Accountability: the path to a successful business

Out of the plethora of capabilities required for managers, accountability represents the single most important skill to ensure the good performance of a business. The ability to hold employees accountable for their results is crucial for all good managers and leaders as this aptitude is directly linked to the organization’s productivity.

For construction businesses, many uncontrollable risks and constraints that hinder efficiency are shared by the rest of the industry. Whether is bad weather or delays from sub-contractors, accountability separates good businesses from bad by encouraging good outcomes from variables within the organization’s control.

Unfortunately, accountability is often a misunderstood concept. Many associating it with punishments or periodical performance evaluations. However, true accountability refers to the practice of assuring work is done correctly and timely even before being evaluated. In other words, it refers to the ability of employees to fully commit to a task and working towards its best possible outcome.

How can employees become accountable?

The first thing to know before tackling accountability is that this is not a quick fix. True accountability represents a cultural change that must be adopted at every single level of the organization. If an employee fails to deliver a specific outcome, this will affect all consecutive employees relying on it. Therefore, organizations must work collaboratively to achieve it.

However, accountability should not only have one approach. Each type of employee should be addressed accordingly. Acknowledging the appropriate employee level is the first step for properly promoting accountability and building an organizational culture around it.

  • Executives & Management-level employees: They focus on strategic objectives and view the organization in long-term. This type of employee deserves freedom to make decisions and execute them as they cannot be responsible for the outcomes from tasks outside of their control.
  • Field-workers & First-level employees: Unlike top-level personnel, first-level employees often need more supervision for their tasks. However, this does not mean supervisors should micromanage their activities as this can be perceived as a lack of confidence on their work, demotivating employees to take initiative in future tasks.

How to implement a culture of accountability in a business?

While the approaches taken to promote accountability in employees should be targeted accordingly to obtain the best results. There are still some general guidelines that businesses can follow to promote a culture of accountability in the organization.

  1. Outline expectations for each objective
  2. Employees cannot be accountable for unclear tasks. Every employee should be fully aware of the objectives expected from each task assigned to them to avoid potential mistakes. Managers are responsible for delivering well-defined objectives to their collaborators. Yet, the higher an employee is in the organizational structure, the more responsible the employee is for contributing to the definition of the expectations and measurements of each task.

    BulldozAIR, the construction app to help teams on the field attain its operational excellence, perfectly understood the importance of having accountable employees. For this reason, the project management solution offers a system of notes where construction professionals can describe tasks in great detail using text, images, plans among many other features, to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding and assure everyone perfectly understands what is expected from each task.

  3. Assure everyone has access to the necessary know-how and tools
  4. To assure the correct performance of a task, employees must have the adequate knowledge to execute it. Ensuring your employees are accountable is also ensuring they have the proper tools to do them.

    Do they need training or coaching for the task?
    Are they familiar with the appropriate procedures? If not, are manuals available for the employee to get familiar with the organization’s practices?
    It is important to verify employees know how to perform their tasks. If not, managers are only setting employees for failure, demotivating workers and hurting productivity.

  5. Let employees grow
  6. Employees need the freedom to make their own decisions. It is important for managers to let employees take their own decisions and sometimes make mistakes. Although, many may surprise you and offer new and fresh ideas.

    Allowing employees to make their own decisions and make mistakes will help them grow professionally and personally, improving engagement and accountability at the same time.

  7. Be open about what is measured
  8. Measuring results is a great way to see the evolution of your business. However, performance assessments can also bring tension amidst employees. Hence, the importance of being transparent. Explain to employees why each measure is needed and how each one will be measured. With a transparent approach to evaluations, employees will be more likely to embrace the idea.

    Nevertheless, measurements need to be taken regularly. Installing a culture of periodic evaluations not to showcase failures but rather to show progress is key for promoting accountability.

  9. Never forget about feedback
  10. Sharing sincere and useful feedback is essential for growth. Feedback allows employees to understand the environment and offers a chance to improve a dissatisfying situation.

    Feedback also needs to be permanent. If employees only give feedback when a bad outcome might occur, it will not facilitate progress. Moreover, just providing feedback on times of crisis can hurt employees’ moral as they might develop an unfavorable opinion of the practice. For this reason, it is imperative to also offer positive feedback to collaborators when they finish a project or task successfully. Employees who feel recognized for their efforts are more likely to be engaged with the business and develop true accountability.

  11. Establish the outcomes from the start
  12. People need to be aware and understand of the consequences of their actions, thus communicating the potential results from the lack of accountability is key. If everything was done to ensure the employee can deliver quality results on time and he/she failed to do so, then consequences must follow through.

    Sometimes, changing someone’s role or letting them go is necessary when they do not represent a good fit for the business. However, this should be the last resource and only considered if managers did everything else possible to enable good results.

    On the other hand, when an employee goes the extra mile, it is important to recognize this. Rewards should not be expected for every single positive outcome, but merits should be celebrated. Rewards include praises, monetary benefits, new tools, training opportunities, among many others. Nevertheless, the key is to find a reward that best suits the situation.

In conclusion, accountability in the workplace is essential for continuous growth and development of the organization. In the construction industry, issues like safety and productivity can be tremendously improved when a culture of accountability is cultivated and nurtured.

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