There are many ways to define high performance in your organisation, and how you do so will depend on your current priorities.

For example, perhaps you’re focused on driving things like revenue growth and market share, or maybe customer and employee satisfaction are more important at the moment. But typically, success is measured by a combination of factors, which can make singling out specific qualities that lead to high performance tricky.

One of the best ways to do this, however, is to look at what qualities other successful organisations have – and luckily, there’s plenty of research out there to help us do this.

Below, you’ll find five attributes of high-performance organisations.

1. A culture of psychological safety

A culture of psychological safety

One trait that repeatedly comes up in studies of high-performing organisations is psychological safety.

In a culture of psychological safety, employees feel comfortable admitting to mistakes, taking reasonable risks, and speaking up when they disagree or have an idea without fear of negative repercussions. And this can have a massive impact on your organisation’s performance.

For example, when leadership and management professor Amy Edmonson was studying the relationships between teamwork and hospital errors, she expected to find that better teams (i.e. the ones who work effectively together and have higher-quality relationships) would make fewer mistakes. But she was surprised when her data indicated the exact opposite: that better teams made more errors.

After some further research, it turned out that the better teams didn’t actually make more errors, but they’d established an environment where employees felt safer admitting to their faults. The worse teams were, in fact, making more mistakes but weren’t reporting them.

A culture of psychological safety means that errors will get flagged promptly so steps can be taken to fix and learn from them, leading to higher performance.

2. A positive sense of meaning and purpose

A positive sense of meaning and purpose

It’s a common belief that engaging in meaningful work often comes at the expense of more traditional business goals like profitability. However, as Harvard Business Professor Ranjay Gulati tells us, this isn’t necessarily the case. Studies regularly highlight a positive sense of meaning and purpose as one of the traits shared by high-performing teams.

Meaning and purpose are vital for success as they motivate employees to feel more engaged with their work, and to go above and beyond in service of company goals. In fact, some research has even identified this as the most important aspect of work for employees – ahead of pay and other rewards. So, fostering a positive sense of meaning and purpose can also help your organisation retain and attract top talent.

However, as this study from Google indicates, it’s not enough to simply make sure that your employees’ values align with your company’s purpose. It’s also key that they can see the positive effects of their efforts. So, if you want to boost your organisation’s performance, try finding and sharing stories about how your employees are making a difference.

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Rest Less is the UK’s fastest growing digital membership community, built to inspire the over 50s – through jobs, advice, volunteering, courses, health, lifestyle and more.

If you’re looking to recruit age diverse candidates from our talent pool of one million members, we’d be delighted to help you.

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3. A balanced focus on customers and employees

A balanced focus on customers and employees

This research conducted by the HPO Centre reviewed 91 different studies to find some of the common characteristics of high-performing organisations. It revealed that one of the most valuable was whether a business “continuously strives to enhance customer value creation”. In other words, high-performing organisations consistently focus on the needs of their customers.

These findings probably won’t come as a surprise to many readers. However, what’s worth noting is that high-performing companies manage to balance this customer-focused attitude with an employee-focused one.

As Sam Davis from the American Management Association tells us, companies often “concentrate on customers, while at the same time taking employees for granted”.
However, their global survey of 1,333 organisations reveals that companies who score higher for workforce satisfaction also score higher for customer satisfaction.

This is because if your employees feel valued and respected, they’re more likely to be motivated to provide good service to customers. So, focusing on your employee’s happiness, wellbeing, and satisfaction is truly a win-win.

4. Empowered and autonomous employees

Empowered and autonomous employees

Studies show that another common characteristic of high-performing companies is their ability to empower team members to be more autonomous and make decisions. This has been proven to positively affect employee happiness and wellbeing, as well as the organisation’s overall success.

Empowering your team to take initiative and make decisions grants them a valuable sense of control and ownership over their work. This not only fosters innovation and boosts engagement but also enhances overall job performance. Studies even indicate that employees who are given autonomy are less prone to burnout.

Plus, from a practical perspective, delegating daily decision-making duties leaves management free to focus on other issues. So it’s important to find strategies to encourage autonomy where possible.

The UK's leading work and careers site for the over 50s

Rest Less is the UK’s fastest growing digital membership community, built to inspire the over 50s – through jobs, advice, volunteering, courses, health, lifestyle and more.

If you’re looking to recruit age diverse candidates from our talent pool of one million members, we’d be delighted to help you.

Get in touch

5. Diverse teams

Diverse teams

Aside from being an important ethical goal, plenty of research indicates that diversity is integral for successful companies.

For example, diverse teams have been shown to be more creative, innovative, and better at making decisions. This is because having a diverse range of people can enrich decision-making processes by offering different perspectives and experiences.

If this still doesn’t convince you, there are also plenty of studies out there directly linking diverse teams with increased revenue.

For example, this Harvard Business Review (HBR) study of venture capitalist firms found that “[d]iversity significantly improves financial performance on measures such as profitable investments […] and overall fund returns.” The study revealed that diverse teams performed better because they were better equipped to think creatively than homogenous ones.

While diversity of all kinds is necessary and beneficial in the workforce, at Rest Less, we focus on promoting age diversity. So, if you’d like to find out more about how to build a thriving multigenerational workforce, email us at [email protected] or take a look at our content for employers here.

Final thoughts…

We hope this article has given you a taste of some attributes we’ve seen in high-performing companies.

However, it’s worth keeping in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive, and there are plenty of other characteristics that lead to organisational success. We’ll include some of these in our next article in this series: five more attributes of high-performing organisations.

What attributes have you observed in high-performing organisations? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.