How to Share the Value of Accountability in Remote Work Environments

As the COVID-19 crisis shifts a radical departure from traditional office environments, it also opens many opportunities for embracing a culture of accountability for your remote work teams. A culture of accountability comes with many advantages. It can encourage trust, motivate high standards, and establish credibility for leaders.

The freelancer, the copywriter, the founder — everyone is working remotely. So, how do you engage them with meaningful responsibility[1]? Start here with some tips and best practices for sharing the value of accountability and promoting pride of ownership across your remote work teams.

Ask the Right Questions

Fundamental to any business or organizational success is understanding why your team exists. One way to understand what makes an actual team is first to determine work that’s better suited for team collaboration. Resist the urge to task each individual to do their own thing, and instead, shift focus to the employee group. The challenge of communicating effectively with remote team members is not easy — but it can be. Creating and facilitating better collaboration opportunities can be done in multiple ways, such as asking why your team is a team?[2] Why is your work important — and why does that matter?

You might be surprised at how these answers set the stage to discuss your work’s essence and uncover the reasons why your team contribution is valuable to overall business success. Facilitate this discussion at your weekly stand-ups, or in the new normal — your weekly sit-downs. Have each team member share their answers, note overlaps or wild departures from why the work matters, and boil down solutions to find mutual agreements[3]. This will help your core purpose, align your team, and garner a broader understanding of why your team is essential. This will do more that put work into perspective — it also adds a bonus layer of appreciation for that same work.

Connected Teams Are Responsible Teams

Building a successful remote work environment requires a collaborative approach and voluntary engagement[4]. In a nutshell, connected teams are stronger teams. That being said, with the COVID-19 crisis, how will businesses and organizations face the challenge of getting all of its team into one room[5]? Start by setting expectations for shared responsibility of work. There are subtle differences between how teams and groups look at work projects. A group flaw is to focus on individual goals, and it defeats the purpose of being on the same page with a shared vision or objective. See your team as a group of individual fingers[6]. Although you need each finger, and each can operate on its own, it causes a challenge since each finger can shift in different directions. Instead, see your team as a fist. It’s much stronger with everyone grouped and working toward common goals. Your role as a leader is to connect your team to a shared purpose and operate in unison.

Learn to manage expectations, job demands and personal work styles of your team — and yourself. The team defines a shared goal approach — and not by a manager or leader. Your role is to give your voice to the team — including the quiet ones. Adjust your perspective and adapt to needs. The more you can help your team contribute to the overall purpose, the more you can show their true value to the bottom line. A connected remote team knows that their insights and contributions are valued. It accepts the shift in responsibility to the overall team because it has a voice in the decision-making. This includes having a say on the potential and future direction for work projects. The key to success here is authenticity — don’t open the floor for team voting and make a solo decision. Create an opportunity for them to take meaningful responsibility[7].

It might not always be possible to develop a connection with your team. But, effective team management requires connecting your organization as a unit. By sharing responsibility for the work, you foster more than a culture of accountability — you also foster a culture of belonging. Your team will feel connected and will see the bigger picture of contributing to overall success.

 

Pride and Ownership of Shared Work

Taking an inclusive and collaborative approach to creating a culture of accountability is a critical factor for getting your team on the same page – but it does take time and attention to detail. Start the ball rolling by removing formal and informal hierarchies, and associations with higher titles[8]. Encourage a culture of democracy — and applaud collaboration, problem-solving, and the bottom line of completing work projects. A team that takes pride in high-level work is a team that delivers on its promises.

See your team’s potential, make your expectations clear, freely trust others to do their work, and let them take charge. You already assembled a strong team. Now your job is to step out of the way and empower them to proceed. A leader’s role is to embrace discomfort and give away control — it demonstrates trust and frees up time for you to deliver on other tasks. Always make time to circle back with open dialogue for any potential ideas, questions and concerns. When you establish clear channels of communication, you are telling your team more than the fact that you trust them — it also indicates that you care about their psychological health and safety.

Asking the right questions to your team is critical for developing a broader understanding of why they are essential. It connects your team to a shared purpose and helps put your overall work picture into a bigger perspective.


[1] Dhawan, E., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2018). How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote. Harvard Business Review.

[2] Lovelace, D. (2020) Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

[3] Lovelace, D. (2020) Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

[4] Dhawan, E., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2018). How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote. Harvard Business Review.

[5] Neely, T. (2020) 15 Questions About Remote Work, Answered. Harvard Business Review.

[6] Lovelace, D. (2020) Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

[7] Dhawan, E., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2018). How to Collaborate Effectively If Your Team Is Remote. Harvard Business Review.

[8] Lovelace, D. (2020) Holding Your Team Accountable. Lynda.

Three Ways to Increase Productivity in the HR Industry

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has changed the modern landscape of the Human Resources (HR) industry. A recent survey found that 88 per cent1 of organizations have encouraged or required employees to work from home, regardless of whether or not they showed coronavirus-related symptoms. More than ever, HR managers are called upon to install more than an accountable framework for managing themselves, their teams, and their clients. They also need a workable solution that bridges the gap between balancing employee engagement with their recruitment and retention strategies. 

Remote work is on the rise, and statistics indicate that 73 per cent2 of all departments will have remote workers by 2028. How will an HR manager handle so many employees or freelance consultants in so many places? One way to solve this problem is to support a workplace culture that promotes respect and cultivates accountability. Simply put, a heard employee is an engaged employee. This means more than just the feel of employee engagement in terms of deep concentration, eagerness and passion for doing the work. It also needs to take into account the look of employee engagement in terms of organizational behaviour, such as actions that positively contribute to a healthy and productive work environment. 

So, how do you engage your team to be more productive? We’re glad you asked. Here are three simple questions to ask your team for three helpful answers to let you know where they stand – or don’t stand. 

Ask Three Simple Questions for Three Simple Answers 

A study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)3 states that three factors make up employee engagement. This includes conditions for engagement, engagement opinions and employee behaviours. It is interesting to note that one of the top-level conditions include relationships with co-workers and overall confidence in meeting work goals. The real question begs, what does this mean for your organization in terms of pivoting and shifting toward the trend of the new normal and remote work environments – while still strengthening its commitment to its team and to serving the client? 

“Introducing a framework that supports positive organizational behaviour, and brings fairness back into both the process and the conversation, is one way to engage your employees,” says Alistair Ritchie, CEO of FixPDQ.

“We always strive to simplify work, and so we ask our team three questions when it comes to work management. First, is the work reasonable? Can you complete it within the specified time frame? Yes. Good. Next, we ask, is the work possible? This helps set the stage for the employee to include their voice in the conversation and open a dialogue where they can seek guidance. 

“And, finally, we ask, is the work understood? We want our employees to understand and meet the core outcome of the work and deliver a final product that’s on time, on cost and on budget. We fully believe that empowering our employees can foster positive relationships across the desk – and even across the pond for remote workers.” 

Organizational Behaviour 

One suggested best practice to achieve a culture of accountability means focusing on the employee group – and not solely on the individual employee. Employees are at the heart of cultivating a culture of accountability and for promoting robust psychological health and safety in the workplace. Not to mention, taking care of your employees comes with byproducts of transparency and fairness with a side of trust. The data also supports the critical role of active organizational behaviour as an effective retention strategy. Compensation and work aside, statistics indicate that 12 per cent4 of employees are willing to stay where they are, based on their relationship with their immediate supervisor. This fact adds weight to the benefits of respectful treatment of all employees at all levels. It also helps create an opportunity to empower the employees who fall between the cracks and tend to believe that they need to suffer in silence. 

Take the example of an overworked digital team, in charge of a massive client project, but in danger of falling behind on their work schedule due to common pitfalls of not opening lines of communication. This can include missed details, unheard concerns, late emails, and other employees struggling to pick up the pieces. Imagine a scenario where your designers, Noah and Jane, are rushing to meet a deadline, and Noah is finishing up early and getting ready to leave for home – absolutely unaware that Mary is having problems with one of her tasks. After he leaves, she is left behind to finish the job on her own until she completes it with subpar results more than two hours later. This pushes her further behind on her work schedule, and in turn, puts the entire team behind on their overall tasks. 

A culture of accountability could have avoided this common pitfall from the beginning. Noah doesn’t need direction to check in on his team. He naturally asks Jane how she is doing and checks in to see if she needs help. As a unit, they share workloads when necessary so they can reach solutions quicker and more efficiently. 

Shift Your Mindset 

Committing to a culture of accountability requires avoiding the tendency or culture of wanting people to work the way you want them to – and places your organization ahead of that curve as that traditional approach becomes increasingly challenged as more workers embrace working remotely. It’s a mindset solution that plays nicely with our new normal. It fosters positive relationships, encourages constructive dialogues, and opens opportunities for collaboration from teams that generally operate in silos. Introducing a culture of accountability is more than providing feedback on work performance – it is providing an environment where employees are applauded for asking the right questions at the right time for the right result. 

For this reason alone, it only makes sense to introduce a work environment that applauds a hands up culture in terms of encouraging employees to take ownership and action when they see a problem or opportunity. It’s a critical first step for encouraging your employees and providing the necessary tools to help them be successful in their role – and increasing productivity for your organization. 

References

1 Baker, Mary. Gartner HR Survey Reveals 88% of Organizations Have Encouraged or Required Employees to Work From Home Due to Coronavirus. Gartner.

2 Conrad, Andrew. (2018). 10 Need-to-Know Project Management Statistics. Capterra.

3 Society for Human Resource Management. (2016). Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: Revitalizing a Changing Workforce.

4 Society for Human Resource Management. (2016). Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: Revitalizing a Changing Workforce.