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Encouraging accountability in the workplace, with the ultimate goal of creating an organisation characterised by responsibility, motivation and engagement, is a matter of cultivating positive behaviours and discouraging negative ones. Organisations that replace blame with honesty, caring, collaboration and collective action are more apt to experience the rewards of a culture of accountability.
Accountability--taking responsibility for performance, problem solving and results--is an essential ingredient of organisational success. Unfortunately, “being held accountable” in some organisations has more to do with recrimination than cooperating for positive change. Here, accountability degenerates into “the blame game,” where individuals and departments strictly delineate their responsibilities (“that’s not my job”) or adopt a wait-and-see attitude to avoid committing to decisive action. The sort of accountability that leads to success, on the other hand, centres on process rather than person and comes with a heightened sense of empowerment.
Fostering a healthy sense of accountability among employees does not require fancy software or expensive equipment. By engaging their workforce and encouraging four key behaviours, organisations can enjoy the benefits that accountability brings. When employees are truthful about what needs changing, care about making improvements, collaborate to find solutions and follow through with implementation the result is a heightened sense of responsibility for their work and the success of the organisation as a whole.
First, taking an honest look at the reality of a situation, without pointing fingers, offering justifications or fearing consequences is essential. To achieve incident-free operations, for example, employees need to make a sincere assessment of the equipment, processes and people involved. Genuine reflection reveals weaknesses that should then inspire the kind of caring that motivates people to change. If the lines of communication are faulty, for instance, they can only be repaired if those involved care about the problem enough to make an effort.
Finding solutions through collaboration yields the best results. Knowledge sharing among individuals, teams, departments and sites may uncover ready-made answers, produce essential data points or reveal meaningful experiences that a silo mentality would preclude. Once the group has identified workable solutions, it’s time to translate them into action, starting with a feasible timeline and a full-fledged action plan.
Leadership workshops and coaching provide an excellent starting point for introducing behaviours that increase workplace accountability. When focusing on individual behaviours, however, it is crucial not to lose sight of the importance of organisational culture. Accountability thrives when failure is perceived as an opportunity to learn and improve, as in a Culture of Care, which we at DEKRA strive to instil in our client organisations.
DEKRA Organisational Reliability is a behavioural change consultancy. Working in collaboration with our clients, our approach is to influence the safety culture with the aim of ‘making a difference’. We deliver the skills, methods, and motivation to change leadership attitudes, behaviours and decision-making among employees. Measurable sustainable improvement of safety outcomes is our goal. We are a service unit of DEKRA SE, a global leader in safety since 1925 with over 39,000 employees in 50 countries.
Author: Paula Paterson, Senior Consultant and Head of Learning and Development