Managers fail to encourage innovation in the workplace

UK managers are not doing enough to encourage their staff to put forward innovative ideas, researchers have warned.

A survey of 2,020 workers, part of Vodafone UK’s Working Nation series of reports, reveals that more than half (54%) of the respondents are not encouraged to be creative, or to present ideas to managers.

More than two-thirds (70%) said their companies did not have a good reputation for rewarding innovation, while 24% said they never even bothered to tell anyone about their bright ideas.

George Cox is chairman of the Design Council. It is currently reviewing the role of creativity in UK business on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry.

“In a world where innovation is going to play an increasing part in economic success, this latest research puts the task facing the UK into perspective,” said Cox.

“Companies – and indeed public sector bodies – need a culture for encouraging new ideas, and a process for evaluating suggestions and doing something about them.”

The report shows that very small companies with up to five employees are the best at generating new ideas, with half of them giving staff formal thinking time. In contrast, just 13% of the workforce in large corporations see their ideas regularly taken up.

Senior managers are much more likely to be rewarded for innovative ideas. Two-thirds of senior managers said they were formally encouraged to come up with ideas to develop products and services, compared with less than half of other workers.

Transport, manufacturing and utilities are the sectors that do the least to encourage and capture staff ideas. Two-thirds of staff in these sectors spend no time at all coming up with ideas, with 14% of utilities workers and 9% of manufacturing workers associating innovation with redundancy.

Half of the respondents said an open-door policy is the best way to encourage new ideas, while 14% cited suggestion schemes.

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