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Companies seeing double-digit growth are more focused on innovation in the workplace

New research reveals a surprising link between the workplace and business success

To help businesses stay a step ahead in the digital age, Microsoft has released new research in partnership with Dr. Michael Parke of the London Business School. Surveying 9,000 workers and business leaders across 15 European markets, the research delved into company growth, employee engagement, leadership styles and technology.

According to the findings, change is the new normal as businesses race to adapt and better compete: 92% of European leaders say their organization has recently undergone a major transformation.

And, the number-one transformation challenge in leaders’ minds is company culture.

Our customers and partners across Europe tell us that keeping up with the pace of digital transformation and innovation is among their chief concerns. But based on our own internal cultural transformation at Microsoft over the past few years, I always encourage business leaders to give as much consideration to company culture as they do to deploying new technology. After all, it’s not just about having the best technology; it’s about how you and your teams react to, and adapt to, change. – Vahé Torossian, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft, and President, Microsoft Western Europe.

The study revealed that getting the workplace culture component right can benefit businesses in a significant way.

Companies that were assessed as having ‘innovative cultures’ – generally defined as cultures where new ideas are embraced and supported – were twice as likely to expect double-digit growth. These businesses also seem positioned to win the war for talent: the majority of workers within these organizations (86%) plan to stay in their jobs, as opposed to 57% of those employees working in less innovative cultures.

There are three key attributes that set these innovative companies apart:

I. Tearing down silos and building bridges

Companies with the most innovative cultures have leaders who are not only tearing down silos, they’re replacing them with partnerships and transparency. These leaders are more likely to see effective collaboration as vital for business growth – whether it’s within teams, across teams, or with customers and partners.

Among leaders of highly innovative cultures:

  • 86 percent said collaboration within their teams is very important for future business growth, compared to 70 percent in less innovative cultures.
  • 86 percent said internal collaboration across teams is very important to growth, compared to 72 percent of leaders in less innovative businesses.
  • 79 percent said collaborating externally with their partners is vital for growing their business, compared to just 54 percent of their counterparts in lower-innovation companies.

II. Empowering teams and creating a learning culture

The research shows that in the most innovative companies, leaders are focused on mobilizing their teams and empowering them.

In the most innovative companies, 73 percent of workers say their teams can choose how they approach the work – with only 45 percent of workers in low-innovation workplaces feeling that way. Further, approximately twice as many people in high-innovation workplaces feel empowered to make decisions without a manger’s approval, compared to employees in low-innovation companies.

Finally, nearly three in four employees say their leaders create a culture where it’s OK to make mistakes, compared to just half of the employees in lower-innovation companies.

Profound growth requires innovation and to foster innovation, you need people to feel trusted and supported to experiment and learn. There can be real returns for leaders who learn to let go and coach teams to constantly improve. – Dr. Parke.

III. Protect attention and promote flow

Workers report feeling like they waste 52% of their time each week due to things like unproductive meetings and emails, unnecessary interruptions, and time taken to track down information.

The study suggests that a combination of having the right physical environment, tech tools and a manager who supports diverse ways of working can cut this sub-optimal time in half.

However, the data from the study highlights there’s a greater opportunity than just the possibility of employers helping people be more productive. In fact, there’s also a significant opportunity to bolster employee engagement. When people are able to devote all of their attention and energy to a particular task, they are able to work in a flow state – sometimes known as ‘in the zone.’ Employees who can work in this way – at least some of the time – were three times more likely to say they were happy in their jobs

A working culture that values empowerment and autonomy appear to have an advantage in terms of people being able to work in a flow state: 72 percent of employees who report that they are able to work in flow state say their teams can choose how they approach work. In workplaces with low states of flow, only half of workers feel similarly.

In quick summary: the business leaders that will succeed tomorrow are not thinking about how they can make their workforce more productive – they are focused on helping their people be more innovative.

Any business leader knows that innovation is the key to growth or survival. The challenge, however, is how to establish a culture that consistently innovates, again and again, to avoid getting left behind.– Dr. Parke.

For more insights and practical guidance to creating an innovative workplace, please visit: