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If you expect to rest on your laurels and still recruit top talent, think again.

Today’s top candidates prioritize an organization’s capacity for innovation when making career decisions, meaning that recruiters and hiring managers at companies that ignore disruptive trends and technologies may find themselves scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of talent.

In fact, candidates are so strongly drawn to innovation that 69 percent of American workers would leave their current role for a position at a company considered an innovation leader, according to a new report from EY.

“For an organization to be considered an innovation leader in today’s war for talent, it must be adaptable and constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of employees, future recruits, and clients/customers through development programs and opportunities that pave the way for creative thinking and problem-solving,” says Carolyn Slaski, vice chair of EY Americas.

But young employees and senior leaders don’t always see eye to eye on the matter of innovation. While only 26 percent of entry-level employees surveyed by EY said their companies foster innovation, more than half of senior executives said the same. Furthermore, nearly all senior executives said their companies provide channels through which employees can introduce new ideas, compared to roughly half of entry-level employees.

“If this gap [in perception] is not bridged, there is a high likelihood that the majority of employees will jump ship for a similar job at an organization that is already viewed with this leader status,” says Slaski.

Building an Innovative Culture

When a younger employee or a worker with highly developed skills enters an organization that doesn’t operate at a level that fully utilizes their skill set, the worker will feel almost immediately demoralized.

When building a cutting-edge company in which employees can thrive, it is important to remember that innovation isn’t just about having the latest technology. It also means embracing the latest corporate culture trends.

“Senior executives must recognize that entry-level employees are playing a major role in a company’s innovation by bringing valuable new skills to the table,” Slaski says. “It is important for leaders to take steps to empower younger generations to present fresh ideas to management and help move the needle for the broader organization.”

In addition to leadership-driven approaches to empowering employees, Slaski says companies should also offer more workplace flexibility to support work/life balance and prevent burnout. Upskilling is another major factor in creating and maintaining innovative organizations.

“Investing in programs and educational tools that equip employees with the skills to solve complex problems and deliver innovative business solutions is key,” Slaski says. “This includes development programs in future-focused skill sets such as cybersecurity, data analytics, blockchain, and robotics. Through [such programs], companies can leverage innovative employees as vehicles to a more innovative environment.”

Offering employees opportunities to upskill can be especially beneficial to retention efforts. Employees often fear they will be outpaced by technology and become irrelevant. Giving them a chance to adapt to disruptive technology not only provides the company with a more skilled workforce, but also helps workers feel more secure in their roles.

EY uses programs like the career development model LEAD and the skill-building initiative EY Badges to cultivate a “future-focused workforce” of employees who “invest in their own careers,” Slaski says.

“By encouraging and building teams of people with diverse, innovative skills, companies are able to push their businesses to the next level,” she adds.

Corporate cultures must follow the wants and needs of the workforce. Companies that ignore these trends will be unattractive to top talent, and the talent they do land will be less engaged and less productive.

Both the immeasurable and the quantifiable benefits of innovative corporate cultures easily offset any costs the company may incur while building such an environment. If you don’t believe me, ask EY.



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