A generational disconnect regarding “innovation”?

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A new survey just released by global consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) indicates a startling disconnect may be taking shape between executives and younger workers: namely, that younger workers feel today’s business leaders are only paying lip service to the importance of innovation in the world of business.

That’s a big deal in the opinion of Deloitte Global CEO Barry Salzberg (at right), because he feels innovation at the institutional level is needed to sufficiently shift an organization's mindset to allow new ideas to truly emerge and thrive – and trucking companies are dead-center of that need, as a bevy of regulations governing safety, driver work hours, fuel economy, and others get tighter and tighter.

DTTL surveyed close to 5,000 workers from the “millennial” generation across 18 in order to see how their “world view” where innovation is concerned aligned with the perspective currently espoused by their bosses.

As it turns out, they didn’t align well at all, for while 78% of the those “millennials” polled believe innovation is essential for business growth, just 26% feel that their business leaders are doing enough to encourage practices that foster innovation.

That’s a bigger deal than many may think, noted Deloitte, as the firm’s research is discovering that innovation is also an important component of talent recruitment and retention. For example, two-thirds of the millennials surveyed by DTTL said innovation is a key factor in making an organization an employer of choice – and remember, millennials are forecasted to make up 75% of the world's workforce by 2025, a subject I’ve touched on in this space before.

“While our current business leaders can debate how and where to innovate, it's clear how much importance our future leaders place on innovation—not just as a driver of business growth but also as a catalyst for solving society's most pressing problems,” Deloitte’s Salzberg added.

That being said, though, there are “discrepancies” in terms of what millennials believe are the requirements for innovation, Deloitte’s research discerned:

  • 39% of respondents believe that encouragement and rewards for idea generation and creativity is a requirement for innovation to occur, whereas only 20% say their current organization operates in this way.
  • 34% say providing employees with free time to dedicate to learning and creativity is key to an innovative environment, versus 17% who characterize their workplace that way.
  • 32% consider openness and the freedom to challenge as key to innovation, versus 17% who say this is visible in their organizations.
  • 42% believe in the importance of encouraging innovative thinking at all levels of the organization, versus 26% who describe their places of employment that way.

The reason carriers should pay attention to surveys like DTTL’s is that millennials – regardless of what truckers might think of them – are the labor pool of the future. They will be the drivers, technicians, freight schedulers, and countless other personnel required to keep trucks rolling. Indeed, even as we speak, that generational “changeover” is starting to pick up speed. 

"A generational shift is taking place in business as baby boomers, many of whom may have been wedded to the 'old way' of doing business, begin to step down from their leadership roles to retire," Salzberg stressed.

"As a result, real opportunity exists for organizations to step up and create the conditions and commitment needed to encourage and foster innovation in their work environments,” he added. “And there's a tremendous upside if we get this right: we can better retain talent, remain more competitive into the future, and more positively impact society.”

We’ll see if that ends up being the case. 

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