Incentivizing Accountability as an Industry Leader

Accountability is crucial to ensuring high performance within an organization. This isn’t groundbreaking news! So, why isn’t incentivizing accountability a core part of every business? Studies have shown the organizations that thrive with engaged and motivated employees have managers that spend 10 percent to 20 percent of their time on professional and personal team-building activities.

These leaders regularly touch-base with their staff by taking them out for happy hour, having a one-on-one discussion about career goals, or organizing a team lunch. How can you make sure you’re being an effective leader and keeping your employees accountable for the work they’re assigned?

To drive high performance and accountability in an organization, you’re probably already covering the basics:

1. u0007Ensuring your employees are on time and present for his/her full working hours/shift

2. u0007Asking your employees to complete a designated task within a reasonable timeframe that is communicated in advance

3. u0007Discussing any potential issues for why assigned tasks will not be completed on time and create a risk mitigation plan to avoid any surprises


Perhaps, as an employer, you already know and enforce the basic principles of accountability and want an even higher quality of work and accountability from your employees. First, define what specific outcome(s) you want. What do you mean by wanting “higher quality work” or “greater accountability?”

Teams work best when specific expectations are shared and repeated. Start by putting together a list of current responsibilities assigned to each staff member and identify the gaps between current and future state (e.g. low sales conversion rate, not meeting a membership target, etc.). Once the gaps have been identified, put together specific business goals at a granular level so you understand how much more you’re asking from your employees.


Whatever your organization’s mission, make sure every employee at your organization has acknowledged it (for example, through a signed agreement) to keep them accountable to the standard of behavior expected of them. Organizational core values and mission are non-negotiable, and it’s critical that all employees understand and respect your company’s core values.

Make it a point in an interview with a potential employee to ask how they interpret your organization’s mission to know if they’re going to be a good fit. If employees are committed to your organization’s mission, they will be more willing to take on meaningful work and accept responsibility for their mistakes.


Start thinking about the possibility of incentive-based pay (pay based on performance rather than time worked). This type of pay can come in the form of annual incentives, discretionary bonuses, spot cash awards, commissions, or a profit-sharing plan. Depending on the size of your company and your short and long-term goals, you should consider the benefits of a spot cash award versus a more long-term pay incentive like a profit-sharing plan. A small company may benefit greater financially from doing a one-time spot award for outstanding employee service rather than have to share a percentage of their annual profit.

Consider this: Does your employee currently have any incentive to get their work done early, in higher quantities, and/or under budget? If the answer is no, then maybe as their employer you need to rethink your motivation strategy. What can you offer your employees if they get quality work done early, in higher quantities and/or under budget? Incentive-based pay offers employees the opportunity to align with the company’s short and long-term goals and be accountable for their work. It also allows employees to focus on specific, measurable outcomes and allows them to share in the organization’s financial success.


So, you’ve identified where there are gaps and decided on a strategy of incentive-based compensation, now what? Track employee sales (preferably in a program accessible to all employees to view so they can see their positive or negative progress as it relates to their coworkers) and consider giving a percentage of won sales to the responsible employee. Here’s the catch: not every employee will respond to incentives in the same way.

As a manager, all incentives should be based on the desired outcome and tailored to fit the employee’s specific role within your business. Some people value non-monetary rewards such as status, company recognition, and advancement. Unfortunately, there are always going to be people who aren’t motivated by monetary or non-monetary rewards and will do the bare minimum to keep their job no matter what. It’s up to you as the employer to pick strong, hungry candidates to staff your team so you can excel in your business in the most profitable way.


How do you measure behavioral changes? Employees must believe there is a fair and exact process for keeping track of their actions, and that employers are tying their behaviors to good and bad consequences. Track employee sales (in a program preferably accessible to all employees to view so they can see their progress) and consider giving a percentage of won sales to the responsible employee.

To increase your conversion rate, consider giving an employee a small cash bonus for converting a pre-determined percentage of the team’s total leads into sales. Looking to get an increase in work output or have orders filled faster? Give an extra day of PTO to the employee who fills the most orders or completes the most deliverables in a month.

Measure your company’s customer satisfaction by employee and award the employee with the highest ratings a bonus. Awarding a bonus or a spot cash award to an employee going above and beyond ensures that the employee will feel valued for their work, guarantees that they hold themselves accountable to the highest possible standard (since they want to be rewarded fairly), and rarely pays out less than it pays back to the company.


As a manager/employer, you have to toe the line of being an authority figure and a colleague. Employees will be accountable to their own work if they can respect and take pride in their management and the company they work for. It might not be right in every case for your company to use financial incentives to drive accountability. Another way to incentivize accountability without having to take out your company checkbook is to look to a change in the culture.

Create and foster an opportunity for your employees to work together for a common goal. A good company culture should shift constantly in response to external factors (like a change in industry, an economic downtown, or a leadership change). I know what you’re thinking. “How can I change my company’s culture if it’s a moving target?” The good news is, your culture should always be growing and developing, and therefore you don’t have to settle on one idea long-term. Manage your culture as a continuous process through small shifts, and your employees will stay happy and will want to be accountable to their work. Employees in a company with a good culture will hold themselves accountable to getting their own work done so they don’t let their co-workers down. A good boss doesn’t just give their employees the answer. Instead, they provide the tools their employees need to fix the problems themselves.


Giving your company a “cultural gut check”, if you will, is critical to inspiring employee accountability as an industry leader. If you follow this advice, you can be confident your company is staffed with hard-working, accountable leaders who will help reinforce a company culture of accountability and help your organization be successful.


Sarah Wolf is an Associate at RAS & Associates, a strategy and management consulting firm with fundamental values to deliver “Consulting Reimagined” to its clients.