The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly thrown a wrench in our best-laid plans for 2020. Many organizations have found themselves completely off-course, with drastically different goals or priorities for the company than they originally set in January.
Now, as we see this year come to a close, organizations that have needed to adapt — whether by going completely remote, implementing a digital evolution overnight, or reskilling employees to fit the current environment — have done so. Simply by adjusting and acclimating in order to get through this year, we’ve already built the habits we need to execute on new objectives in 2021, but accountability in the workplace will be truly essential to the quality of the work employees produce, and will also be crucial for building strong employee relationships.
Though your workforce may still be working from home, or you may have lingering financial challenges at your company, you can still promote a culture of accountability around business objectives in 2021.
Keep Goals Visible and Present
In these last several months, many CEOs and business leaders have learned the importance of connecting with employees in the form of frequent all-company check-ins or more transparency with the workforce around company financial performance. This new focus on visibility, connection and mutual trust can be carried over as you draft objectives and priorities for 2021, and the best way to do that is to keep your goals as top-of-mind as possible.
Leaders can easily find ways to point back to company goals in any virtual company meeting or important presentation; keeping goals actively on the agenda will reinforce the idea that they’re an ongoing action item. Many organizations no longer have the physical office space to post reminders or key points in public spaces, so using remote communications will help keep company goals as relevant as possible. Even in smaller team meetings, managers can support the company’s goals by making an active effort to keep those topics alive and well.
Outside of team meetings, company-wide communication will be key — using messaging platforms, email, and other delivery channels to promote your company goals and make them a part of the ongoing conversation will be a huge necessity for a digital, dispersed workforce in 2021.
Connect Individual Goals to the Bigger Picture
Every employee wants to feel that their work is meaningful, and that they’re contributing to the overall success of the business — for some, this sentiment is more important than a higher salary. It can often be tricky to directly connect every individual development goal to a larger business objective, and if this is the case for your workforce, it may be an indicator to adjust those individual objectives in a way that’s more clearly cascaded from the top down.
These aligned individual goals can help managers, too, as they set expectations for their team members and bring a sense of accountability down to an individual level. This level-setting is critical, given that a Gallup study found that only 50% of employees strongly indicate that they know what’s expected of them at work, which makes individual accountability a difficult but necessary first step.
As this connection between individual and company objectives becomes more direct, employees will be more likely to feel a sense of intrinsic motivation in their own productivity, rather than completing tasks with a checklist mindset. Ensure that your managers are prepared and feel supported in this effort — use digital communications to provide them with coaching resources for goal discussions, as well as a consistent tool or rubric for aligned goal setting across the organization.
Build a Culture of Trust
Accountability is a two-way street; it’s not just about managers ensuring employees are on-task and working productively, it’s also about employees giving feedback to the company and business leaders about how they’re performing on those larger goals. Consider employee surveys, team feedback sessions, or other ways to collect comprehensive feedback data from your workforce about any pain-points or concerns when it comes to the company’s performance or goals in 2021.
Then, take that feedback a step further and prove you’re listening; regularly bring up those same pain-points in group discussions and company meetings, and use messaging around how you’re working on them. Ask yourself: Are these employee concerns fixable on a team or manager level? Are there any specific wins that can be called out in support of our objectives? Does the company feel like a unified team as we work toward these goals, and if not, how can we develop that feeling of connection? Your acknowledgement and action in this cycle of two-way communication is crucial to building a company culture of trust and true teamwork.
Accountability at a company takes time and effort to establish, and while we may not know what 2021 will bring, we have the framework and habits in place to set strong goals and stick to them. This sense of group responsibility relies heavily on your ability to clearly communicate (and re-communicate) your goals and objectives for the year, and work with teams on a company-wide basis to develop aligned, connected goals at the organization, department, team and individual level. Transparency and visibility along the way can help you foster a company culture of trust and connection to the bigger picture and will contribute immensely to individual productivity.
When employees feel they are an important, trusted piece of the puzzle, their engagement and motivation see positive effects, and your company goals move forward too. To truly see success and progress on your objectives in 2021, you’ll need a communication plan that brings the whole company with you.