Natural Foods Merchandiser
Carolee Colter
Carolee Colter

4 simple steps to employee accountability

Set clear expectations, provide tools and training, follow up and offer appropriate rewards or consequences to keep accountability strong and employees satisfied.

One of the most important attributes of a healthy workplace culture is accountability. When accountability is strong, employees are more satisfied. On the other hand, if accountability is lacking or inconsistent, morale can suffer. Accountability can be simplified to four easy steps:

  1. Set clear expectations.
  2. Provide tools and training.
  3. Follow up to ensure expectations are being met.
  4. Offer appropriate rewards or consequences.

Let’s explore two common scenarios and how to use these four steps to guide management action.

Accountability in action

After four weeks, Chuck can’t seem to match products with shelf tags, and the grocery buyers are frustrated by improperly stocked items. You’ve heard numerous complaints that Chuck “just isn’t cutting it.” What should you do? First, assess through direct observation. When a complaint is received, make a point of working a few shifts with the employee in question to conduct your own direct observation. If you find the employee is not meeting expectations, it’s important to take immediate action.

1. Ensure the expectations are understood. Ask Chuck to explain the expectations, in his own words, and demonstrate how he does the task(s) in question.

2. Provide tools and training. Depending on where he is falling short, a simple retraining session may solve the problem. Schedule a time to revisit the training outline and help Chuck relearn the task(s) with the goal of successful accomplishment going forward. Confirm that he understands the expectations.

3. Follow-up is of key importance to ensure performance improvement. Continue to observe and follow-up regularly with Chuck until you are confident in his performance.

4. Lastly, provide rewards for improvement. On the other hand, if the performance does not improve, an appropriate consequence would be issuing a warning.

Accountability with personnel policies

While there are numerous policies to enforce in any workplace, tardiness may be the most visible policy violation for employees. Perceived inconsistencies with enforcement of the attendance policy is one of the biggest complaints I hear when conducting employee satisfaction surveys. Here’s one common complaint: “Some people can come and go as they please while others get written up if they are two minutes late. It’s not fair.”

Again, consider the four steps.

1. Make sure attendance expectations are clear to all employees and enforced consistently throughout the store.

2. Review policies with all new employees and distribute employee handbooks at the time of hire for their own use and reference.

3. Ensure all managers review time records weekly to ensure employees are arriving (and departing) on time.

4. When attendance issues arise, address them immediately. Often with attendance problems, a single conversation will turn things around. Speak with the employee honestly. Tell her, “I don’t want to have to let you go because you can’t get to work on time.”  Establish agreed-upon goals for arriving on time, and reward success. If the problem persists, follow the established corrective action policy. While the desired outcome is a quick turnaround, be prepared to follow through if the behavior doesn’t change and a termination becomes necessary.

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