As you lead your field team, the single most important management skill is accountability. Unreliable employees cost companies between $450 billion and $550 billion every year in lost productivity, Gallup Business Journal reported. When those employees are responsible for presenting your products to shoppers, that impact can be especially devastating. Building a culture of accountability in your field team can help ensure everyone is committed to the same quality of work - no matter where they’re working from.
What Does Accountability Actually Mean?
Although many field managers claim to include accountability in their management recipe, few use the word for its true meaning. Forget the predominant notion of punishment for one-off events or transgressions. Employee accountability is truly defined as “the responsibility of employees to complete the tasks they are assigned, to perform the duties required by their job... in order to further the goals of the organization,” according to Time Well Scheduled.
Business is a continuous process, so holding your reps accountable must be as well. If tasks are not completed in a timely manner or performed properly, representatives should be held responsible for their actions and the consequential repercussions. Similarly, when reps hit targets and go above and beyond their responsibilities, be sure to commend them.
Why Bother With Accountability?
Accountability is critical to a brand’s success as a whole. Starting at the highest levels of the company - from CEO, to manager, to field rep - every employee is responsible for the productivity of the department and the company. Working together towards the same goals can not only make representatives more productive and efficient, but can also improve your business.
Improving productivity by just 0.01% a day can amount to a 26% more productive year, according to personal development coach Brian Tracy. When organized correctly, accountability can bring about valuable results such as improved performance, higher employee morale, and increased commitment to work.
These three simple methods can get you on track to a culture of accountability in the field:
1. Set Clear Expectations
Let your reps know what you expect of them before holding them accountable. Don’t assume they know what and when something is suppose to be done, or to what quality level. More than half of managers do not set clear and effective goals for their employees, a Towers Watson survey found. Setting clear expectations and goals up front helps avoid miscommunication and frustration surrounding “what was really expected.”
Here are a few tips you can use to set expectations that drive accountability:
Set goals tailored to each specific position and employee
Because cosmetic merchandisers specialize in presenting your product in brick and mortar locations, their success is tied to their use of photos and planograms. Your sales staff, on the other hand, is more concerned with lead nurturing, close rates, and customer relations. Make sure to set specific goals for each work group to make sure they’re striving to perform at their peak.
Expectations should be an ongoing conversation
Change is a big part of the consumer goods industry, meaning work is also constantly changing. Give reps constant and regular reports based on their progress to ensure work is conducted at its best and is aligned with shifting goals.
Establish short and long term goals.
Short-term goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. These short term goals are what will eventually lead to your long term goals - the bigger picture of what your company is trying to achieve. Exposing your team members to both what’s right in front of them and what’s coming down the road helps put their efforts into perspective.
2. Measure Progress
Goals are only measurable when they are quantified. By collecting information, you’ll be able to hold reps accountable and evaluate whether or not goals and expectations have been met. While its an important first step, there's more to measuring progress than simply gathering data. Try these tips to keep your team aligned as you march toward your goals:
Evaluate employee performance on an ongoing basis
Prioritize checking in with your representatives. Encourage your reps to give monthly, weekly, or even daily reports of the work they conduct - either in person or with a digital tool.
Include all aspects of work ethic and individual achievements
First, determine which qualities are most important to keep track of - whether it is a field rep’s time management, productivity, quality of task completed, or measure against objectives. Choose multiple ways of evaluation to ensure they don’t favor one type of employee over another.
Measure the results and compare them to goals to determine gaps
Your evaluation process should measure the results you obtain against a set of objectives. Gaps in data will show where reps are falling short during a work period. Managers that equip their teams with data collection software can get real time access to their team’s performance, making it easy to compare reps’ work to their goals.
3. Don’t Forget About Feedback
Two-way feedback between you and your field reps will open the door to constructive problem solving discussions and follow-up actions. Having honest conversations where you seek and accept feedback without defensiveness or excuses can build trust and relationships with your team. Here are three essentials for effective feedback:
Be honest and straight to the point
Avoid “beating around the bush.” Reps will find it difficult to improve quality of work if you fail to address their shortcomings.
Focus on the behavior, not the person
Critiques of behaviors are more easily accepted than critiques of personality or character. Focus your feedback on what your reps do, not who they are.
Don't forget the positive
Reinforcing good behavior will ensure those habits carry on in the future. Failing to give positive feedback can be detrimental to any team overall. Similarly, successful behavior that has not been reinforced with positive feedback can quickly disappear. Mangers who vocally recognized good work through compliments or offered suggestions on projects often had an increase in productivity by 8.9%, Gallup found.
After simply hearing an idea, people are only 10% likely to complete a task. When they are personally held accountable for that idea, however, they’re 95% likely to get it done, according to the American Society of Training and Development. It is this tremendous difference that makes accountability so important. So, to improve your chances of becoming a great leader in a great company, make accountability one of your top priorities.
Ameyna is a Content Marketing Journalist at Repsly. As a public relations professional, she is dedicated to providing readers with the original and compelling content. Ameyna is a DC-native always down for a game of hoops.