Accountability at work is a cornerstone of building trust and productive cross-departmental teams. But as author Pete Lowe says in an HRD Connect article, genuine accountability can only happen “in the context of a culture that supports trust and genuine teamwork.”
Acing workplace accountability relies on people working together, supporting each other, and building clearly defined personal and team responsibilities and goals to which all individuals and teams are held accountable.
In the case of aligning HR and line managers, it’s critical that both parties support each other in their programs. In fact, your employee satisfaction and engagement depend on it—and by close association, the health and success of your business as a whole.
In this article, we’ll discuss what accountability at work is and how to frame an accountability strategy that strengthens the relationship between the HR team and managers across your organization.
What is workplace accountability?
Workplace accountability is a commitment by team members to be responsible for their actions, performance, behavior, and decisions. It’s about making sure your team and their leaders consider and own everything they do.
But what does this concept look like in practice?
Picture your workplace. But instead of your normal way of working, each goal is now linked to a specific person or team. The success of the effort to achieve these goals isn’t measured by the completion of the tasks but by the collective advancement toward realizing the organization’s vision.
One of the best ways to achieve this is by adopting elements of a holacratic work structure into your own.
The concept of holacratic work structures
A holacratic work structure breaks away from the classic, hierarchical top-down authority. Instead, it’s characterized by a distribution of power throughout different groups across your organization.
It’s a type of flat management structure that spreads authority across your teams. The goal of this is to make sure that the people responsible for getting the work done have the freedom and authority to decide how to carry it out.
But while this type of work structure focuses on empowering team members, it doesn’t mean the only way to achieve these goals is by going all-in and adopting a holacratic work structure at your organization. You can maintain a classic work structure while integrating key tenets of the holacratic work philosophy.
Using a holacratic philosophy to set expectations at work
In holacratic work structures, collaboration is the aim of the game. Individuals and teams navigate their roles with a sense of ownership over the work they’re carrying out, helping to harmonize their responsibilities with the collective goals of the organization.
You can provide your people with the same autonomy and sense of ownership in a traditional, hierarchical workplace, too. It relies on integrating key principles of the holacratic philosophy into your work structure: affording your people high levels of trust and responsibility and committing to open and honest communication.
Clear and consistent communication is the cornerstone of this system. It’s not just about delegating tasks, it’s about creating an open dialogue where people can feel free to share ideas and feedback—which in turn enables continuous improvement and innovation.
But for any business that adopts elements of the holacratic work philosophy to truly succeed, it needs to have the total commitment of everyone involved. There needs to be consistency in effort, transparency in processes, and full follow-through to ensure that the shared vision of individual contributors, managers, and business leaders can become a reality, not just an inspiration.
Setting expectations and priorities at work
Having clear expectations and priorities within your working structure is key. It’s important to provide everyone with a direction and a tangible way to measure their progress.
The goals of your business are inextricably linked with the goals of your team members. Because of this, it’s important to aim for full cohesion between your HR and management teams. To achieve this, you can split up and assign tasks that each team is responsible for.
One of the best ways to do this is by setting key performance indicators (KPIs). These KPIs act as quantifiable metrics for evaluating success.
When it comes to tracking individual managers’ progress, you can focus on KPIs such as their contribution to team development, improvement in team productivity, effectiveness in conflict resolution, and their ability to mentor and develop their teams.
Here are some examples of how HR teams and managers can work together to achieve certain goals:
- HR teams. If you’re aiming to improve employee engagement, your HR team may focus on creating comprehensive engagement programs and providing managers with the tools necessary to implement them.
- Managers. Your management teams can complement these efforts with things such as personalized check-ins to understand team member needs and foster an inclusive and open team culture to encourage feedback and contribution.
Elevating your eNPS
- HR teams. To elevate your eNPS, your HR team can carry out regular team member surveys to gauge the satisfaction of their people. They can also put feedback mechanisms in place where people can anonymously express their opinions.
- Managers. Managers can take the data gathered by HR and actively address it. This can include things such as holding regular team meetings to discuss survey results, ensuring open communication channels, and recognizing and rewarding people for their contributions.
Keeping up with compliance standards
- HR teams. To meet compliance standards, HR teams need to stay updated on all of the latest relevant regulations and legal requirements for every site. You can achieve this by developing and implementing policies and procedures that ensure compliance. Top-notch compliance programs go even further and include regular training sessions that educate managers and team members on how they can contribute to meeting regulatory requirements.
- Managers. Managers can complement this by ensuring their teams understand and adhere to compliance standards. By incorporating compliance into regular team discussions and performance reviews, managers can ensure their teams have everything they need to be fully compliant.
Identifying the roadblocks to achieving accountability goals and how to remove them
Achieving accountability goals isn’t always a straightforward process. There are many common roadblocks that can slow down your efforts to establish a culture of accountability.
These can include:
- Lack of clear communication. As mentioned before, communication is a key factor in accountability. When goals and expectations aren’t communicated effectively, it can lead to confusion and misalignment. To overcome this, it’s important to commit to establishing clear and robust communication channels to make sure everything is as transparent as possible. Additionally, implementing regular check-ins and an open-door policy can further boost communication. These extra interactions can help reduce anxiety, build trust, and foster strong, effective working relationships.
- Lack of consequence or reward. When there aren’t any consequences for people’s actions, there’s little incentive to hold yourself accountable. This can be easily solved by establishing a fair system of recognizing and rewarding excellence, and assigning further training for people who are underperforming.
- Lack of adequate resources or support. When people don’t have access to the necessary resources or support, they are less likely to feel accountable. Providing your people with the right tools, training, and support empowers them to take ownership of and responsibility for their roles.
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Build a strong HR-manager relationship through a culture of accountability and trust
You can only build strong HR-manager relationships with two key components: accountability and trust. These values lie at the heart of any resilient relationship. However, they aren’t built overnight.
You can cultivate both accountability and trust through deliberate actions and strategies, such as:
- Cultivating a culture of feedback. Continuous feedback loops between HR, managers, and team members are essential to helping people understand their performance and any areas in need of improvement.
- Setting clear expectations and responsibilities. When everyone knows what they’re expected to do and what they’re responsible for, your workplace becomes far more cohesive. People also become more confident when carrying out their work.
- Linking goals and responsibilities to purpose. When people understand how their work fits into the larger picture and helps achieve the organization’s mission and vision, they’ll be more likely to feel a stronger sense of purpose and accountability.
- Utilizing tech tools. Using an HCM or HRIS can provide a transparent way to hold parties accountable and track progress—while also giving you the ability to monitor individual contributions, track goals, and even offer insights into team performance and dynamics.
- Using SMART goals. HR leaders can guide managers in setting SMART goals for their teams, which can then be monitored and adjusted as needed. Setting clear goals makes it easier for people to align their efforts with the organization’s expectations.
- Leading by example. Accountability starts at the top. When HR leaders and management behave in a certain way, they set an example for others to follow. By demonstrating accountability in their day-to-day processes, they can inspire others to do the same.
Reap the benefits of strong HR-manager alignment every day
When HR and managers align with each other to champion mutual accountability, organizations reap the benefits. With increased trust between all members of the team—from individual contributors to C-level executives—along with optimized productivity and performance, you can create a healthier and happier workplace.
High levels of support between individuals, teams, and managers foster strong and healthy cultures, ensuring your workplace isn’t just productive but vibrant and resilient.