Culture of Equality a powerful multiplier for workplace innovation

In Research

A workplace culture of equality is a powerful multiplier of innovation and growth, according to new research from Accenture. Published in the company’s “Getting to Equal 2019” report, the research found that employees’ innovation mindset—their willingness and ability to innovate—is six times higher in companies with a robust culture of equality, where everyone can advance and thrive, than in least-equal companies.

“In our increasingly competitive world, companies must create an environment that encourages and harnesses their employees’ innovative capabilities,” said Alexis Lecanuet, regional managing director for Accenture in the Middle East and Turkey. “Our research has shown that an empowering environment can have a more positive impact on employees’ innovation mindset than even pay rises or advanced degrees. However, it is critical that employers look to not only create a culture of equality but also ensure that their actions and decisions actually have a positive impact on their employees.”

According to the research, the vast majority of executives around the world agree that continuous innovation is essential: 95 percent see innovation as vital to competitiveness and business viability. A culture of equality is a powerful driver of an innovation mindset—more than other factors that differentiate organizations, such as industry, country or workforce demographics. Among those surveyed, people across all genders, ages and ethnicities show a stronger innovation mindset in more equal workplace cultures.

Accenture’s new research is based on an employee survey of more than 18,000 professionals in 27 countries, an executive survey of more than 150 C-suite executives in eight countries and a model that combines employee survey results with published labor 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. For instance, Saudi Arabian employees in robust cultures of equality are three times more likely to say that nothing holds them back from innovating (31 percent in most equal cultures vs. 3 percent in least equal cultures).

However, organizations must close the important gap the research revealed between C-suite executives and employees. While 76 percent of executives globally said they empower employees to innovate, only 63 percent of employees agree. For example, executives appear to overestimate financial rewards, and underestimate purpose, as motivations for employees to innovate. In a more equal culture, the strongest factors underpinning an innovation mindset include providing relevant skills training, flexible working arrangements and respect for work life balance.

Diversity is a critical building block
While diversity factors alone (e.g., a diverse leadership team and a gender-balanced workforce) significantly impact innovation mindset, a culture of equality is the essential multiplier to help companies maximize innovation. The research found that innovation mindset of Saudi employees is nearly six times greater when diversity is combined with a culture of equality, compared to companies where these are least common.

High economic stakes
The new research found that an innovation mindset is stronger in fast-growing economies and in countries with high labor-productivity growth. The opportunity is enormous: Accenture calculates that global gross domestic product would increase by up to US$8 trillion over 10 years if the innovation mindset in all countries were raised by 10 percent.

Methodology 
As part of its “Getting to Equal 2019” research, Accenture conducted an online survey of more than 18,000 professionals in 27 countries during October 2018, as well as a phone survey with more than 150 C-level executives in eight countries in November and December 2018.

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