Millennials hold innovative businesses in high regard

Companies that foster creativity and innovation are highly regarded among the world’s next generation of business leaders, according to a new survey.

The millennial generation believes innovation benefits society and business, because it promises to address top challenges such as pollution, climate change, income inequality and shortages of water, oil and skilled workers. They believe business is by far the most effective driver of innovation, ahead of government and universities. And two-thirds of them say a creative environment makes a business more attractive to talent.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu surveyed 5,000 college-educated workers age 31 or younger in 18 countries to arrive at those conclusions.

Millennials also see significant barriers to innovation, especially at large, established companies, results from the online questionnaire and about 300 follow-up interviews suggest. For example, only 26% of the survey respondents credited their own company’s leadership with encouraging idea generation and sharing regardless of seniority.

Respondents indicated that while some companies have the resources to do innovative work, there is still a lack of support from leaders, who in many cases are attached to old methods and are unwilling or unable to move away from traditional thinking.

Demographic shift

By 2021, countries such as India, Indonesia and Brazil, where people 25 and younger make up the largest population group, will have a surplus of college-educated, skilled workers. China will have a larger talent pool than the United States. And countries with aging populations, such as Japan, Germany, Australia, and the US, will face a talent deficit.

In the US, where the first of about 82 million baby boomers started to retire, about 85 million Americans between age 10 and 30 outnumber the about 61 million Generation Xers, those between age 30 and 44, 2012 Census figures show.

Results of a Harvard University poll of 2,200 professional US millennials suggested that this is a very competitive generation that is socially conscious and expects work to be personally fulfilling.

The Deloitte study reflects millennials’ social consciousness and work expectations in respondents’ regard for creativity and innovation:

  • Seventy-one per cent of respondents said their company’s innovations directly benefit society. Respondents felt particularly strongly about their company’s societal contributions in China (86%) and Malaysia (82%).
  • One-third believed the purpose of business is to drive innovation. This sentiment was strongest in China (46%), Brazil (42%) and India (42%).
  • Eighty-seven per cent said the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance, and half suggested innovativeness as a measurement of corporate success.
  • Fifty-two per cent feel innovation places their company at a competitive advantage. This sentiment was particularly strong in India (75%), Brazil, the US and South Africa (65% each), China (63%), Southeast Asia (61%) and the UK (58%).
  • Sixty-two per cent considered creativity and design as hallmarks of tomorrow’s innovators.
  • Ninety-five per cent feel it is acceptable to profit from social innovation.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

Study Finds Early Warning Signs for a Looming Global Talent Imbalance”: Companies are overhauling their business strategies to adjust to the rise of emerging markets, new research shows. But demographic trends will add new challenges over the next five to ten years, specifically in talent management.

Finding the Right Talent Is an Issue for 59% of Employees Worldwide”: The likelihood of employees changing jobs in the next six months continues to rise, and the skills of employees frequently do not match job requirements in emerging countries, a new survey shows.

Sabine Vollmer ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.