Stop Making Excuses: Building a Culture of Accountability with WORKetc

You can't force accountability on people, but you can definitely help them learn it. Here's how you can use WORKetc to help you build a team of highly accountable people.

WORKetc Small Business CRM accountability

I have a deep aversion to buzzwords.

So deep, in fact, that we actually have an internal document listing all of the words that we don’t want appearing anywhere near the WORKetc blog.

Still, there are some buzzwords that do have weight behind them.

One such word is “accountability”: owning your work as well as all of the responsibilities and problems that come along with it.

It’s one of those words that gets thrown around the office all the time.

Yes, it’s become a buzzword, but it’s one that can actually make or break a company.

Now, a workplace where everyone is highly accountable would probably be something like heaven to an owner.

Everyone knows what has to be done, they all show initiative, they all take responsibility for their projects and processes.

Of course, such a highly accountable workforce isn’t something that coalesces overnight. In fact, even one intrinsically accountable employee is probably as rare as a half-unicorn, half-writer.

The good news is that you don’t have to scour the world looking for that one person who has the drive and sense of responsibility that you need.

You can instead start turning your office environment into one that breathes accountability.

Accountability can’t be forced on people, but it can definitely be learned. Here’s how.

Define Everyone’s Roles Clearly

People struggle with taking ownership of their work when their roles are left ambiguous.

How can you expect to make one of your salespeople accountable if you haven’t told them exactly what the scope of their job is?

Clearly defined roles help eliminate confusion and reduce overlap, which in turn leads to less time wasted.

This isn’t just for the benefit of the person in question; it’s for everybody else’s too.

In his book, Building Productive Teams, Glenn H. Varney observes that making sure everyone in a team knows what everyone else is responsible for helps build strength and mutual support.

Here, you can use WORKetc’s built-in knowledge base module to make sure that every single member of your team has their roles defined clearly and concisely.

WORKetc Small Business CRM knowledge base

Using the knowledge base, you can create an employee manual that contains internal processes for everything from how to handle sales and support to naming conventions.

Let’s say your IT business has a very busy support team. Day in, day out, you create a lot of screencasts to help remote clients

To keep everything uniform and easy to search, you can create internal document on the knowledge base that covers everything from screencast format and naming conventions to which videos will be publicly accessible.

The same goes for a digital design company. You can create an internal style guide to help newbies acclimate to how your company approaches design, for example, or compile stock image site links and login details in one document.

Make your performance tracking process clear

Be very specific with your expectations. Spell them out vividly right from the start so you and your employees are in mutual agreement.

Next, make sure to let your employees know that their performance will be measured using only those expectations and requirements you spelled out and nothing else.

Using the description fields in projects and tasks can prove essential here.

WORKetc Small Business CRM task descriptions

Even when you have naming conventions down to a science, a newbie thrown into the deep end would still be confused if there aren’t any descriptions laying out exactly what a task assigned to them is all about.

Let’s say you run a digital design company. For each logo design task, you can include specifics in the descriptions such as what format the final deliverables should be.

If a client has very specific instructions that don’t apply to a majority of your projects, you can also include these in the descriptions to make sure whoever gets assigned to the project knows exactly what is expected from them.

If your standard practice is to deliver scalable vector files so clients can easily resize them, for example, but one particular client wants everything to be raster images set to a specific print size, then make sure to include that information in that client’s projects.

It could save you and your design team from the headaches and embarrassment of delivering the files in the wrong format.

Now, being detailed is good, but don’t go overboard. Just remember to follow the S.M.A.R.T. rule: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-sensitive.

An easy way to keep the descriptions short and concise is to use them in tandem with the knowledge base and add links to more in-depth articles.

Make it a team effort

I mentioned mutual support earlier, and one way to build that kind of office culture is to make your company processes and protocols promote cooperation.

This is the environment that most efficient teams thrive in. Let them collaborate, communicate, and discuss so they can focus on team goals instead of individual ones. This can help bring about a sense of peer accountability.

VitalSmarts, whose name you may recall from one of our user success stories, asserts that peer accountability is one of the best workplace practices that any company can foster.

WORKetc’s core features encourage this kind of environment. The activity history, for one, already does this by keeping track of every single thing you do for a client.

WORKetc Activity Stream

If you’re running an IT support business, for example, one of your support agents can take a quick look at a client’s activity history to see what other support agents as well as your technicians have done for that client.

If there’s a problem with a solid-state drive that one of your techs installed last week, for example, you can quickly pinpoint which tech did the job by checking for activities logged against that client record.

You can also promote team communication and accountability by using project stages.

Let’s say your company develops mobile apps. To promote full accountability across your development team, for every bug fix task, you can add a “For Review” stage.

When the issue is fixed by one of your developers, they can switch that task’s stage to “For Review” and then send a discussion message to the support agent who logged the bug.

That support agent can then go ahead and confirm if the bug has really been fixed, reply to the discussion, and change the task stage to “Review Passed” or “Review Failed” as needed.

By using these project stages, everyone can help keep themselves accountable—not just to their bosses, but to their colleagues as well.

WORKetc Small Business CRM project stages

Remember: It’s not about blame and punishment

Fostering a culture of fear may work for mechanical day-to-day tasks in the short term, but you’ll lose out on so much more: employee initiative, innovation, and ultimately, good people.

The ultimate goal in creating a culture of accountability is to create an organization able to learn, adapt, and evolve. You need to see what works and what doesn’t—and you need people who have the initiative and freedom to tell you what they think.

How do you use WORKetc to promote accountability? Share your tips with the community below.


Wednesday 23, Aug 2017 4:09 PM

For us, the number one accountability method is the timesheets. Being able to see how long someone was on a project and (when properly entered) what tasks they were working on helps keep us all on track. The other important way is having all our support cases go through WORKetc. Nobody falls through the cracks and there is a record of what anyone says (very useful when someone tries to pull a fast one).

Melissa Bailey
Thursday 24, Aug 2017 8:18 AM

We recently integrated our created department into WORK[etc] and the accountability factor has proved highly successful for this team in particular. Especially for creatives, I feel like deadlines become ambiguous and since many on the operations side (myself included) don’t want to stifle the creative mind, we’ve tended to left projects open ended. Now that we’ve integrated that department into WORK[etc] and created templates for creative project requests that include minimum timelines, work is being produced at a faster rate and creativity is flourishing within the healthy borders that have been put in place.

Thursday 24, Aug 2017 10:26 PM

What I like about WorkEtc is the transparency – before all communication with customers was done by mail and you can’t see the history of someone else’s conversation.
Now we can dig up an old task or support ticket and trace back the whole history. I find it important to stress this is not to blame someone, but to learn from our mistakes, whether or not they were made by my or by a colleague.

Margaret Mack
Saturday 26, Aug 2017 2:37 AM

My favorite feature of Worketc is in the product function. I assign every new task to a specific user. After I create a project, I open a discussion (Within the project) where the whole team can discuss what is going on. In addition, you can parse out projects to show when one portion cannot be completed until another portion is done first- this creates deadlines and further accountability that I have seen to work great.
I agree with ChristopheJ- the transparency of Worketc works great because no one can hide and get off without doing anything.

William Mullane
Wednesday 30, Aug 2017 12:36 AM

I want to see your list of forbidden buzzwords!

As a consulting organization with a narrow and well defined target market, client data is golden to TechHelp. WORKetc has enabled us to put all of our client data in one place and work diligently as a team to keep it clean and accurate. We LOVE the discussion feature of WORKetc. It is especially useful for client related issues. Maybe a client email bounces or a potential new client that has moved to our area. Our team members now know they can start a discussion about the issue right from the contact in question with the people who need to know. Awesome! (oops, banned buzz)

Keith Klein
Tuesday 28, Nov 2017 8:13 PM

Well done article on accountability.

I want to see your list of forbidden buzzwords, too!

Specifying high standards from the outset prevents mishaps and demands documentation. For example, when setting up a new email account, we insist on getting a reply from the client to a test message. The job is not complete until we get that reply! (The best documentation we can have that the email works!) What good is saying the job is done if the client can’t login to their mail? Standard test message forms help, and a clear “how-to” – with the reasoning behind it included – discourage shortcuts (shortcuts that lead to potential failure – and a lack of documentation).

Accountability starts at the top. Project templates represent our way of not “reinventing the wheel”. A well-done template takes a lot of time. However, that time is made up by the second job, if not the first, both in time-saved not having to repeat oneself and in getting the job done right the first time. Good templates set the standard for consistency as well, no matter who does the job.

Detailed to-dos with Knowledge Base articles to back them up encourage associates to ‘get it right the first time’…and explain our reasoning, which I believe empowers associates to think, and perhaps to offer extended “reasoning”, rather than just being a cog in the wheel.

You mention the proverbial “newbie thrown into the deep end.” We do our best to familiarize new associates with our documented protocols (thanks, WorkEtc!) before they start job one. In fact, new associates commonly train on WorkEtc for a hundred hours or more (self-paced) before they’re assigned their first task for a client.

It’s good to see thoughtful reflections on a product intrinsic to our success.

Keith Klein

    Steve Westrop
    Tuesday 12, Dec 2017 3:55 AM

    Thanks for this Keith – I always love to hear how our customers are doing things. Knowledgebase is a great resource with new staff and a crucial way of keeping processes clear across the board. I’m a huge fan of video though, and I’d recommend embedding a brief screencast video into those articles if you can. Not so easy then if things change, but can be a huge help for someone who’s been sat down in front of alien app and expected to make it work 😉

    We used to do this a lot with our consulting packages, but we never push these and I quite miss setting up these guides to be honest. You’ve brought back some great memories with this post!

      Keith Klein
      Tuesday 12, Dec 2017 4:31 AM

      Thanks for your comments, Steve. Excellent thought = creating videos for the knowledge base! Great extension of your WorkEtc User Guide (especially videos with them) – so our team can get an example of our SOPs. Thanks!

Nicole Watt
Saturday 9, Dec 2017 6:05 AM

I love the innovative ways you presented using Work[etc] for accountability. As a 2-person shop, much does not apply (yet), but we find that the tool works on a few levels for us. First, we use the system to capture conversations with customers. We’re always looking back to see what we discussed when it’s time for a project to start. Those conversations usually occur months before we actually begin, so there’s no need to remember because we can look it up!
We also use the Knowledge Base to create articles for our customers. It makes it easy to send the article vs. having to write instructions over and over. Great idea to use it for capturing job roles/responsibilities too! I just added a “to do” to create articles that outline the different benefits for our maintenance subscribers!

Friday 15, Dec 2017 6:28 AM

While I think the knowledge base needs help from the customer portal view point – it is still the way we get the word out and the how to’s out. We love video and all of our new documentation for the past year have been embedding short 2 to 5 minute (no longer) videos of how to’s. If they encompass an entire module of our product we call it a “Video Series on XYZ”. The accountability starts with – watch the videos, then ask us any questions you may have. If you have not watched the videos first – we can’t help you. And that is both internal with our employees and external with our clients. Our clients have to own their education as much as we do.

Sam Goodwin
Saturday 16, Dec 2017 3:47 AM

This is a good article. Roles and responsibilities are huge in my area. We have our administrative items down to each day. We put that information on the knowledge base. This gives the admin, step by step what needs to be completed and how to complete it. We have even recorded a few videos showing how to complete some of the more difficult task. Also setting a reasonable time frame of when to get items completed by.

David Towers
Friday 22, Dec 2017 1:39 PM

We used to take every call as if it was a new job and whoever answered the job would liaise with the client (basically starting from scratch each time) with Worketc agents can quickly audit who has been dealing with the customer and pass the call on to that person so the wheel doesnt need to be re-invented everytime. And that Agent is responsible for (and understands their responsibility for) that client/work order until its completion.

Megan Vangelist
Saturday 23, Dec 2017 1:15 AM

We have a small group of people so our jobs are pretty well defined. However, being able to use the flags and stages when communicating between our different departments is a great tool because it helps us know what needs to be done first or what can wait until later. We are then better able to support our clients and ourselves as a company.

Jonathan Hickman
Friday 12, Jan 2018 10:31 PM

I do not think accountability has made it into the list of buzzwords yet, and I hope it never does because that devalues its importance. We have been using WorkEtc for a long time now, and we think it does a good job of role separation. An important aspect of accountability is ensuring that everyone knows what they are supposed to do, and separating their roles allows everyone to stay on course.

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