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4 minute read

3 Ways to Create a Culture of Ownership & Accountability in the Workplace

Ownership and accountability are a huge part of developing a workplace that functions healthily and efficiently. But implementing ownership and accountability strategies can be challenging. Here, we break down how to develop a workplace culture that embraces these two factors for the personal and career development of all employees.

What are accountability and ownership?

Many people understand accountability as what it isn’t: trying to “catch” workers doing something incorrectly, ratting out colleagues, or enforcing a tight set of rules in a punitive manner.

Instead of fostering a proactive culture of accountability, this negative approach fosters a reactive culture of “management by regulations”. But there is an alternative.

Accountability in the office is about clearly identifying the company’s vision, values, and goals and holding individuals to them. Employee accountability is holding all levels of employees (from part-time hourly workers to C-suite executives) accountable for meeting corporate objectives.

Develop clear expectations

Setting expectations for staff is an important obligation that many businesses overlook. Clear employee expectations help not just employees but the company as a whole.

Every worker wants to be successful in their job, but can only do so if they understand what is expected of them by their organisation. Employees and their supervisors should have regular meetings about their performance contributions, objectives for the following year, and professional growth possibilities.

When employees have clear expectations, they can better establish a sense of ownership and accountability. When staff know their responsibilities, they also understand the consequences of not fulfilling them, professionally and personally. They can also avoid the blame game that occurs when employee responsibilities are muddied between parties.

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Reward positive behaviours

Positive reinforcement in the office is a free way of developing a good workplace culture. It boosts employees’ self-esteem while adding value and ownership to their job performance. These characteristics have the potential to increase productivity. Complimenting or praising employees in this manner might also help to reduce any self-doubt about work performance.

When delivering behaviour-specific praise, ensure it is genuine, timely, and personalised. Otherwise, the praise may come across as ingenuine or obligatory. Furthermore, avoid scheduling in praise, but let it be spontaneous and in reaction to positive behaviours. This way, your employees will feel it is genuine and not contrived.

As a leadership approach, behaviour-specific praise may set a positive tone and improve the workplace culture. These favourable encounters foster ties between management and staff, as well as among employees. Positive reinforcement may also enhance staff engagement and decrease employee turnover, all of which influence a company’s culture, productivity and profitability.

Redefine success

One way to develop autonomy and ownership in the workplace is by developing effective metrics for success. For example, delivering a project on schedule and on a budget is not considered a “success” if the customer does not purchase it.

Organisations that create output-based goals disguised as outcomes limit the extent to owning a team or individual can take a project from the beginning. To shift that mindset, link team and leadership KPIs with product goals rather than project goals. As you gain experience, you may begin to structure teams and their KPIs on customer outcomes.

Create opportunities for autonomy

Recognise that autonomy does not eliminate the need for leadership. An independent team retains a guiding vision and the backing of its leaders. Begin inside the team by instilling confidence in each member. Everyone must understand what to do, how to accomplish their job, who to coordinate with, and who to get assistance from.

It’s worth noting that in companies that limit their alignment to outputs rather than outcomes, teams can only develop autonomy around execution rather than developing and implementing ideas.

Providing staff with opportunities for independence encourages them to become innovative, independent thinkers who work for the betterment of the company and themselves. Slowly giving individuals more responsibility also takes a load off the leader’s shoulders and is a step toward a healthy delegation model.

Use autonomy opportunities to help staff achieve their career development goals, especially if they are aiming for a management position. This is the perfect time to nurture budding leaders and establish a long-term management plan for the business.

Creating a long-term and sustainable culture of ownership and accountability in the workplace can attract talent as well as benefit staff motivation and retention. Flexibility in figuring out what works for your team and organisation instead of following rigid examples and expectations is a key step forward.

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