Employees Losing Faith In Corporate Innovation


An organization can include all the innovative buzzwords it wants in employee presentations, but the efforts aren’t impressing workers, says new analysis from IT solutions provider Softchoice.

The company released a new report, “When Actions Speak Louder Than Buzzwords,” finding that employees are losing faith in their employers’ ability to promote innovation, with just 37 percent of them saying they consider their companies to be very innovative. Fewer said their companies are doing a good job with various indicators of innovation, like taking risks and investing in new technologies.

“While the formula for innovation is different from one organization to the next, we know it requires strong leadership that stimulates disruption from the outset,” said Softchoice President and CEO David MacDonald in a statement announcing the report’s findings. “Leaders that are willing to take risks and challenge employees to think like entrepreneurs will encourage the next big idea to bubble up from anywhere in the organization — and technology is the secret sauce.”

It’s an optimistic view, but Softchoice’s report found that, among the 1,000 full-time employees and 250 IT decision-makers surveyed, businesses are not cultivating this type of workplace.

Only a fifth of employees said their employers are open to taking risks, and just 18 percent say they would be comfortable pursuing innovation themselves even if it meant risking failure. It’s creating a workplace where business leaders are “stuck in their comfort zones,” Softchoice said.

Even the organizations that have a strategy to promote innovation aren’t necessarily succeeding. Researchers found that 69 percent of employees report their companies have formal processes to identify and implement workers’ innovative ideas. But only about a third said that those innovative ideas can come from anywhere in the organization and not just a select few that have close ties to higher-up executives.

Softchoice highlighted the role adoption of new technology plays in cultivating the innovative spirit within the workplace, but researchers noted that IT professionals and employees that wish to pursue adoption of technology aren’t always on the same page. Part of the problem may be a lack of communication, the report noted, with a disconnect between how satisfied IT professionals and the rest of the workforce are with regards to communication with each other. For instance, 90 percent of IT decision-makers said they are pleased with the level of collaboration they have with the rest of the company, but 75 percent of employees said they are looking for IT professionals to be more proactive in their communication with the rest of the workforce.

Further, 93 percent of IT executives said their companies’ IT infrastructures support the overall innovation needs of their companies, but 76 percent of employees said they would like greater investment in innovation-supporting technologies. Companies that have wider adoption of cloud technologies, though, are more likely to have IT departments that work proactively with the rest of the company to make quick changes and understand business challenges.

“Perception is reality,” said MacDonald. “When employees see their leaders as champions of technology, they’re four times more likely to perceive the entire organization as innovative. Having the right technology also means employees feel more empowered, big ideas come to fruition that much faster and IT spends less time in a supporting role and more time working with the lines of business on projects that drive innovation.”