5 Qualities That High-Performance Organizations Like Trader Joe’s and Salesforce Have In Common

High-performance organizations promote and maintain a culture of accountability, which manifests itself in high levels of teamwork, trust, and communication.

Every company has its own unique workplace culture, which is cultivated through employees’ daily experiences and beliefs and maintained through their collective actions. But despite cultural intricacies, there’s one trait all successful companies — companies who win awards, attract top-of-the-line employees, and achieve results — have in common: a high rate of employee accountability.

When employees hold themselves accountable, they take ownership over problems that arise and how to solve them — no matter if it’s “their job” or not. Simply put, they don’t just get their work done, but go above and beyond to propel topline organizational results. Here are the qualities that define every company with a high rate of employee accountability:

1. They’re aligned. 

Nearly 85% of organizations lack measurable and meaningful Key Results — an unfortunate reality that leaves employees in the dark about exactly what it is they should be working towards. Companies with a clear sense of direction equip their employees to work together towards achieving targeted results. 

When Chad Magleby assumed leadership of Magleby Construction, a nationally recognized luxury home construction company, he knew significant changes were necessary to ensure the success of the organization. 

“I needed to align two cultures: one that was built in the past with a new one focused on the future,” explains Magleby. At the time, the company had no clear priorities and disagreements abounded between veteran employees and the new workforce. Magleby wiped the slate clean of all former policies and collaborated with his employees — old and new — to define a new set of targetable, memorable, and non-negotiable Key Results they could all proudly stand behind. It worked. The company saw revenue grow by nearly 100% and was named the National Association of Home Builder’s National Custom Home Builder of the Year in 2016.

2. They’re vocal. 

Companies that rally their employees around organizational goals are bold, proud, and, above all, consistent when it comes to communicating the results they aim to achieve. They aren’t afraid to highlight the company’s top three to five goals over and over again, leaving no room for ambiguity. 

Take Chipotle for example. The company’s stock value plummeted due to a chain of food-borne illness outbreaks beginning in 2015. Since then, new CEO Brian Niccol has worked tirelessly to regain the company’s footing as a leading fast-casual chain, announcing distinct goals that align with a company-wide operational overhaul. Today, Chipotle’s stock continues to climb because Niccol has made one thing a top priority — employee accountability.

“[Historically,] we were not sufficiently results focused, which made us reactive and hampered execution,” said Niccol. Now, a slew of new training programs, including Cultivate University, clearly detail the goals every Chipotle employee is expected to strive for. The company’s policies and values are also touted in town hall meetings, public statements, and even in marketing material. 

“Accountability is both on developing a great team as well as being accountable to provide a great experience,” said Niccol. “Our teams are staffed correctly [and] engaged at a better level.

3. They’re trusting. 

It’s human nature — we all want to trust and be trusted. This rings especially true in the corporate setting. In fact, employee accountability thrives in companies that foster a trusting environment. Employees are empowered when leaders trust them enough to place them in the driver’s seat and take ownership over results. As long as employees know which direction they’re headed — and trust they have the right roadmap —  success is within reach. 

Salesforce has a long-held reputation as one of the best places to work, and for good reason — trust is its number one core value. That trust has paid off over the years, helping this corporate giant climb the ranks of the Fortune 500. “Salesforce makes trust a top priority not only for our customers but also for our employees,” says one Salesforce team member. “I know that Salesforce leaders trust me to do my very best job, and I trust Salesforce to be there for me, back me up, and support me.”

4. They’re champions. 

Yes, companies with high employee accountability are “champions” in the literal sense — they’re at the top of their industry thanks to accountable, results-driven workforces. But more than that, these companies regularly champion their teams, lifting employees up and recognizing when those results-driven practices are being put into place. Public recognition not only reinforces an individual employee’s accountability efforts, it also sets the tone for the entire workforce. 

Southwest, which ranks third on the list of best U.S. airlines, makes employee recognition a top priority. Accountable employees are recognized in weekly meetings, features in the airline’s monthly magazine, and at the company’s annual Winning Spirit Award. But that’s not all. The company takes employee recognition one step further with their digital SWAG platform (Southwest Airlines Gratitude), where frontline employees and C-suite executives alike are encouraged to send one another notes of recognition. These notes are funneled into incentive programs and translated into points, which can be redeemed for gift cards, miles, and more. 

5. They’re happy. 

Employees feel a sense of control when they take accountability and remain self-accountable. They understand where to focus their energy, how to solve problems, and why collaboration is crucial to organizational success — and they’re a whole lot happier because of this. 

In fact, the Partners In Leadership Happier at Work study found that employees are 82% more engaged with their work when they hold themselves accountable and 65% see themselves as better team players because of it. They’re also 85% happier when they see their colleagues take ownership. Put simply, personal accountability truly has a ripple effect on the whole corporate climate. 

Trader Joe’s is a perfect example of this. Walking into any of the national grocery store chain’s many locations, it’s undeniably apparent — employees are happy. They’re quick to offer their services, helping create a personalized experience that consumers notice. So, why are Trader Joe’s employees so happy? 

In her post, “I’ve worked in politics, in news, in offices. Give me Trader Joe’s any day,” Benham-Archdeacon, who is now a policy advocate at a nonprofit organization in San Francisco, writes. “[Management] did a lot of listening up front and opened up almost every conversation with asking what I think and then responding to what I said…they expected us to take ownership of our success and mistakes, but happily responded to requests for help or guidance.” Trader Joe’s employees feel supported, heard, and proud of their work and it shows — Forbes dubbed the company America’s best place to work

Building Employee Accountability in the Workplace

At first glance, Magleby Construction, Chipotle, Salesforce, Southwest Airlines, and Trader Joe’s may not appear to have much in common, but in reality they share a number of critical qualities. They all boldly communicate their goals and align employees around them. They all trust and champion their teams, recognizing their hard work and dedication. And perhaps most importantly, they all boast an engaged, happy workforce. 

The root of all of these traits are corporate cultures centered on accountability. Employees at all of the above organizations know what’s expected of them, take personal ownership over fulfilling their responsibilities, and are confident when it comes to creatively tackling obstacles. The results — they’re ranked among the best in their respective industries.

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