A culture of accountability might be hard to put the finger on, but you know it when you’ve got it right.
Perhaps it’s the bonds of trust your employees have with each other. Maybe it’s the feeling that everyone owns their actions with pride. Maybe it’s the collective sense that personal accountability is taken seriously by everyone in the organization.
But what happens to that culture when you transition to a hybrid workplace? Do you lose control over those intangible elements that make your company culture strong?
It is expected that 63% of employers will keep hybrid working after the pandemic. Organizational heads will increasingly need to contend with culture as a concept that does not center around employees interacting in one particular social hub.
Is it possible to encourage a high degree of accountability in those circumstances? If you take the definition of a culture of accountability to mean that your people are proactive, committed to delivering results and willing to grow from their mistakes, this can all be achieved independently of the office. A culture of accountability is an ethos, and your people can take an ethos with them wherever they are working that day.
Of course, that’s not to suggest that you should wait around for a culture of accountability to organically arise within your hybrid workplace. There are strategies you can implement, and pitfalls to be avoided.
- Start from the top
- Communicate better
- Become outcome-focused
- Build trust
- Help people see the positives
1. Start from the top
‘Do as I say, not as I do’ may come easier to some, but research favors the truism that the most effective leaders lead by example. Leaders might fail to take into account how their behavior around remote working will be interpreted by their team, but the behavior of C-suite individuals is a powerful influencer of organizational culture. Employees take cues from the standards set by your actions. The best leaders account for this. The first piece of advice on how to create a work culture of accountability in a partially remote workforce is simply to model the changes you want to see.
If it is vital to you that your employees are reachable throughout the workday regardless of location, show that you make an effort to be easily contactable whether you are onsite or remote-working. Being transparent about your schedule sets the expectation that your employees will do the same. If you expect your hybrid workplace to embrace any new technologies into their workday, show that you welcome them too.
2. Communicate better
A culture of accountability will not flourish where miscommunication is rife. Poorly managed remote workers can fall into poor communication habits, and teams that combine both remote and office-based workers can suffer disjointed, fractious communication. Tension flares particularly around the subject of colleagues making changes to projects without communicating first. Such an atmosphere makes it easy for employees to point fingers and shirk responsibility when projects get derailed.
Some of your team leaders may react by course-correcting too far in the opposite direction. They may set many more meetings than they would if their team were fully office-based, inflicting the dreaded ‘Zoom Fatigue’ on their direct reports. But, while this may reduce the risk of information going awry, it is hardly an efficient use of time.
This approach also overworks team leaders and reduces the onus of personal accountability on the individual employee. Within a truly established culture of accountability, individuals would organically take a proactive role in follow-up and communication with their colleagues. This heavy-handed, Zoom-intensive approach wouldn’t even be necessary.
When planning how to build a culture of accountability, you must implement a communication style that encourages accountability on an individual level. Consider an intuitive, centralized platform for use by the whole team. The best platforms are simple to learn, easily integrated into your current systems, and won’t bog your employees down with more admin. They will simply allow your employees to communicate smarter and own their projects with more confidence.
3. Become outcome-focused
When Deloitte realized that measuring productivity by number of hours worked was not suited to remote working, it shifted its mindset. “We’ve adopted a more outcome-focused rather than output-focused approach,” says Shivani Maitra, Deloitte’s leader of Global Human Capital Growth. According to Maitra, the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Remote teams have been able to collaborate over wider geographic spaces, creating more opportunities for creative ideation. But – even more exciting – these teams have been coming up with ideas that are more highly rated by Deloitte’s clients.
By adopting a firmly outcome-focused approach, the culture of accountability becomes established around the quality of deliverables and goals hit. This is a far more effective approach to take with a hybrid team, rather than simply logging hours worked on a project.
Demanding SMART goal planning is one way to show your teams that you are prioritizing an outcome focus. SMART goals – being Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound – help teams plan actionable steps that lead to meaningful progression of a project.
This also empowers individual team members to see how their specific contribution builds towards the team achieving its goal, which is ideal. You want your employees to adopt this mindset, developing an outcome-focused approach as well. To encourage a culture of accountability, you want your employees aligned on the same approach as you!
If this goal-setting style is new to your organization, there are tools that can help seamlessly embed this project management process. AI-enabled project management software can take care of the bulk of SMART planning for you, scoping out a project to determine its attainability, creating a timeline for the project, and offering a suite of tools to measure project progress.
4. Build trust
Popular business podcaster and former Vice President of Twitter, Bruce Daisley, puts trust at the center of the relationship between employer and productive, accountable employee. “If we make people feel trusted and autonomous,” he argues, “It enables them to do their best work.”
A culture of accountability in the workplace will not be embraced by individuals who feel they are under excessive surveillance or being second-guessed at every turn. Ultimately, if you hired great people on the strength of their skills, you should trust them to do a great job! By trusting employees to hold themselves to account and self-report on their progress, they will recognize that you trust their assessment and expertise. On a deeper level, they will appreciate that you take their thoughts seriously. You can streamline and formalize this self-reporting process by providing a platform where both remote and office-based employees update their projects.
Of course, trust is a two-way street. Nothing will erode your intentional, hard-won culture of purpose and accountability faster than your in-person employees feeling like remote employees are taking advantage of your trust. Again, a central platform and process for self-reporting is a great way to show that everyone is on the same page and expected to pull their weight.
5. Help people see the positives
Company directors tasked with establishing a culture of accountability may fear that their home-working employees will adopt the attitude that they are ‘out of sight, out of mind’. But a mounting body of evidence shows that these fears are unfounded.
When researching employee engagement, Gallup found that employees who work remotely between 20-50% of the time report higher engagement and alignment with their company’s mission and purpose. To reap the benefits of creating a culture of accountability in the workplace, you have to have buy-in from your staff, so this is excellent news for managers of hybrid workplaces. Engaged employees are more likely to be productive, proactive, and willing to hold themselves accountable.
Help your employees understand that what you are doing is creating a culture of empowerment and accountability. By crafting this organizational culture, you are simultaneously pushing and supporting your people to deliver their best work. And it’s when people are supported to deliver their best work that they learn the most and make the most progress. Let them know that you are invested in their progression.
It may take some time to change what your workers really think about a culture of accountability. This is particularly true if they feel the reasons for the culture shift are related to C-level concerns about the freedoms of hybrid working.
But this is why you should make choices that encourage accountability but don’t feel like a chore. You don’t want your organizational ethos to be enabled by excessive admin and underpinned by resentment.
Moving your teams to a smart, full-suite project management software can make all the difference. An intuitive, AI-native platform like Forecast automates the busywork and puts all your people on the same page. By establishing a central collaborative space, Forecast eliminates the communication issues that can plague hybrid teams.
Start a free trial of Forecast to see how a full-suite, AI-enabled project management platform can help accelerate the creation of a culture of purpose and accountability in your business.