How to Create a Culture of Accountability in Your Remote Team

According to a recent survey from Prudential, 87% of workers who went remote during the COVID-19 pandemic want their company to continue accommodating hybrid or remote work going forward. Yet leaders and managers are still reluctant to completely embrace remote work. Why?

Employee accountability tops the list of reasons businesses give for not fully committing to remote work. Managers are afraid that getting remote employees to take ownership of their work, actions, and performance will be a problem. While managing remote workers is indeed more difficult, it is on business leaders to make accountability a core theme in remote work culture.

Accountability Starts With Managers

In every organization, managers serve as role models because employees will most often imitate what managers do. If managers constantly procrastinate tasks or don’t keep track of time and deadlines, the team follows in their footsteps. As a manager, you need to demonstrate the habits you want your team to embrace. You can do this in several ways:

  • Be responsible for your actions
  • Own up to your mistakes or failures
  • Respect meeting times
  • Complete tasks on or before deadline

Managers must be at the forefront in defining what appropriate behavior looks like.

Read more: How to Build and Manage a Remote International Team

Set Clear Goals and Expectations

Unclear expectations breed conflicts, blame games, and other toxic employee behavior — which eventually affects employee output. To avoid this, managers should create a hybrid or remote policy that clearly explains their expectations. Along the same lines, project managers over remote teams should communicate the guidelines for each project.

Your goals or expectations should be transparent and easy to understand, so teams are more motivated to work. When setting smart goals and expectations, ensure you:

  • Inform each employee of their monthly targets and KPIs
  • Share objectives, workflows, and project plans early
  • Encourage employees and teams to reach out with questions

Clear objectives and expectations will ensure team members work towards a common goal.

Encourage Feedback

When you encourage feedback, you’re able to collect personalized and deep insights about workplace accountability from employees. You can then use that data to set expectations or demonstrate accountability.

One way to collect feedback is to regularly conduct team surveys. For example, you may ask teams how often they ask for resources to help them meet their goals, or whether they ask managers and supervisors for feedback on their work. In doing this, you encourage employees to feel ownership over their projects.

Alternatively, you can hold virtual icebreakers with an entire team, or even the whole company. Ask employees to share their perspectives on the workplace culture, and how they feel about workplace accountability. You should then conduct individual follow-ups, especially when employees seem unwilling to share their perspectives openly with the entire team.

During one-on-ones, check each employee’s commitments, progress, recent accomplishments, and doubts. Remember to listen and take action on any negative feedback. Demonstrate accountability by making sure employees feel heard.

Keep Track of Workloads

Over-committed employees are at risk of burnout, and they may start neglecting work. There are several ways to track remote employee commitments. You can start by creating a calendar that shows an entire team’s meetings and deadlines, which can show individual employees that are over-committed.  Better yet, you can use project management tools to assign tasks and track workloads and progress.

If an employee commits to providing an update or deliverable at a particular date, it should be logged so you can check in with them on that date. Ensure that progress is constantly updated, and that any task assigned to an employee or team cannot be closed until the person responsible completes it.

Also avoid building a siloed system. Other team members need to see who is accountable for a task, and the consequences of a missed deadline. If you make this your day-to-day activity, you will keep employees accountable for their work.

Create Accountability Processes

Accountability processes give you control and direction when matters get out of hand (for example, where there are blame games). They also instill discipline and set boundaries.

Thoroughly documented processes prevent employees from using their own methods when performing work, which can lead to skipped steps. This is especially important when dealing with compliance.

When a remote worker is not following through, they should be held accountable and face the consequences. These may include denying them quarterly bonuses, or asking teams to work overtime to meet the organization’s objectives.

Encourage Team Collaboration

The primary downside of remote work is that team members do not see each other in person. If this isn’t addressed head-on, teams lose touch and fall behind.

When one or more members is working remotely, teams need to be able to communicate asynchronously but consistently. Each member should be counted upon to perform their work with or without supervision. To encourage the flow of information, provide teams with adequate resources to overcome collaboration obstacles.

When employees put effort towards a common goal, they form stronger relationships. They can use these relationships to share the workload, make decisions together, encourage each other, learn each other’s style and preferences, and look out for one another. Such a working culture promotes good relationships and accountability.

Read more: Best Collaboration Software & Tools in 2021

Measuring Accountability

Accountability can be measured in terms of employee productivity. However, you may also look for team cohesion and employee happiness. When your remote team exhibits an “I don’t care” attitude, it may signal an underlying lack of accountability.

Motivate employees by offering them extra support, addressing poor performance, celebrating small wins, mentoring them, helping them develop new skills, and sharing important resources that can help in their day-to-day work. This will ensure your team doesn’t fall out, or develop poor work practices.

Creating a culture of accountability in your remote team is an ongoing process that shouldn’t just be practiced when accountability is lacking. When you implement these tips correctly, you not only ensure team members have a sense of ownership in the work, but also improve morale and productivity.

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