Fixing HR: Using Accountability to Transform Good Ideas to Real Results

Human Resources, talent management, human capital. . .

Whatever you call it, it seems that the debate over the importance of good people practices within our organizations has been settled. Even the staunchest HR haters will acknowledge the importance of finding and keeping good people when it comes to running a successful business.

And there is no shortage of solutions available that promise to turn the potential of our employees into the tangible business results that our stakeholders demand. Nearly every organization has a process for attracting, recruiting, training, developing, coaching, motivating, managing and retaining employees. These processes have evolved over decades.

Yet, the associated business results still seem to elude us.

“Houston, we have a problem”

According to the 2011 What’s Working survey by Mercer, it seems that over half of our workforce either hates their job or is planning to find a new one.

Nearly one in three (32 percent) U.S. workers is seriously considering leaving his or her organization at the present time, up sharply from 23 percent in 2005. Meanwhile, another 21 percent are not looking to leave but view their employers unfavorably and have rock-bottom scores on key measures of engagement.”

This at the same time that our CEO’s are reporting that business is suffering due to the organizations inability to find, develop and keep the right talent. As reported in PWC’s 15th Annual Global CEO survey:

Even in a weak labor market, more than 40 percent of U.S. CEOs say their talent-related expenses rose more than expected, a reflection of the acute skills mismatch problem they face: talent shortages amid high unemployment. For almost 60 percent of U.S. CEOs planning to hire this year, it won’t be easy to find the right mix of people. High-potential middle managers and younger workers are particularly difficult to recruit and retain. This is impacting corporate profitability. Almost a quarter of U.S. CEOs say they were unable to pursue a market opportunity and another fifth were unable to innovate effectively because of talent constraints.”

Despite an ever increasing focus on the importance of talent and human resources, our efforts just aren’t meeting the needs of our organizations or the people we want to work there.

Something is missing

Why can’t we solve this talent dilemma? What is it about our human resources processes and solutions that aren’t working?

Sometimes the best ideas and processes don’t deliver the intended results because there’s a major element missing from their execution.

Article Continues Below

Accountability: HR’s missing piece

In order to achieve optimal performance in any process involving people, it’s important that each person deliver on their responsibility to the process. This requires accountability. Individuals must be accountable both TO the process and FOR their results.

Leaders must both BE accountable to their people and also HOLD their people accountable. When accountability is missing, processes fail and results suffer. Even the most brilliant plans fail when they are poorly executed.

The fundamental challenge underlying the lack of strategic impact in human resources isn’t the lack of good ideas, innovative processes or powerful tools. No, the failure of most HR processes is the total absence of accountability for the employee, manager or even HR in the process. When personal accountability is absent from a people process, it’s doomed to fail.

Personal accountability defined

Personal accountability is the mindset that results happen because of one’s actions, not in spite of them. Accountable people believe that they choose their own destiny. When we talk about personal accountability in HR processes, we aren’t talking about the watered down definition that has become common in business today. This isn’t only about taking the bullet when something goes wrong. True personal accountability is a combination of four factors.

  1. Commitment: The willingness to do whatever it takes to get results.
  2. Resilience: The ability to stay the course in the face of obstacles and setbacks.
  3. Ownership: The acceptance of the consequences of our actions, good or bad.
  4. Continuous Learning: The perspective to see success and failure as learning experiences to fuel future success

Transforming intentions into results

For human resources to live up to its potential and have the impact that will satisfy the CEO, accountability must be designed into the fabric of every HR process.Using our approach, you will find a roadmap for how to begin incorporating accountability into some of the most fundamental HR processes and practices:

  • Performance Appraisals;
  • Employee Engagement;
  • Individual Development Plans;
  • Employee Relations.

Click here for a free copy of the white paper, Fixing Human Resources: Using Accountability to transform Good Ideas into Real Results.

Cy Wakeman is the founder and spiritual leader of Bulletproof Talent, a company that helps organizations to develop accountable leaders and employees who are bulletproof to their circumstances. She is also the author of "Reality Based Leadership – Ditch the Drama, Restore Sanity to the Workplace, & Turn Excuses Into Results." Contact her at . Jason Lauritsen is the chief problem solver and evangelist at Bulletproof Talent. He's also a well-known speaker, writer, and a former HR executive. Contact him at


2 Comments on “Fixing HR: Using Accountability to Transform Good Ideas to Real Results

  1. Great article. As an HR professional nothing drives me crazier than HR leadership that complains about being judged on “things they do not control.” 

    If you do control something then you failed to recognize the environment and properly adjust your response to it. HR must realize you have to achieve success with the hand you’ve been dealt if we want a seat at the executive table.

  2. Thanks for your article, Cy.  However, I have to respectfully disagree with you regarding the four factors of accountability.   Frankly, I think it is herein that lies the problem with ineffective HR practitioners and functions. 

    If an operations executive attempted to define his or her accountability as:  
    Commitment or the willingness to do whatever it takes to get results,
    Resilience, or the ability to stay the course in the face of obstacles and setbacks,
    Ownership, or the acceptance of the consequences of actions, good or bad,
    Continuous learning, or the perspective to see success and failure as learning experiences to fuel future success,
    no human resources professional or other business leaders would let them get away with it–or they shouldn’t anyway. 

    First of all, the accountability factors are not measurable and therefore far too subject to interpretation.

    Second, defining commitment as an accountability factor just doesn’t make sense and it would never work in operations. I may be very willing to do whatever it takes to get results but still not get them (i.e. I’m not capable of achieving the results).  By your score, I’d still make the grade because I’m committed.  It’s not the commitment that matters, it’s the execution and achievment of the required results.

    Resilience as an accountability factor doesn’t make sense either.  I may well be able to stay the cource in the face of obstacles and setbacks, but if I do that and still don’t get the required results, it shouldn’t count.  Further, what if the course I’m on is the wrong one to achieve the results?  Resilience and “staying the course” in that situation hinders the objective of achieving required results.

    Same issue with ownership.  I may be very willing to accept the consequences of my action, “take my medicine” whether it tastes bad or not, but … ownership without results doesn’t achieve any business performance objectives.

    Fourth and finally, defining continuous learning as an accountability factor doesn’t measurably take a business any further towards the enhancing the bottom line.  I could be continuously learning from my successes and failures and still not be able to achieve desired results.

    Unfortunately, I believe it’s because we allow HR professionals to define their accountability by factors different than those we demand of professionals in other functions that decreases our value, our credibility and our reputations.  Imagine a company CFO who was held accountable to these four criteria rather than to the bottom line, or a systems engineer held to these rather than a function IT system.  It would never happen.  It shouldn’t in HR either.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *