Accessing the skills needed to put innovation into action is still a major problem for Australian businesses, a business technology provider has cautioned, adding that future cultures of innovation will depend on an organisation’s ability to support new and changing modes of working.
In releasing its second Workplace Innovation Index in Sydney last week, Ricoh Australia revealed that Australia has slipped one place to 14 in CEDA’s global ranking of the digital competitiveness of 63 nations, with key weaknesses including business agility, tech skills and communications.
Ricoh Australia CEO Andy Berry said concerted action, not talk, was needed to arrest the slide and enable Australia to live up to its image as a “can do” country.
“Australia has always been a nation of innovators, but the challenge we face today is a lack of focus on taking our good ideas and developing businesses around them,” Mr Berry said. “We need a culture shift.
“All businesses must develop a platform for continued innovation and create more agile paths forward for new products, services and economic cooperation.”
Ricoh revealed that its 2020 Workplace Innovation Index remains steady at 69.0, a nominal difference from the previous year’s figure of 67.8, with optimism from decision-makers contributing to the maintenance of a steady state.
Business leaders at the executive level recorded an improvement of 2.4 index points in their attitude towards innovation. Conversely, middle management were the least positive cohort, recording an improvement of 0.5 index point.
But, according to the survey conducted as part of Ricoh’s research, accessing the skills needed to put innovation into action presents the same problem as it did in 2019, with more than a quarter (28 per cent) of respondents stating they did not have employees with the right skills to help them address the need to innovate.
Additionally, Ricoh explained that only 60 per cent of organisations had a program to migrate to a digitised environment in 2020, despite recognising that it can serve as the foundation for a more innovative corporate culture.
The research did, however, see a jump in the number of organisations that were reorganising their processes and procedures to incorporate best of breed digital technology — up from 33 per cent in 2019 to 45 per cent in 2020.
Keeping staff in the dark about digital transformation plans was revealed to be a common business practice — 53 per cent of respondents admitted to only “sometimes” involving staff in the introduction of new workplace technologies, while about a third (34 per cent) said they always did so.
Leaving employees out of the loop was identified as a contributor to the rise of “shadow IT”, the use of undocumented software introduced by staff without the knowledge of IT decision-makers.
Ricoh warned that failure to communicate the strategic vision of the organisation can result in staff resistance to innovation and transformation initiatives, particularly in the public sector.
Australia’s business leaders are aware there’s work to be done on the innovation front, Ricoh said.
Just one in five (22 per cent) felt the country was ahead of other developed nations in the digital work environment, while 28 per cent stated the country was lagging behind.
Despite those figures, over one in five (23 per cent) believe Australia could be ahead in the future, 50 per cent believe the country will maintain its standing, while 22 per cent anticipate it will fall behind the rest of the world.
“Investing in digital infrastructure and culture which help innovation to flourish is the key to making sure the latter scenario does not come to pass. It needs to be enterprise-wide and ongoing, not an isolated or exclusive activity or exercise,” Mr Berry said.
“Developing a program to move to a digital culture will have the welcome side effect of introducing more people to what is possible with digital.
“It’s time to awaken ideas from all corners of your organisation.”
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business.
Maja has an extensive career as a journalist across finance, business and market intelligence. Prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja spent several years unravelling social, political and economic intricacies in Eastern Europe.
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