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ATD Blog

Six Core Needs of Healthy, High-Performing Organizations

Friday, March 17, 2023

Much like one’s personal health, creating and sustaining a healthy, high-performing organization is an ongoing effort requiring intentionality. Thriving organizations consistently balance six interconnected core needs. Staying attuned to these needs and addressing gaps helps employees stay engaged, motivated, and thriving—and the organization can achieve its mission.

Purpose: A collective sense that we’re doing meaningful work

If your organization has a strong sense of purpose, you’ll feel it. Employees believe their work is meaningful and take pride in their organization. They believe the organization contributes to something greater than itself and positively affects people’s lives.

Research shows a strong mission and sense of collective purpose (beyond maximizing profits) contribute to what leaders care about—including increased financial performance, employee engagement, retention, and employee fulfillment.

Connection: Alignment and connectivity among people, values, behaviors, and organizational systems

An organization strong in connection is people-centered, welcoming, inclusive, and focuses on meaningful and authentic relationships. There’s a sense of belonging and community among employees. When there’s organizational alignment, policies, practices, structures, mindsets, and behaviors are congruent with stated beliefs and values.

Capability: The knowledge, skills, and expertise required to perform the work

Capable organizations don’t only have the skills and expertise needed. They also apply and staff their talent through well-designed roles, structures, and work processes. Capability can manifest in many ways—like strong leadership that guides and inspires, and effective collaboration that harnesses the power of multidisciplinary perspectives.


Resources: The tools, training, feedback, and support people need to do their best work

When your organization is well-resourced, employees feel supported, well-equipped, and nurtured. You’ll see indicators such as:

  • Availability and investment of financial resources
  • Human-centered tools and technology
  • Training and development opportunities equipping employees with the know-how to do their best work.

A well-resourced organization also meets employees’ information needs by clearly communicating about vision, direction, processes, and expectations. Employees in a well-resourced organization also receive sufficient guidance and feedback to do their best work, as well as encouragement and space for rest, well-being, and energy renewal.

Potential: The force pulling an organization forward toward something greater

If your organization is high in potential, it will appear in the mindsets and behaviors of senior leaders through your frontline employees. There’s likely a persistent drive toward growth and new opportunities, with employees innovating, embracing challenges, and persevering despite setbacks or adversity.

With this collective growth mindset, employees see obstacles and failures as opportunities for growth and learning. Leaders demonstrate that they believe in people’s inherent strengths by giving employees the space to stretch, experiment, and grow so they can perform at their best.


Security: The sense of safety experienced by employees

A sense of safety can stem from multiple forms of security, including physical, financial, cyber, and psychological. Psychological safety profoundly affects organizational health, employee engagement, and workplace performance.

Highly secure organizations have generous trust, transparency, flexibility, and autonomy. Leaders communicate transparently about the business’s performance and outlook. They also create a safe environment where employees comfortably question assumptions, experiment with new working methods, and achieve their potential.

Optimizing organizational health through effective diagnosis

How do we stay attuned to the six needs, recognize an imbalance, and take steps to create better balance? Organizational health is constantly evolving, which requires leaders to regularly reflect and assess. It drives alignment among leadership about the organization’s current state, including its strengths and areas for improvement.

Effective diagnosis through assessment can help leaders avoid fixating on symptoms and instead pinpoint the “right” ailments to treat. Assessment also enables leaders to identify key strengths that can support even greater organizational health and success. By assessing the six core needs at the heart of healthy, high-performing organizations, it’s possible to identify the organization’s strengths and diagnose opportunities to bring the organization into better balance and health.

To learn more about the THRiVE Index and whether your organization qualifies for the survey and insights free of charge, click here.

About the Author

Anna Grome is an organizational psychologist and principal consultant at TiER1. With deep experience helping organizations optimize employee experience and performance, Anna has helped design and evaluate solutions that include culture improvement, talent and leadership development, change management strategies, performance support, team development, and improved work practices and processes.

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Research in conjunction with Harvard Business School confirms the suggestions of the author:
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