Young workers disappointed by absence of innovation

As part of Deloitte’s activities for the World Economic Forum at Davos, Deloitte conducted a survey of just under 5,000 Millennials to get their view on the importance of innovation in business.

[Millennials are those born January 1982 onwards.]

Deloitte received some interesting feedback, including findings specific to Australian Millennials.

One of the main conclusions was that Millennials believe innovation is key to business growth (78%). In fact innovation is seen by Millennials as one of the top three ‘purposes’ of business and as important as profit.

Yet only 26% of Millennials in the 18 countries surveyed, including Australia, feel that business leaders are doing enough to encourage practices that foster innovation, in particular encouraging idea sharing regardless of seniority.

Deloitte Australia’s Chief Strategy Officer and head of Innovation Gerhard Vorster believes that sharing ideas freely in an organization is critical for innovation to flourish and thrive.

He said while our current business leaders can debate how and where to innovate, it is clear how much importance our future leaders place on innovation – not just as a driver of business growth, but as a catalyst for solving society’s most pressing problems.

In Australia, our drive for productivity is absolutely innovation dependent and critical for the performance of the economy.

Millennials felt that Technology and Media, Consumer Business and Manufacturing were the most innovative sectors, with Australia, Spain, the Netherlands and Canada also pinpointing Energy and Resources, and that Public Sector was most in need of innovation.

The survey also identified that the most innovative people were to be found in India (81%), Thailand (79%), South Africa (78%), Brazil (77%), China (73%) and US also 73%, with Australia below average at 55%.

The Millennials pinpointed creativity (62%) as the characteristic that will mark out future innovators, followed by academic ability, technical skills and most tellingly – the ability to challenge.

Conditions the global Millennials believe are required to foster innovation also differed markedly from the reality and include:

  • leadership encouraging idea sharing regardless of seniority (42%) with only 26% saying their current organisation operates in this way
  • a clear vision for the future (41%)
  • encouraging and rewarding idea generation and creativity (39%)with only 20% saying their current organisation operates in this way
  • commitment to successfully advancing innovative ideas (39%) with only 25% saying their current organization operates this way.
  • The business community is regarded as playing a lead role in developing innovations that will benefit society.

Almost half of the respondents (45%) believe business drives the innovations that most positively impact society, compared to government (18%) and academic bodies (17%).

Innovation is seen as an important component of talent recruitment and retention.

Two-thirds of the Millennials surveyed say innovation is a key factor in making an organisation an employer of choice.

This is particularly relevant to many companies, attracting the ever-growing number of Millennials, who are forecasted to make up 75% of the world’s workforce by 2025.

However, discrepancies were found when Millennials were asked about the requirements for innovation:

  • 34% say providing employees with free time to dedicate to learning and creativity is key to an innovative environment, versus 17% who characterise their workplace that way
  • 32% consider openness and the freedom to challenge as key to innovation, versus 17% who say this is visible in their organisations
  • 42% believe in the importance of encouraging innovative thinking at all levels of the organisation, versus 26% who describe their places of employment that way.

“A generational shift is taking place in business as Baby Boomers begin to step down from their leadership roles to retire,” said Vorster.

“Real opportunity exists for organisations to step up and create the conditions and commitment needed to encourage and foster innovation in their work environments.

"And there’s a tremendous upside if we get this right: we can better retain talent, remain more competitive into the future, and more positively impact society.”