Why accountability is the key to increased profits

- April 5, 2017 2 MIN READ

If we take business performance and success seriously, we need to know how it’s performing, and not just guess or assume. And that means measuring. But too many small businesses think this means measuring staff. The idea is that when staff are measured, they perform better. And when staff perform better, the business performs better. But there’s a flaw in this logic.

Here are four ways to redefine accountability in the workforce and get a better result.

Try a new approach 

Measuring people’s performance tends not to directly lead to increased company profits. But that’s not to say that staff performance should not be evaluated and improved. Staff should also be accountable for your small businesses results. What’s needed is a new logic about the relationship between staff performance and business results.

Measuring staff drives the opposite

The way that performance measurement and performance improvement is practiced will have a direct impact on the culture that emerges. When KPIs (key performance indicators) are strictly used to manage staff performance, it can tend to prevent a ‘high-performance culture’ because it directs staff attention to self-preservation, and not to creativity, innovation and collaboration. If you want a true high-performance culture, you need a fundamental shift in the relationship between measures and people.

Accountability is about behaviour

When accountability is framed to drive the right behaviour, it can create a positive performance culture. Rather than holding people accountability for hitting targets, instead hold them accountable for three specific behaviours:

Behaviour 1: They directly measure and monitor the important results they are responsible for, such as problem resolution or accuracy of advice or eliminating rework.
Behaviour 2: They validly interpret the measures they own, analysing objective feedback about how their results are changing over time.
Behaviour 3: They initiate action when action is required, to work on their processes, and to improve their results.

Measures are a tool for staff to use

KPIs or performance measures play a central role in this model of accountability, but a fundamentally different role to the old model. Rather than monitoring how staff are performing, measures are used to monitor process results and diagnose how to elevate process performance. Staff can then embrace accountability as the practice of problem solving, not judgment or blame.

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