Research from Accenture has found that while innovation may be key to business competitiveness and growth, only a third of UK employees feel empowered to innovate. Accenture’s “Getting to Equal 2019” report included reference to research which found that the vast majority of executives in the UK agree that continuous innovation is essential – 95 per cent see innovation as vital to their business and 91 per cent of employees want to be innovative. But while 76 per cent of leaders say they regularly empower employees to be innovative, only 34 per cent of employees agree.
However, the research found that in the UK, employees’ innovation mindset – their willingness and ability to innovate – is seven times higher in companies with a robust culture of equality, where everyone can advance and thrive, than in less-equal companies.
“Our research reveals that a workplace culture of equality is an overlooked driver of innovation within companies,” said Rebecca Tully, executive sponsor for Human Capital and Diversity for Accenture in the UK and Ireland. “By understanding what motivates their employees and fostering an environment where people feel empowered, business leaders have the opportunity to unleash the innovation required to compete effectively in an era of disruption.”
The report reveals that leaders mistakenly believe that some circumstances encourage innovation more than they actually do. For instance, they overestimate financial rewards and underestimate purpose as motivations for employees to innovate.
Providing relevant skills training, flexible working arrangements and respect for work/life balance is what motivates employees most when it comes to being innovative. The research found that this applies to employees across different industries, countries and demographics. UK employees in more equal workplace cultures are also less worried about failure, with 81 per cent stating they are not afraid to fail in their pursuit of innovation.
Employees’ willingness and ability to innovate is also stronger in fast-growing economies and in countries with high labour-productivity growth. The opportunity is enormous: Accenture calculates that global gross domestic product would increase by up to £6 trillion over 10 years if the innovation mindset in all countries were raised by 10 per cent.
Accenture’s new research is based on a survey of more than 18,000 professionals in 27 countries (including 700 in the UK), a survey of more than 150 C-suite executives in eight countries and a model that combines employee survey results with published labour force data. It builds on Accenture’s 2018 research, which identified 40 workplace factors that contribute to a culture of equality, and grouped them into three actionable categories: Bold Leadership, Comprehensive Action and Empowering Environment.
This year’s research determined that an empowering environment is by far the most important of the three culture-of-equality categories in increasing an innovation mindset, which consists of six elements: purpose, autonomy, resources, inspiration, collaboration and experimentation. The more empowering the workplace environment, the higher the innovation mindset score.