Study Reveals An Innovation Chasm Within Organizations

Innovation is something that most organizations are striving for, but a recent report from EY found a fundamental disconnect between what executives want and what junior-level employees feel empowered to provide.

The study found that whilst 91% of executives thought that new ideas were welcomed, this number plummeted to just 54% of entry-level employees.

“In this transformative and disruptive period, enabled by technology-led data analytics, organizations need to nourish and celebrate potentially game-changing ideas while protecting them from being stifled by bureaucracy or silenced through a culture that may have an ‘innovation-disconnect’,” EY say. “These findings tell us that companies must be more proactive in engaging all of their people in the innovation conversation. However, the work doesn’t end there. In addition to communication, organizations need systems where new concepts can be analyzed and tested – and ultimately implemented – so that today’s ideas can become tomorrow’s competitive advantage in the market. This includes an acknowledgement that failure is a significant ingredient in the process.”

Cultural disconnect

The study went on to reveal that just over 25% of entry-level employees thought their company has a culture of innovation, which was under half that of senior executives.  Indeed, nearly all senior executives thought their company did a great job at providing a channel through which new ideas can be proposed, which was nearly twice the number of entry-level employees who agreed.  This disconnect included key facets of innovation, such as the ability to fail.

This should be a concern for managers, as 69% of employees said that being empowered to innovate was hugely important for them.  Indeed, they would happily leave their current role for one in an employer that is renowned for supporting innovation.

“We’re constantly looking at how to prepare for the talent needs of today and tomorrow,” EY say. “This survey is a clear indicator that people value companies where innovative thinking and ideas are valued, which is why we are rethinking our traditional workforce model, seeking the diverse talent we need to target future-focused capabilities. Equally important is continuing to invest in our people by fast-tracking the support of emerging skill-sets, with new opportunities for learning and growing.”

The role of innovation

Another interesting finding surrounded the impact innovation was having, both on the world as a whole and employees individual roles.  Most employees thought that technologies such as AI and robotics process automation (RPA) would have a significant impact on the world in general, but were very confident that they wouldn’t impact their own roles to any great extent.  Indeed, just 6% of respondents thought these technologies would threaten their role.

“As the workforce contends with the continual impact of new technology, one cannot overstate the importance of human–machine interaction,” EY say. “We see tremendous opportunity for technology to augment people’s capabilities; however, our survey suggests that people may need to more fully consider how technology may change individual job functions.”

Central to this ability to adapt to new technologies is support from employers on training and development.  Over 35% of respondents said their employer needed to do more to help them adapt to new and emerging technologies.  The question is, are employers listening?  The various examples of the disconnect between management and the wider workforce suggests that perhaps they are not.