A Simple Tool to Drive Accountability and Alignment in an Organization

Managing metrics

 How to Hold Employees Accountable and Get the Result You Need


Among the many challenges first-time managers and business leaders face, learning how to hold employees accountable is perhaps one of the most difficult skills to learn.  Why?  Because the results we are expected to deliver entirely depend on the performance and contribution of our individual employees.  Simply put, as managers, we need to create certain expectations within our team that ultimately drive each employee to pull his or her weight.  And the only way to reinforce such a mindset is by holding our employees accountable and ensuring they meet their commitments with the quality we expect.

When it comes to my team, I regularly speak to my employees about the importance of collective success and the fact that we will only succeed as a team and not as individuals. I then explain that the only way to succeed collectively is to ensure that everyone meets their respective commitments and openly communicates when challenges are encountered. I have found that this deliberate, open dialogue helps encourage a mindset focussed on teamwork and shared success.  But how do you hold employees accountable?  What is it that you as the manager can do to ensure they will do their jobs effectively?

FREE DOWNLOAD: Get the Goal Alignment Template

A Basis for Holding Employees Accountable

Many firms set targets and metrics each year for each team that support the company’s higher level objectives.  The goals can include things like sales targets, the number of projects to reduce cost, or the number of new patents the firm plans to issue in support of innovation.  Upon setting these metrics, the firm’s leadership will typically flow down components of them to various teams to achieve.

I follow the same approach to help establish a basic level of expectations for my employees. To do this, I first examine the objectives flowed to my department and assess who on my team is best suited to being responsible for a given portion.  Then, to drive accountability and alignment throughout my organization, I breakdown the stated objectives and assign them to the appropriate individual team members.

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Doing so does two things for you as a manager.  First, it breaks down the larger, more complex objectives for the overall team into smaller, bite-sized components.  By breaking down the top level goals and assigning them to individuals helps you establish a path towards delivering against your team metrics (for which you, as the manager, are ultimately responsible).  Second, by assigning components of your team goals, you are helping to create a sense of teamwork because your employees become aware that others are depending on their individual performance.  Should an employee not complete their portion of the team objective, the entire team will collectively not succeed.

How to Create Accountability with Employees

To assist with establishing employee accountability, it is important to document how you breakdown the goals and what you assign to each employee. This document, as shown in our example template, also allows you to validate that your strategy to get the job done is comprehensive and fair.  When it comes to managing my team, I capture all of this alignment on a very simple tracker that shows me who is responsible for which performance element.  I then go through this with my individual employees during one-on-one meetings so they know what is expected of them and how their contributions directly tie to the team’s success.  Finally, to ensure accountability of the employee, these cascaded measures and objectives are recorded in our formal performance management system.

From this point forward, the key to driving accountability within your organization is the follow up on progress during regular one-on-one meetings with your employees. With clear, documented goals and objectives that both you and your employee have agreed upon, you have very objective information by which you can measure your employee’s performance. At the end of the year, when it comes time for performance evaluations, you have evidence with which you can assess how your employees did.

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We posted a free template in our Tools and Templates section, similar to the one I use.  On it, you will see team goals and how each individual’s work is in line with your team’s objectives.  You will also see that the more experienced and skilled employees have more tied to their name as more is expected of them.  Many of the individual goals also include a timeframe, for which the employee is expected to deliver against their items.

It’s not terribly sophisticated, but I’ve found that this simple template helps me talk to my employees about expectations and accountability.  Perhaps you have your own tool to help you. If so, please share it!

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