, but rather because it clouds many of the factors that lead to genuine accountability, such as setting clear roles, expectations, and goals, and providing accurate and timely feedback.
How Mobile Data Collection Systems Foster Confirmation of Accountability
For organizations that have gone paperless in their operations, one defined benefit of electronic data collection over paper-based forms is that these systems allow Confirmation of Accountability, which means that management has the ability to see work being completed and know who is responsible for its completion.
With Nektar Data Systems paperless data collection and asset management system, each individual worker is identified in the system and when work is completed in the field, the responsible person is identified, along with a GPS and time stamp that indicate where the worker was standing when the task was completed.
This helps these companies overcome the problem of many hands by clearly defining roles and expectations and keeping track of the work being completed by each individual, as well as accurately tracking the results from individuals, in order to provide proper feedback and increase accountability.
Mobile data collection with real-time, GPS and time stamp is also beneficial when working with third-party contractors that do not stem from necessarily the same culture and values of your organization. In this case, it can be an effective supervising tool that provides real-time visibility into all the work being completed by contractors in the field, without needing to have personnel on hand with them.
An Example of Confirmation of Accountability That Saved a Company Thousands
RDM Enterprises, a contracting company based out of Surrey, British Columbia, is an example of an organization that reaped the benefit of mobile data collection as a confirmation of accountability tool. At one time, one of the biggest expenses that the company was facing every year was the cost of employee-inflicted damage to their fleet of equipment and vehicles.
With so many people responsible for the upkeep of RDM’s fleet and with operators of equipment and vehicles constantly changing, it was increasingly difficult for employees to understand their specific roles and responsibilities in the care of the fleet. This clouded understanding of responsibility led to a lack of accountability on the part of the employees and high rates of damage.
RDM Enterprises decided to convert their paper-based inspection and maintenance processes to a mobile data collection system and chose Equipdata from Nektar Data Systems as their asset management tool. With the electronic asset management system, RDM was quickly able to create complete visibility about their employee damage problem, and it became apparent how bad the issue was.
Each employee using a vehicle or piece of equipment was identified in the system as an operator of a specific asset and since data collection was viewable in real-time, minor damage was identified before it became a major, more expensive issue, and general carefulness and accountability surrounding RDM’s fleet increased dramatically. Responsibilities were clearly outlined for each employee and feedback was individualized, accurate, and timely when there was an issue relating to employee damage without placing blame, and these combined factors led to a more accountable culture, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for the company.
Engaged, accountable employees can have a significant and lasting impact on the success of a company, and there are many things that organizational leaders can do to foster these results. As illustrated by the example of RDM Enterprises, mobile data collection is a powerful tool that can allow for genuine accountability to be fostered and confirmed, and in RDM’s case was used to greatly reduce equipment damage that was costing the company thousands. This can be vital in overcoming challenges associated with the problem of many hands, and clarifying individual roles for employees, while providing management with the means to give effective feedback, all of which contribute to the cycle of creating and maintaining accountability.