The most innovative companies in the world have a culture of equality in the workplace, according to new research by Accenture.
At companies with a culture of equality – where workers are treated fairly, impartially and equitably — the employees’ “innovation mindset,” or their willingness and ability to innovate, was nearly five times higher than at other companies, the research found.
That’s especially significant in the Tampa-St. Pete area, where business growth will come from innovative companies, said Stuart Brown, southeast managing director leading Accenture’s operations business.
“Innovation and equality go hand in hand,” Brown said.
A culture of equality is different from diversity, said Michelle Gadsden Williams, Accenture’s managing director for inclusion and diversity in North America.
“Diversity is all the ways in which we differ – gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious affiliations and so forth,” Gadsden Williams said. “But when I think about equality, I think about it in the context of fairness and impartiality and I think about all of those things as it relates to the lived experience of our people. It’s about the culture that we’re creating.”
The stakes are high and the opportunity is enormous, she said. Accenture calculated that global gross domestic product would increase by up to $8 trillion over 10 years if the innovation mindset in all countries were raised by 10 percent.
Accenture is the largest managed IT service provider in the Tampa Bay area, based on number of local employees. Gadsden Williams and Brown led leaders from 13 central Florida companies in a conversation on the research last week, and also talked to the St. Pete Catalyst about the findings.
St. Pete Catalyst: What were some of the key survey findings?
Gadsden Williams: We surveyed 18,000 people around the world and asked specific questions: How equal is your workplace culture and how willing and able are you to innovate?
About 95 percent of leaders see innovation as a critical component to competitiveness and business viability, yet there’s a disconnect between what leaders perceive and employees perceptions. Seventy-six percent of business leaders say they regularly empower employees to be innovative, but only 42 percent of the employees surveyed agreed with that.
St. Pete Catalyst: Why does it matter?
Gadsden Williams: Since the year 2000, 52 percent of the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired or no longer exist as a result of digital disruption. Companies know they need to innovate and there are companies now starting to understand that there is a price to pay if they don’t innovate in today’s competitive landscape.
St. Pete Catalyst: What’s different about companies with a culture of equality?
Gadsden Williams: Their people are more engaged. They are more productive. They feel more willing to be bold, to have courageous conversations and to ideate which leads to innovation. They feel a sense of purpose in terms of why they show up to their place of employment every day, because they understand the company’s values and what their purpose is and hopefully their personal purpose aligns with that. There’s more collaboration. It’s a more empowering work environment.
St. Pete Catalyst: What did you hear when you presented this to Tampa-St. Pete companies?
Brown: We had great dialogue around individual stories and topics. Some very large companies were there. Some of these companies can tell strong diversity stories but haven’t gotten the equality-innovation linkage yet … Smaller companies with people who work from home have different challenges.
St. Pete Catalyst: Can you give me a specific example?
Brown: Microsoft is a big partner of ours. Look at their transformation since they have their new CEO [Satya Nadella, named CEO in February 2014]. The culture was an old-school sales and software culture and they transformed their entire mindset. Most innovation now is coming from Microsoft, not Apple. That shift happened because the culture shifted. It’s an inclusive and diverse culture.
In some places, it becomes a compliance issue. That’s not what we’re talking about. Equality is different than compliance. When it’s part of the culture and it’s genuine, then everyone participates in that. When it’s a compliance issue, it doesn’t feel genuine.
The full Accenture study is available here.