We shortchange our employees when we associate accountability of remote employees with discipline. Often times what we perceive as a lack of accountability has its roots somewhere else.
At the end of the day, what you really want is to make sure your employees are helping the organization move toward achieving company goals and making a focused, tangible contribution.
Here are the first 7 of 15 ways to boost accountability, improve productivity and solve common problems employers are facing with employees working remotely. I’ll share the remaining 8 in the next post.
It All Starts With Communication
1. Daily group/team huddles – Nothing works better than staying in touch on a daily basis. Not to solve problems but to reinforce strategic activities. Keep the focus on ensuring day to day activities are geared toward long term goals.
2. Re-examine assumptions – In some companies, entire components of job duties have disappeared over the last three months. Industries are shut down, public and government institutions have deferred proceedings and employees are left to their own accord to filling up previously devoted time with something else.
Sometimes you just have to accept that what previously made up a full week of work for some of your key people just doesn’t exist right now.
If you’re tempted to lay off key people, one of my favorite authors, Kevin Maney, has written an article: History shows firing workers during an economic crisis is a mistake. The article talks about what IBM learned about company growth and employee contribution during the Great Depression of 1929.
Like IBM, you can choose to take the long view that employees are a contributing asset to strategic growth rather than a short term expense that can be pared down.
3. Explicit expectations – Take the time to list objectives you want from each of your direct reports and communicate it to them. Don’t tell them how, ask them what. Go over this list regularly to ensure that idea after idea is not being added to the list without others being removed to prevent my next point.
4. Overload – Productivity is not just about quantity of things being worked on but the quality of the end result. Overload destroys quality. Set challenging, yet reasonable and fair expectations. Solicit feedback and monitor assignments.
5. Head off excuses – People are going to complain. That’s a “good” consequence of creating a culture where employees feel safe to share ideas, thoughts and observations.
When complaining isn’t also accompanied by suggestions or the complaints are repetitious, you have to disengage and set a new tone for that employee. This is the exact situation that recently confronted a very successful client of mine. In this case, respond with: “Now what?” Do that half a dozen times and they’ll get the picture.
6. What does failure look like? Let your direct reports know that it isn’t all about success. It’s also about avoiding your definition of failure – usually behaviors as much as competencies. I came up with the idea of listing what failure looks like when determining critical roles and responsibilities for my people when I was running a manufacturing company. Most employees have no idea what you won’t tolerate.
7. Assign a buddy – Just like a workout partner at the gym, a worker buddy can really help people stay on track. If one of your reports is having difficulty staying focused on their tasks, suggest they approach a trusted peer to help them get unstuck.
There you go. The first 7 of 15 ways to address accountability of remote employees.