Accountability In The Workplace: What It Is And Why You Need It

Discover exactly what accountability is, how it can transform your organization, and how to make your business more accountable.

August 4, 2022
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Nobody’s perfect.

We all make mistakes – and that doesn’t change when we step into the office in the morning. Even the most honest and hard-working employee is going to make the wrong call, miss a deadline, or put their foot in it every now and then. That’s just life.

What sets the most successful organizations apart is that their people take personal accountability for their slip-ups. They admit they made a mistake, dust themselves off, and learn from it. 

Create a culture of accountability in your organization and you can benefit from a workforce that owns its missteps, reflects on them, and becomes better off for them.

Read on to discover exactly what accountability is, how it can transform your organization, and how to make your business more accountable.

What is accountability in the workplace?

Accountability in the workplace is when your people make commitments and stick to them. Part of that is holding their hands up and admitting when they’ve fallen short of the commitments they’ve made to their colleagues.

Examples of accountability in the workplace include:

  • A corporate commitment an organization makes to diversify its workforce (like Adidas's).
  • A manager committing to embodying the ten traits of an effective leader.
  • An employee committing to own a KPI and take the lead on making sure it gets hit.

Why is accountability good in the workplace?

It’s impossible for an organization to thrive without accountability. Accountability is what gives deadlines and objectives meaning. If no one is held to task for falling short, then why try? 

Without a culture of accountability, an employee might not think there’s any point in flagging that they’re constantly having to pick up the slack caused by a teammate that isn’t pulling their weight. Then you might end up losing your top performers to organizations that do hold their staff accountable.

And as the old adage goes: people don’t quit jobs, they quit bosses. If managers aren’t held accountable for giving their reports autonomy and making sure they’re recognised, employee engagement is bound to suffer.

And if your organization hasn’t committed to firm goals, your employees won’t have a common cause to rally behind. Set an ambitious and transparent goal that your team is accountable for achieving and they’ll have a cause to rally behind – a key ingredient of employee engagement.

Try Assembly to make it easy for your whole organization to keep track of your organization’s objectives.  

What are the four steps to accountability? 

You can’t create a culture of accountability overnight.

But you can follow these four simple steps to bake accountability into every level of your organization as quickly as possible:

  1. Get clear on what “accountability” means in your organization 

The first hurdle most organizations need to overcome is defining how your leaders and employees are expected to be accountable to be one another – and exactly what that’s going to look like.

So, your first step is to define:

  • How your people should make commitments to one another, 
  • What they should make commitments about, 
  • How they should measure and report progress on their commitments,
  • How much ownership they should be expected to take to get things done.

Bake this into your company culture (and your onboarding process) and every employee will know what’s expected of them and their colleagues. 

Book a demo of Assembly to make it easy to document your accountability guidelines.

  1. Get clear on your goals

You can’t expect your people to hold themselves accountable to achieving individual goals if your organization hasn’t committed to its own clear objectives. 

And yet 85% of workers say they aren’t even sure what their organization is trying to achieve – and 33% that their priorities change frequently. 

You can’t expect your employees to feel accountable to goals that are badly defined and constantly changing. If your teammates can’t see how their responsibilities help achieve your business’s wider objectives, they’re not going to feel accountable for getting them over the line. What’s the point, after all?

Defining your company’s goals and connecting them to each team’s day-to-day responsibilities is therefore an essential step in creating a culture of accountability across your organization.

  1. Get clear on what accountability means for your leaders

84% of workers say the way leaders behave is the single most important factor influencing accountability in their organizations. But just 15% of leaders have successfully clearly defined and broadly communicated their key results.

Your employees will do as your organization’s leaders do, not what they say. That means your senior staff need to lead by example when it comes to accountability.

If your business’s leaders can be transparent, admit when they’ve made a mistake, and listen to feedback, then their reports are a lot more likely to follow their lead. Get accountability right at the top of the corporate ladder and it trickles down.

  1. Get clear on what accountability means for employees

Accountability only counts for something if your colleagues feel like they can hold each other – and their leaders – to the commitments they make. 

If an employee misses a deadline it can cause a huge headache for their teammates. And if your staff don’t feel like they can take each other to task for those kinds of slip-ups then you don’t have an accountable organization.

But 82% of workers say they either try but fail to hold their colleagues accountable or avoid it altogether. And if no one ever gets held accountable for dropping the ball, then why try?

For an organization to be truly accountable, you need to encourage open and honest lines of communication across your teams. A team retrospective after each project is a great starting point (here’s how to create a simple Team Retrospective workflow in Assembly). Encouraging your employees to take accountability for where they might have fallen short during the project – and suggesting areas their teammates might need to take accountability – is an incredibly effective way of creating a more accountable company culture. 

Try Assembly to make team retrospectives straightforward.  

The importance of accountability in the workplace really can’t be understated. Your organization’s leaders, managers, and employees all being held accountable for their commitments and responsibilities is the foundation of any successful business. Without it, you’ll struggle to get anything done and your employees are unlikely to be engaged.

Follow the four steps we’ve laid out in this article to make sure people are fully accountable across every level of your business.

Browse our Free Employee Recognition Guide

Get the foundational knowledge on creating an employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and helps them feel valued.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do and for FREE! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

Could find the answer you are looking for?

Please schedule time with an expert and we will help you to get all your questions answered