The Curious Skill

SAS Study finds curiosity a useful skill for organisations to develop and harness.

The SAS Curiosity@Work Report from analytics leader SAS has found curiosity to be increasingly sought by employers to address some of their biggest challenges. The report surveyed more than 350 managers in the UK (nearly 2,000 globally) and analysed data from LinkedIn over the last year. It found that in the age of the Great Resignation, curiosity is increasingly recognised as a valuable skill by UK business leaders.

The report defines curiosity as the impulse to seek new information and experiences and explore novel possibilities, highlighting the importance of this trait no matter an employee’s role or level within their organisation. The research found that seven in 10 (69 per cent) of UK managers believe curiosity is a very valuable trait in employees, with around half strongly agreeing that curiosity drives real business impact (53 per cent) and that employees who have more curiosity are higher performers (50 per cent).

The report highlights how curiosity has gained traction amid growing demand for this skill. According to LinkedIn data, year-over-year there has been a 158 per cent increase in engagement with posts, shares and articles mentioning curiosity, 90 per cent growth in job postings that mention curiosity, and 87 per cent growth in the mention of skills related to curiosity.

In today’s environment of the Great Resignation, managers are finding it especially challenging to keep employee morale and motivation high, with 55 per cent of managers citing this as a difficulty. Nearly half find it challenging getting employees to push beyond just basic job duties (47 per cent) and driving cross-collaboration with other teams and departments (47 per cent). Just two in five UK managers (42 per cent) find it challenging retaining good employees, which compares favourably with employees globally (52 per cent).

However, many of the benefits associated with curiosity directly address these key business challenges. More than half the managers surveyed agreed that the very valuable benefits of curiosity include greater efficiency and productivity (56 per cent), more creative thinking and solutions (55 per cent), greater diversity of thoughts and perspectives (54 per cent), and greater employee engagement and job satisfaction (52 per cent).

Most managers agree that curiosity is particularly valuable when innovating new solutions (59 per cent), tackling complex problems (57 per cent), and analysing data (54 per cent), making it an important trait for fuelling data insights and integration. Focusing on managers who are considered more curious, these individuals note their employer is significantly more advanced in digital transformation (43 per cent of those who rate high in curiosity vs. 33 per cent who rate low). They also frequently use more data sources in their roles, particularly to help them better understand their customers (61 per cent), performance (57 per cent), and fellow employees (71 per cent).

“Our research paints a powerful picture that curiosity is no longer just nice to have,” said Laurie Miles, director of analytics, SAS UK & Ireland. “Instead it’s becoming a business imperative that helps companies address critical challenges and foster innovation. It’s also linked to organisations making better use of data to understand their business and drive digital transformation.

“However,” Miles added, “the research also highlights how a significant proportion of UK managers still don’t rate curiosity as a particularly important trait in employees, and feel it leads to greater difficulty making decisions, managing employees and leads to increased risk of errors or bad decisions.”

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