Volume 49, Issue 3 - March 2014

Best Practices

Are You Accountable?
Empower Employees to Help Increase Profits
by Richard Voreis

The theme of our discussions is how to be more successful in challenging times. Employee empowerment is a hot topic and certainly is important in today’s challenging business environment. Without accountability within the organization, the top executive or owner ends up being the only one held accountable. I don’t think this is the right way to run a business and hopefully you also agree.

Measuring Accountability
If I came to your company and interviewed a representative number of your employees, how would they answer this question: What are the company’s top priorities for this year?

I’m sure that most employees want to see it succeed, but I often find employees have difficulty expressing what the company wants and what they are expected to do to contribute to its success. This is a symptom of lacking clearly communicated goals and not establishing employee accountability for reaching them. Employee focus, empowerment and accountability must be established to drive and sustain results and success.

The lack of such goals is often a major problem. During a recent consulting engagement the interviewees were asked: “What are the company’s top priorities for this year?” Responses received included:

• Increase sales;
• Don’t know; no idea; never heard of any;
• Become a Fortune 500 company;
• Develop processes and procedures;
• Implement a system of controls;
• Improve profitability;
• Improve efficiencies;
• Get organized;
• Complete projects;
• Priorities change extremely often;
• Nothing in writing; and
• I don’t know.

While many people mentioned some company top priorities, many were different, most responses were not specific and others were just disappointing, such as “I don’t know.” My feeling was these employees were basing their responses on personal assumptions rather than what they have been told.

Additionally, not one employee mentioned any measurable priorities. For example, measurable priorities would be to increase sales or profits by a specific dollar amount or percentage increase.

Personal Action Plans
On a closely related matter, here are some additional accountability questions for you to think about. If I interviewed a representative number of your staff what would they say with respect to the following questions: What are you doing to support the company top priorities? What are your personal action plans or personal objectives to drive success at your company?

Everyone wants the company to succeed, but many employees have difficulty expressing what they do to contribute to its success.

Not too long ago, on a consulting engagement in the glass industry, I asked these same questions and got the following responses:

• Nothing specific;
• Nothing in writing;
• Nothing formal;
• Spend more time at my job;
• Do the best I can do;
• Set a good example for others to follow;
• Be proactive;
• Plan ahead; and
• Refine job costing.

Most of the responses were very general in nature or just disappointing. As with the top priorities I discussed earlier in this article, the answers were not very specific, not measurable and in most cases didn’t address how the personal objectives would be accomplished.

Additionally, no one had any written personal objectives or action plans that would indicate accountability. Action plans drive accountability and generate great results.

It was clear this company did not have an effective management system in place to focus employees on the success of the company and how each employee makes it happen.

What do you think your employees would say about their personal action plans? Are your employees accountable?

Richard Voreis is the founder and CEO of Consulting Collaborative in Dallas. His column appears bi-monthly. Email him at rdvoreis@consulting-collaborative.com and read his blog on Wednesdays at http://dollarsandsense.usglassmag.com.


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