Research suggests Australian businesses not ready for sustainable innovation

By Harry Allan

New research from PageUp has revealed that whilst driving innovation is a key priority for businesses across the globe over the next 12 months, Australian organisations are not walking the talk and are less prepared than their global peers when it comes to their ability to achieve this sustainably. The Inaugural PageUp Global HR Innovation Survey also highlights that HR has a crucial role to play in helping businesses harness long-term innovation, but are yet to deliver.

The PageUp study, conducted in association with Alexander Mann Solutions, and titled, Driving a Culture of Innovation, drew insight from 322 business and HR professionals, including 109 from Australia and New Zealand. Respondents were asked questions about the culture of innovation in their organisations and the maturity of their current talent management practices.

The global research revealed that three quarters of organisations hold innovation as a corporate value, and 64 percent believe driving innovation is a priority in the next 12 months. Despite this, less than half believe their organisation promotes risk-taking and entrepreneurial behaviour. Similarly, only 57 percent feel that their organisation creates an environment of trust in which they can challenge existing assumptions, try new ideas and fail with impunity.

The study found that while there is a desire for innovation amongst organisations, for most organisations around the world necessary frameworks are not in place to bring this to fruition. Whilst 54 percent of respondents globally have a process in place for submitting new ideas and incorporating feedback to improve outcomes, less than 40 percent have established processes in place for prioritising these ideas.

Australian companies are on par with their global peers for many cultural aspects but lag when it comes to established talent management practices to support and build company-wide innovation capability.

Australian respondents rated their organisations lower than their global peers (23 percent vs 39 percent) when asked if their company trains and educates employees to be more innovative and creative. This highlights the opportunity for HR to establish and drive enterprise-wide innovation capability within Australian businesses.  

The PageUp report found business leaders should take a more targeted approach to creating diversity of thought - via different backgrounds, experiences, expertise and skills, in order to bolster their ability to innovate for the long-term.

Globally, 65 percent of those surveyed say their company promotes diversity of thought and two-thirds (66 percent) have established practices for creating a diverse and inclusive culture. In comparison, only 55 percent of Australian companies believe their company promotes diversity of thought, although 70 percent have established recruitment practices in place to create a diverse and inclusive culture.

Australian companies were not as confident that their current talent acquisition strategies are building future workforce capability (49 percent vs 53 percent globally.) Similarly, Australian organisations are less likely to reward and recognise innovation when it comes to performance management, compared to their global counterparts (48 percent vs 53 percent).


“It’s promising to see both global and Australian businesses prioritising innovation, but there is still work to be done to ensure the processes are in place to execute this in a meaningful and sustainable way,” said Rebecca Skilbeck, Global Market Researcher at PageUp. “Without HR processes that recruit, develop and nurture innovative talent or frameworks for developing and prioritising new ideas, innovation can easily become a flash-in-the-pan moment rather than a long-term strategy to safeguard the organisation into the future.”

“In an increasingly competitive world, companies must place a greater emphasis on acquiring talent that champion innovation and action,” said Jerry Collier, Director of Innovation for Alexander Mann Solutions. “This means they must re-orient their recruitment strategies to identify these qualities in new employees, while continuing to develop those already in the organisation who demonstrate these skills.”

Results from the PageUp research also demonstrate that while HR and talent management practices are critical in supporting sustained innovation, HR is yet to deliver on this promise.  HR professionals are more confident (80 percent) than their non-HR peers (67 percent) that they have a role in driving organisation-wide innovation, and were nearly twice as likely (43 percent vs 24 percent) to believe they are currently driving innovation in their organisation.

Australian respondents scored themselves lower than their global peers when asked about talent mobility practices, which are central to an organisations ability to innovate in the current environment. The presence of leadership development programs that builds future capability in leaders (40 percent vs 48 percent globally) and a process for moving talent from role to role (36 percentvs 41 percent globally) is lower locally than the rest of the world. Research also revealed that Australian organisations have less visibility of current and future skill gaps to support organisational goals (29 percent vs 37 percent for the rest of the world).

“A sustainable culture of innovation requires a commitment to creating company-wide capability, and HR is well-placed to have a significant and strategic influence here,” Rebecca Skilbeck added. “The benefits HR can drive through talent acquisition, performance management, talent mobility, diversity and engagement programs as well as learning and development opportunities that support a culture of innovation are irrefutable.

“The HR industry has a very ripe opportunity to shift internal perceptions, increase its value proposition and start delivering on the promise of sustainable innovation that contributes to the organisation’s bottom line,” she said.

The full PageUp Global HR Innovation Survey* whitepaper can be downloaded here

Business Review Australia's February issue is now live. 

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