Set the Bar High

Workplaces that fulfill the need for achievement

When organizations acknowledge the need for achievement and provide the leadership practices, places, and tools people need to set goals and reach them, people tend to be more productive and innovative, and stay with their jobs longer—all of which helps an organization attain its goals.

Achievers need to feel connected to their leaders.

It’s difficult for organizational practices to foster achievement if there is a gulf between the leaders who create challenging work and the people assigned to do it. Experts in human need theory see a connection between large gaps and the decline of entire societies.2 That’s likely true in the workplace, too. Office layouts that inhibit people from connecting with leaders can wreak havoc on everything from efficiency to creativity to employee well-being —all things critical to successfully completing challenging tasks.

Offices with clear lines of sight between managers and employees can help address this concern, because people who work in spaces where it’s easy to see and interact with leaders feel more aligned with the company’s mission.6 Leaders also feel more connected to the people who work for them, as well as day-to-day business operations. This type of environment gives everyone the confidence that their work is helping the organization meet its business goals.

In Haven Settings, people can get inspired.

Peaceful, private Haven Settings nurture individual achievement (and, by extension, group achievement) because they provide separation from the group and a break from stimulation. Time spent working by oneself can aid the creative process, so individuals who have access to Havens are often more effective contributors to the group.

With doors and partitions that keep auditory distractions out, absorptive materials that prevent sound from reverberating inside, and window treatments that afford control of visual distractions, Havens provide temporary shelter for people who need to complete thought-intensive work. Within the setting, people can easily adjust tools and furnishings to suit their needs. Seating offers support for active postures—like sitting up straight while typing—and comfort while reclining during casual conversations. Personal tools and reference materials are within arm’s reach so people can access them without disrupting their workflow. Color, materiality, and finishes enhance a sense of respite and help people focus before going off to a group activity.

Workplace design can impact achievement.

While the need to achieve can be realized in any kind of work environment—Steve Jobs created the first Apple computer in his garage and Thomas Wolfe wrote using the top of his refrigerator as a work surface—we believe that certain types of settings can accelerate the fulfillment of achievement.

Workshop Settings help people create new ideas together. Group achievement happens when team members can set goals together, post them in a space, work together to make progress toward reaching these goals, and celebrate success. This can easily happen in a Workshop—a setting that has a mix of digital and analog tools to help groups share information, develop and document ideas, and gain consensus on next steps. Workshops typically offer ample circulation space, so people can move about and rearrange furnishings and tools to suit the task at hand. Teams can literally surround themselves with project materials and enjoy long stretches of concentration. When a team wants to solicit input from its remote members, for example, they can position materials and artifacts in view of the camera, giving everyone a clear sight line to the materials. Bar-height furniture makes eye contact natural between standing and seated participants. Tables are shaped to allow people to see each other, technology, and content clearly, improving team engagement.

Ready to prime your workplace for achievement?

No matter how you go about boosting achievement in the workplace, one thing is clear. When an organization’s management methods and workplace are designed to help people overcome difficult challenges, people commit to the work, contribute their best through discretionary effort, and help the organization reach its business goals.