Culture of Equality Is Powerful Multiplier of Workplace Innovation

NEW YORK – A workplace culture of equality is a powerful multiplier of innovation and growth, according to new research from Accenture.

Published today in the company’s “Getting to Equal 2019” report, the research found that in the U.S., employees’ innovation mindset — their willingness and ability to innovate — is nearly five times higher in companies with a robust culture of equality, where everyone can advance and thrive, than in least-equal companies.

“In this era of widespread disruption, businesses and organizations need to respond with continuous innovation to succeed,” said Julie Sweet, Accenture’s chief executive officer — North America. “Our research makes it clear that tapping the power of workplace culture is essential to unleashing innovation across the company.”

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 1,400 in the U.S., 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, U.S. employees in robust cultures of equality are seven times more likely to say that nothing holds them back from innovating (44 percent in most equal cultures vs. 6 percent in least equal cultures).

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 U.S. employees is nearly eight 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.

“Accelerating equality in the workplace has never been more critical for driving innovation,” said Ellyn Shook, Accenture’s chief leadership & human resources officer. “If people feel a sense of belonging and are valued by their employers for their unique contributions, perspectives and circumstances, they are more likely to advance and feel empowered to innovate.”