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 in India, employees’ innovation mindset—their willingness and ability to innovate—is nearly three times higher in companies with a robust culture of equality, where everyone can advance and thrive, than in least-equal companies.
“Continuous innovation is the path to business success in today’s disruptive environment, and workforce diversity is key to developing a culture of innovation,” said Rekha M. Menon, Accenture’s chairman and sr. managing director in India. “Yet, organizations need more than a diverse workforce. Our research shows that an organization’s innovation potential is truly harnessed when workforce diversity is combined with a culture of equality.”
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, sexual identities, ages and ethnicities show a stronger innovation mindset in more equal workplace cultures.
Accenture’s new research is based on a survey of more than 18,000 professionals in 27 countries, including 700 in India, a 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, in Indian companies where cultures are more equal and more diverse, innovation mindset is almost twice as high as typical, and almost five times higher compared with less equal or diverse cultures.
However, organizations must close the important gap the research revealed between C-suite executives and employees. While 76 percent of executives in India said they empower employees to innovate, only 68 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 Indian employees is nearly five times greater when diversity is combined with a culture of equality.
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.