LEADERSHIP / JAN. 17, 2014
version 4, draft 4

Millennials Believe Innovation can Have a Positive Impact on Society

The Millennials of the workforce, those that were born after 1980, view business through the lens of social impact, valuing purpose more than profit. Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey 2013 which was commissioned to consider the views of the world’s future leaders on business and innovation and the impact both have on society, revealed that 78% of Millennials feel innovation is essential for business growth.

Other striking findings include:

- Innovation is considered to be one of the top three ‘purposes’ of business and just as important as profit.

- Millennials believe that business drives the innovations that have the most positive impact on society.

- 66% of Millennials say innovation is a key element in making an organisation an employer of choice and 60% say that they work for an innovative business.

- 62% of Millennials would describe themselves as innovative.

- Creativity is most often regarded as the feature that will mark out future innovators, followed by academic ability, technical skills and the ability to challenge.

- The sectors deemed responsible for the most innovations are Technology, Media & Telecommunications and Manufacturing.

Views on Innovation by Geography

Respondents in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) consider themselves and their companies to be innovative, while respondents from Japan place their companies at the bottom in nearly every aspect of innovation.  For example, 70% of respondents within the BRIC countries rate their employers as innovative, while only 25% of respondents in Japan did so. The UK (66%), Spain (62%) and Germany (58%) scored an average percentage point in terms of their Millennials’ degree of innovation. Millennials from Australia, France, South Korea, and the Netherlands were among the least innovative.

Asked to say what skills or characteristics make them innovative, Millennials cited proactivity, thinking out of the box, optimism, etc. A Millennial from Spain argue that “I’m proactive at creating new processes to help me and my colleagues to become more efficient at managing our daily tasks”.

Barriers to Innovation

According to the Millennials surveyed, the barriers to innovation in their own organisation are mostly financial and organizational. Financial constraints such as lack of money and investment were cited by 22% of respondents while lack of internal cultural encouraging innovation was the second most cited (20%) obstacle of organisational innovation.

A Millennial from the U.S. pointed out that his organisation’s upper-management mindset does not allow new ideas to truly emerge and grow:

Since my organization is a state agency, there isn’t any room to really grow that much. New ideas about different ways of innovation or doing stuff, is looked at and then voted down by executive staff. After awhile, you don’t even care anymore. You do not have an opinion about anything—just sit down and do your work. The only good thing about it is the pay”.

Another participant from France argued that “Employees aren’t financially rewarded for innovative ideas whereas our company is making savings worth millions of Euros”.

According to respondents, encouraging idea sharing regardless of seniority, providing a clear vision for the future and showing commitment to continual development and improvement of internal processes were the top cited conditions for an organisation to foster innovation.

On the whole, the perceptions of future leaders about innovation clearly demonstrate that business innovations have a positive impact on society. This fact shows how much importance Millennials place on innovation not only to drive business growth but also to solve society’s most burning problems.  Companies in turn need to step up and create better conditions to foster innovation in their work environments if they want to retain and develop talent and remain competitive in the long run.

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