The Cambridge Dictionary defines accountability as, ‘the fact of being responsible for what you do and able to give a satisfactory reason for it, or the degree to which this happens,’ highlights Antoine Andrews.

In the workplace, this definition—at a high level—translates to taking responsibility for the work you produce, the decisions you make, and accomplishing the tasks you’ve set out to do.

However, if we reflect inward and look a bit deeper than the highest level, we can see that accountability is more than just owning up to your mistakes and missteps, or completing your work on time. It is the way in which we create an increased commitment to work with our employees in a purposeful way to develop stronger relationships between team members.

The strategies we enact in order to increase job satisfaction and morale are essential to creating that environment. At its very essence, accountability is a key pillar to business success, creating a more productive and focused work environment.

So, why are businesses still struggling to ignite accountability for their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) teams and policies?

In the world of DEI, we are all accountable. As companies strive for a culture of collaboration and mutual responsibility, it’s vitally important they consider these steps to ensure accountability is weaved within and thoroughly reflected throughout DEI efforts across the board.

Anticipate resistance

Where there is change, there will be resistance. For those already working on DEI and social impact strategies, the purpose and importance of that work is already front and centre. However, it can be a challenge for DEI teams to have other employees across the organisation grasp the true impact of these actions and understand how they also impact them.

To create change and widespread accountability for DEI initiatives, employees must understand that these efforts are a part of their everyday responsibilities. Having DEI goals baked into employee progress reviews, just as other elements of their work are, can help reinforce the message that DEI and social impact teams are the stewards, not the owners, of this work. While this may lead some individuals to fear that this new expectation will have an effect on their productivity and take away from their daily tasks, it is quite the opposite and can spark a mentality change.

The more informed individuals become about the impacts of DEI and social impact efforts, the more curious they will be and the more knowledgeable they will feel by their place within the company. One recognition I have seen firsthand is that they are more than just their daily tasks, they are a part of shaping something much bigger than them. And that is impactful. See, this is how you turn resistance into shared accountability.

It is worth noting, change does take time and it requires measurement.

Measure, measure, measure

Cultivating shared accountability means there is an aspect of holding others, as well as yourself, accountable. This can only be done by measuring progress. To effectively measure progress, you need to do it regularly and via a number of different methods, the most important being feedback.

Employee feedback offers a wealth of insights and information that can be used to vet current strategies and business decisions. However, feedback is more than just a simple touch point once every six months. It is regular personalised check-ins focused on your employees’ own lived experiences. Encouraging 1:1 meetings where conversations are focused on their wellbeing and offer a safe space for any concerns creates a sense of belonging, while also allowing companies to measure diversity beyond representation.

It is also crucial that managers are encouraged to ask difficult questions and have uncomfortable conversations at times. Honest feedback paves the path to growth, and this can only come from asking the right questions and being open to listening to employees’ responses.

Allow room for mistakes and success

We’re all human and people stumble numerous times on their journey towards success. It’s important that this isn’t forgotten when creating a culture of accountability. Change will mean there will be instances where individuals out-perform and under-perform on their goals. It might also mean teams will collaborate in new and wonderful ways, but not without occasional friction. The list goes on, yet one thing is certain: ultimately, change will bring together passionate, inspired, like-minded employees who want to make a difference.

Businesses that prioritise accountability have the opportunity to open the door to new ways of thinking, which can lead to better decision-making and increased innovation. I encourage all of my readers to celebrate the small things, pick people up when they fall, and show grace to teams who are settling into a new way of thinking about DEI and social impact. We can accomplish more when we work together.


Antoine Andrews is Chief Diversity & Social Impact Officer at SurveyMonkey.