Business Advisory Blog

How Do I Make My Employees Accountable?

I’ve heard the term “accountability” probably only second to cash flow/profit over my 30 plus years of working with privately held and publicly traded companies. I’m often told, “I hired them for their experience and expertise, they know their jobs, but I just get what I get…not what I want”.

The fallacy is that when you leave it up to your employees to determine “what good is”, you simply get their “good” (potentially multiple little businesses ongoing with no risk…except to you as the owner), not YOUR GOOD.  Assuming that your definition of “good” is valid (keeps you in business) and achievable (not impossible or benchmarked to constant 100% performance), whether in construction, manufacturing, distribution, or services, if you can’t clearly define YOUR GOOD in terms of critical processes to be performed, financial and operational standards linked to HOW YOU MAKE MONEY, have the ability to measure those results by critical process, and link the results to how the employee makes money, you simply can’t create ACCOUNTABILITY.  In simpler terms the employee has to know precisely what they are accountable for daily/weekly/by job (standards or benchmarks based on the specific job or process); when they have to look to know if what their doing is working under your definition of “good” (via reports or simple observation); and to whom they have to communicate the results of their observation of good or bad to defined timelines.

In construction, the bible is the awarded estimate.  When broken down into daily/weekly/job specific standards for project managers and field personnel, a measurable control is established. You evaluate your estimators based on results of bid to award (bid log), total dollars, margins, and field feedback.  If there is a problem with the bid that gets past your pre-start meetings with the project managers, supervisors, and/or lead foreman, the accountable feedback is to estimating to correct future bids and for the field crew to seek ways of mitigating the problem.  If profits exceed expectations, understand why you are winning and how to repeat it, feed the information back to estimating so they can focus on more of that type of work.

There is no perfection in business, just a constant accountability to respond to problems or potential problems so as to mitigate the time they last and to maximize great jobs.  In reality, problems that go on even an extra day or week (more often longer) cost money, cash flow, and profits whether in the field or in estimating.  Accountability means I know what “your good” is, I recognize and accept that it is achievable, and I work to maximize that which is working and respond to correct or mitigate problems within an “urgent” timeline.

The pennies and dollars mount up.  If you focus on what the profit and cash flow should be ruthlessly (intense focus) at all key levels, profits will increase along with your cash flow forever.