Let me guess, Canadian, right?

As an American living in Scotland, I’ve been asked this pretty often. I can understand the confusion – to the untrained eye and ear, our cultures and accents are very similar. Similar but not the same.

In a way, Ownership and Accountability are the Americans and Canadians of the employee engagement arena.

Similar but not the same.
So, what’s the difference and why does it matter?

Being accountable is part of every job description. It’s performing our roles as our managers and the organisation require us to do so. It’s inspected via KPIs, reviews, and feedback. No matter what our job is, we’re being held accountable in some fashion, whether we choose to be or not. It’s inherently extrinsic.

Conversely, taking ownership is inherently intrinsic. It is 100% an individual choice which cannot be mandated. It is also the sweet spot. And every organisation should not only hope for this with their workforce but should endeavour to help their employees find it.

When employees take ownership an organisation reaps the benefits of discretionary effort, high levels of engagement, low turnover, increased innovation efforts, and investment in the business success.

So, what can organisations do to encourage ownership?

In the most simplistic terms, we can break it down to three things that we, as employees, value: culture, respect, and participation.
First of all, we want to work with an organisation whose culture is aligned with our own beliefs and ethics. I do not mean personal beliefs and I certainly don’t mean working within an organisation where everyone thinks and feels about issues the same way I do. (Not only does that rob everyone involved of the fantastic experience that cognitive diversity brings, but it would also be just plain boring.) What I mean is that an organisation’s vision and goals are ones we can get behind to truly care about the success of the organisation. One in which the vision and goals are at the forefront of everything the organisation does.

Secondly, we want respect. Of course, we want respect in the sense of how we’re treated, workplace conditions, and psychological safety. To feel ownership, we also want to be shown respect by being asked for our feedback on a regular basis. We want to be questioned on issues specific to us – not generic “one-size-fits-all” queries. And we want our ideas and thoughts to be so valued by the organisation that it’s asking us what we think and how we feel continuously. Not once a year – not quarterly – continuously.

Finally, if you want us to take ownership, we need to participate in the shaping of the organisation. We want to share our ideas on policies, procedures, and products. And we want to be able to do so in a way that’s going to allow for real progress and timely updates.

Having an accountable workforce versus employees taking ownership can make the difference between adequate performance and exponential performance, meeting expectations and exceeding expectations. As an organisation, which would you rather have?

Here at smartcrowds we understand the importance of taking ownership. That’s why we developed our end-to-end, always-on software solution. We help organisations maximise their employees’ potential by harnessing their experience and creativity in a structured and intuitive way to solve the issues or challenges they’ve identified. The system is built to decentralise engagement to local leaders so they can request relevant feedback from their units. And our evaluation framework aligns with your organisational goals so it’s easy to identify the ideas that will deliver the biggest impact. This also ensures governance by aligning to your corporate objectives.

Ownership or accountability? If you choose ownership and you’d like to learn more about how smartcrowds can facilitate your journey, get in touch.