Millennials Say Innovation Holds Key to Business Success . / Credit: Innovation Image via Shutterstock

The next generation of leaders believes the ability of workers to come up with cutting-edge ideas is essential for future business growth, new research finds.

The study by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited revealed that 78 percent of millennials worldwide think innovation is critical for evolving companies. Yet despite that, just 26 percent of millennials feel that business leaders are doing enough to encourage practices that foster the development of new ideas.

"Innovation at the institutional level is needed to sufficiently shift an organization's mindset to allow new ideas to truly emerge and thrive," said Deloitte Global CEO Barry Salzberg. "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."

The millennials (loosely defined as those born in the 1980s and '90s) believe developing cutting-edge ideas has more benefits that just making companies money. More than 80 percent think business innovations have a positive impact on society, with nearly half saying business drives the formation of new ideas that most positively impact society, compared to just 18 percent who feel the same about the government.

Innovation is also an important component of talent recruitment and retention, the research found. Two-thirds of the millennials think companies that encourage employees to come up with new ideas and practices is a key factor in making an organization an employer of choice.

Millennials are mixed, however, on how businesses can best foster innovation. Nearly 40 percent believe that encouragement and rewards for idea generation and creativity is a requirement for innovation to occur, while 34 percent think providing employees with time dedicated to learning and creativity is key to an innovative environment. Openness and the freedom to challenge others and their ideas are other ways millennials think employers can encourage workers to generate new viewpoints.

"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 said. "Real opportunity exists for organizations to step up and create the conditions and commitment needed to encourage and foster innovation in their work environments."

The study was based on surveys of nearly 5,000 millennials born after January 1982 in 16 different markets worldwide, including the U.S., Canada, South Africa, Brazil, the Netherlands, the U.K., France, Germany, Spain, Russia, South Korea, India, Australia, Japan, China, Southeast Asia.

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