When it comes to being able to make employees take responsibility while working, companies need to take a multi-faceted approach to create an environment that makes it possible.
Failing to take responsibility can put dents in not just employee careers but also company bottom lines. A lack of employee responsibility puts unnecessary strain and stress on everyone involved.
However, it is good to remember that inherently, most people want to do good work. With this in mind, we know that companies must also fulfil their end of the bargain by creating spaces for employees to thrive.
Companies need to assess why their employees avoid responsibilities. They must also recognise how many of those reasons are within their sphere of influence. Unfortunately, there is no single method to make employees responsible overnight. However, several common concerns are definitely possible to alleviate through improvements in company policies and practices.
Why do some employees avoid responsibility?
Some employees begin as responsible but lose their ability to do so with time. This lack of motivation can be a product of several factors, some of which can be outside your company’s control. For example, some employees struggle with taking on responsibilities due to personal issues like health or relationships.
On the other hand, there are reasons which are also related to unhealthy work environments. There are a lot of things that companies do that influence employees to avoid responsibilities at work. Here are some of them.
- Poor motivation
- Bad leadership & processes
- No clarity on the role
- Unreasonable workloads
- Impossible deadlines
- Lack of resources
For these reasons, we know that avoiding responsibilities can be appropriate responses by employees to their environment. The good news is that these issues are not permanent.
Additionally, companies that manage to resolve these employee concerns reel in endless benefits in the long term.
Benefits of employees taking responsibility
Responsibility is a key aspect to acquiring new skills, improving performance, and becoming resilient at work. For employees, accepting responsibility opens a lot of doors for their individual growth.
Responsible employees can get more done in less time, manage their energy, and produce quality output. Overall, learning to be a responsible employee can allow them to work more efficiently and effectively.
On the other hand, companies also benefit from responsible employees by getting the most out of their investment. When employees are engaged and productive with their work, companies save on the tremendous costs of high turnovers like recruiting people and losing business knowledge.
With responsible employees, companies can build sustainable leadership pipelines. They can groom these performers for bigger and better roles. Teams can also build stronger bonds and trust each other to perform as expected. There is everything to gain for everyone involved. But, how do companies make employees more responsible?
Ways to make employees take responsibility when working
When it comes to making employees take responsibility, it’s not as simple as just asking them. Before an employee can be responsible without hesitation, companies need to employ a variety of methods. Here are a few of them.
Work with employees to build career road maps
Every employee will have their own vision of their future, whether it is with your company or outside of it. Before an employee can thrive, they need to sustain an interest in their particular role, the responsibilities that come with it, and how it fits in the grand scheme of things.
According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, employees who thrive are 32% more committed to their organisation than their peers. In the study, thriving has two components: vitality and learning.
By treating their current role as a stepping stone to prepare them for the next stage of their career or their dream jobs, companies show an interest in their growth as an individual. Through the career roadmap process, employees can frame their tasks through the lens of relevant skills and experiences.
While it’s impossible to assign employees compelling work all the time, it is possible to frame their experiences as a form of development for soft or hard skills. With this, seemingly unrelated tasks can be exercises in problem-solving, project management, and teamwork.
By putting their work into context, owning responsibilities can be treated as tools for their overall development and not just for the company’s benefit. Through working to maintain employee interest in their roles, it is easier to keep employees engaged in the gruelling but necessary daily tasks.
Set short term goals for their roles
In many instances, employees who would otherwise be interested in stepping up may avoid it due to fear of underperforming. Many of them feel like they have big shoes to fill and lack the confidence to do so.
In order to reduce employee hesitance with taking on responsibility, it is necessary to manage their initial feelings of being overwhelmed. To do so, managers should help break down seemingly impossible goals into smaller, less intimidating tasks.
According to Trello, micro productivity is the small habit that leads to big wins. Through systematically teaching employees how to solve one problem at a time, they become aware of the best ways to approach them. In fact, this process of slowly overcoming tasks helps employees become accustomed to the feeling of accomplishment.
Once employees experience the satisfaction of completing tasks regularly, they will less likely be afraid of the challenges that come with responsibility.
Establish reasonable timelines and deliverables
Oftentimes, employees reject responsibility when they believe that they have limited control over its output. This lack of control stems from the fact that what may appear fair to leadership, managers, and other decision-makers may not be the same for the people implementing them.
Impossible targets, conflicting strategies, and tight deadlines convince employees to shy away from taking responsibility. If they don’t believe in the process, they will struggle to deliver good results.
To encourage employees to take responsibility, companies must involve them in meetings that determine timelines, targets, and deliverables. With this, employees can voice concerns early regarding what is fair and possible given their experience.
When employees feel part of the decision-making process, taking accountability for their output is the next logical step.
Provide employees the resources necessary to succeed
Whether due to resigning co-workers or company restructuring, many employees become responsible for more than what they believe they are qualified to do. In fact, many of them may even feel like they’re doing tasks unrelated to the role they signed on.
Because of this, many employees struggle with never-ending scope increases with little to no company support. When tasks are perceived to be above employee capacity, many will be hesitant to be responsible for it. A lack of skills, experience, and company support is a recipe for failure, even for the most committed team members.
To temper employee fears about new or growing responsibilities, companies need to invest in resources like training, coaching and mentoring. With this, they know that while they may not be qualified right away, they will be eventually. When companies invest in up-skilling their employees, they can equip employees to solve the various problems they have to face.
Companies should designate the appropriate budget to acquire the necessary tools to succeed. By providing devices required for their work and quickly helping them resolve issues like slow Macs, they can have more time for what matters.
When given the necessary support, many employees are willing to rise to the occasion. However, for this to happen, employees need the freedom to work through their responsibilities. They need to work without fear of being abandoned or unjustly reprimanded.
Design fair feedback processes
One of the biggest fears that employees have when taking on responsibility is what happens when they fall short of expectations. Designing fair feedback processes is essential to creating safe spaces for employees. When employees feel safe, they can take more risks and responsibilities.
Employers should give fair and regular feedback to their employees. This feedback should put into context their business environment and the limitations involved. Employees must be able to understand what they’re doing wrong before a problem becomes critical.
Employees need to be able to share their thoughts, opinions, and grievances objectively. Through critical feedback, employees can take on responsibility with guidance throughout unfamiliar processes or experiences.
Reward responsible employees
While responsible employees are likely to experience internal growth, a little external validation helps positively reinforce their habits.
For employees that manage to overcome the hurdles of taking responsibility, companies should take the time to reward them appropriately. There are two ways in which companies can incentivise responsible employees – praise and compensation.
Praising individuals who perform well publicly helps increase their accountability among their peers and managers. They are encouraged to continue their behaviour and stand as an example to other employees. Praising employees can be done through a private conversation with their managers or a team email.
Lastly, employee rewards can also come with performance-related bonuses such as cash, devices, and educational benefits for responsible employees. As many people find satisfaction from tangible rewards, increased compensation can help employees justify going the extra mile.
While honing responsible employees may appear challenging, it’s well worth the effort for many companies. Thankfully, there are several working ways to make employees take responsibility that you can implement.
Here are the six ways that companies can try to do to improve employee responsibility:
- Work with employees to build career roadmaps
- Set short term goals for their roles
- Establish reasonable timelines and deliverables
- Provide employees the resources necessary to succeed
- Design fair feedback processes
- Reward responsible employees
By following these steps, you can make sure that your employees grow in the ways that matter to them and your company stays productive at the same time.
About the Author
Emily Doxon is a freelance content writer covering articles about business, technology and lifestyle. She is passionate about discovering new and creative ways to write about complicated stuff in simple words.