A Simple Tool to Drive Accountability and Alignment in an Organization
How to Hold Employees Accountable and Get the Results You Need
Among the many challenges first-time managers and business leaders face, learning how to hold employees accountable is perhaps the most difficult skill to master. Holding employees accountable is essential because the results managers are expected to deliver depend on the performance and contribution of their individual employees. Thus, managers need to set the expectation that each employee must meet their commitments, and then hold them accountable for delivering the results. But how do you hold an employee accountable? Are there tools available that can help? To ensure your team meets its commitments, we will discuss one such tool that managers can use to measure employee performance.
Accountability Starts With Commitment
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. The only way to succeed together is to ensure that everyone meets their respective commitments and openly communicates when challenges arise. It’s a commitment I make to them, and that we all need to make to one another. Deliberate, open dialogue about issues and challenges helps encourage a mindset focused on teamwork and shared success. Once this buy-in occurs, it is far easier to hold people accountable.
Free MRH Download: A Basic Accountability Tool for Managers
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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 reaching certain sales numbers, target amounts of cost reduction, or the number of new patents the firm plans to issue. Upon setting these metrics, the firm’s leadership will typically flow down components of them to various teams to achieve.
Following this same approach within your organization helps set a basic level of expectations for your employees. To do this, review the objectives you’ve set out to accomplish, or that have been flowed down to your department. Next, assess who on your team should responsible for each individual item. Finally, to drive accountability and alignment throughout your team, document the breakdown of objectives and assign them to the individual team members.
A Simple Example:
At the beginning of the year, your team is assigned a goal of obtaining $100,000 in new customer sales. You could break down this goal in the following ways:
- Assign $20,000 equally to each of your 5 employees.
- Assign $35,000 to your two experienced employees, and $10,000 to your three new hires.
- Assign $15,000 to each of your 5 employees, and look to get $25,000 yourself.
This simple technique does four specific things for you as a manager, all of which are important.
First, it breaks down the larger, more complex objectives for the overall team into smaller, bite-sized components. Decomposing the top-level goals and assigning them to individuals establishes a path towards delivering against your team metrics (for which you, as the manager, are ultimately responsible). It is easier to understand problems and manage gaps when the targets are smaller.
Second, by assigning components of team goals to individuals, you creating a sense of teamwork because your employees recognize 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.
Third, by creating a simple cross-reference sheet and viewing how goals are divided across the team, you can ensure the work is fairly and appropriately distributed. If one particular employee is shown to be critical to the success of several goals, while a different employee is only connected to one, it’s a sign that workloads may be unbalanced.
Fourth, by decomposing top-level objectives into small components for each employee, you give yourself the ability to measure their performance at the end of the year. This is where accountability starts.
How to Create Accountability with Employees
To assist with establishing employee accountability, it is important to document the breakdown the goals and what you assign to each employee. Create a goal matrix that puts it in writing.
Once you have created your goal matrix, meet with each individual employee on your team to discuss their assignments. During these one-on-one meetings, review the measures to let them know what is expected of them. Also be sure to them how their contributions directly tie to the team’s success. Finally, to ensure they recognize their individual targets and cascaded measures, record the items in your formal performance management system.
Accountability Requires Follow Up
From this point forward, the key to driving accountability within your organization is to follow-up on progress during regular one-on-one meetings with your employees. The more consistency by which you visit individual goals, the more your employees will grow to expect and understand how their performance is being measured.
With clear, well-documented goals that both you and your employee have agreed upon, you now 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 clear targets against which you can measure how your employees did.
The free MRH template at the beginning of this article is similar to the one I use. On it, you will see team goals and how each individual’s work is in line with the team’s objectives. You will also observe that more seasoned and skilled employees have more objectives 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.
This simple template can help any manager talk to their employees about expectations and accountability. The most important part of holding employees accountable is to document objectives up front and agree that they will be met.