Building team accountability with IM

Team accountability can feel like a tightrope walk between trust and micromanagement. Instant messaging is often overlooked, but it can play a helpful role. Here's how.

Team accountability can feel like a tight rope walk between trust and micromanagement. With many businesses now embracing remote work, it’s an even trickier subject. As it turns out, most employees value accountability – when it’s done right. As many as 91 percent of them say that it’s something they’d like to see more of in the workplace.

When it comes to navigating the accountability balancing act, you have plenty of tools at your disposal. Project management software, time-sheets and stand-up meetings all have their part to play. Instant messaging is often-overlooked when it comes to accountability. But, it’s a medium that many are already comfortable with (over 100 million Americans use Facebook Messenger), so it’s the natural choice for organic and regular communication at work.

Here’s how to use it to build team accountability.

Make a plan

Engaging in accountability reviews or discussions via IM will be confusing for employees if you neglect to plan first.

Decide the role that IM will play in your accountability equation ahead of time. This prevents it from devolving into random check-ins or challenges. What gap in the current process will it fill? Will it provide a platform for more frequent, informal reviews, or will it be used on a regularly-scheduled basis to talk about performance? How often will employees need to be ‘online’ and available?

It’s important to involve your team in this conversation. Surveys suggest that almost a third of American employees don’t understand why changes happen at work. Keep them in the know to avoid conflict further down the line.

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Be consistent

Follow through on your plan. IM has the potential to improve your review consistency thanks to its informality. 22 percent of employees say they’ve called in sick to avoid performance reviews. A familiar communication channel can go some way to combat irregularity in the accountability process, but it’s only as good as those enforcing it. Make sure you stick to the plan.

Practice what you preach

If you’re holding others accountable via IM, then you need to be as well. Leading by example is a tried-and-tested approach to successful team management, so make sure you’re ‘on’ when you’ve asked them to be on.

Make it clear that impromptu reviews can be requested at any time by your team members as well. If they’re not getting the support or tools they need to do their job, they should be able to hold you accountable too. IM’s flexibility and real-time responses are some of its major benefits, so use them to their full potential.

Make the most of IM

IM is uniquely placed to enable non-intrusive accountability checks. Features like real-time ‘online’ or ‘active’ statuses are a quick and easy way to see who’s in front of their computers and ‘at work’.

There’s also the ability to conduct anonymous employee satisfaction polls and surveys that they can answer within your IM platform. It removes hurdles and is a useful way to hold yourself accountable as a manager.

The right IM software will be secure enough to host and archive sensitive accountability conversations. Neither you nor your team should feel that you can’t be open and honest on the subject. Choosing a platform with strong security measures will eliminate many of the concerns about privacy that get in the way.

Accountability, instantly

Whether you adopt IM as your primary platform for performance reviews or use it as an informal, ongoing accountability channel, its informality and flexibility is where the value lies.

Ensure that you’re using secure software, and you’ll be able to engage in a two-way accountability dialogue with your team that can boost employee satisfaction and productivity.

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