Amid the Great Resignation, Curiosity is an increasingly important skill for UK employees, according to new SAS Study

While curiosity can address critical business challenges, many organisations struggle to develop and harness this skill

 In the age of the Great Resignation, curiosity is increasingly recognised as a valuable skill by UK business leaders. Curiosity is increasingly sought by employers to address some of the biggest challenges facing organisations today – from improving employee retention and job satisfaction to creating more innovative, collaborative and productive workplaces. This is according to the SAS Curiosity@Work Report, new research from analytics leader SAS which surveyed more than 350 managers in the UK (nearly 2,000 globally) and analysed data from LinkedIn over the last year.

The report defines curiosity as the impulse to seek new information and experiences and explore novel possibilities, highlighting the importance of this trait no matter an employee's role or level within their organisation. The research found that seven in 10 (69%) of UK managers believe curiosity is a very valuable trait in employees, with around half strongly agreeing that curiosity drives real business impact (53%) and that employees who have more curiosity are higher performers (50%). However, many organisations risk falling behind due to an inability to develop and harness curiosity and one in five (19%) still think curiosity adds no value to performance.

The report highlights how curiosity has gained traction amid growing demand for this skill. According to LinkedIn data, year-over-year there has been a 158% increase in engagement with posts, shares and articles mentioning curiosity, 90% growth in job postings that mention curiosity, and 87% growth in the mention of skills related to curiosity.

In today’s environment of the Great Resignation, managers are finding it especially challenging to keep employee morale and motivation high, with 55% of managers citing this as a difficulty. Nearly half find it challenging getting employees to push beyond just basic job duties (47%) and driving cross-collaboration with other teams and departments (47%). Just two in five UK managers (42%) find it challenging retaining good employees, which compares favourably with employees globally (52%).

However, many of the benefits associated with curiosity directly address these key business challenges. More than half the managers surveyed agreed that the very valuable benefits of curiosity include greater efficiency and productivity (56%), more creative thinking and solutions (55%), greater diversity of thoughts and perspectives (54%), and greater employee engagement and job satisfaction (52%).

Most managers agree that curiosity is particularly valuable when innovating new solutions (59%), tackling complex problems (57%), and analysing data (54%), making it an important trait for fueling data insights and integration. Focusing on managers who are considered more curious, these individuals note their employer is significantly more advanced in digital transformation (43% of those who rate high in curiosity vs. 33% who rate low). They also frequently use more data sources in their roles, particularly to help them better understand their customers (61%), performance (57%), and fellow employees (71%).

For their business to succeed in the next three years, managers say their organisation needs employees with technical expertise in areas of artificial intelligence (59%) and data analysis (59%) as well as personal attributes like creative thinking (60%) and flexibility (56%).

Categorising UK managers into curiosity-minded segments

The report also categorises surveyed managers into four curiosity-minded segments:

  • High Curiosity Collaborators (25%): Value collaboration, teamwork driven, relentless in finding answers; believe curiosity leads to improved performance and job satisfaction.
  • Flexibility Driven Opinion Seekers (29%): Embrace challenges and value the opinion of others; believe curiosity leads to flexibility and adaptability in times of uncertainty but do not believe curiosity leads to greater efficiency and productivity.
  • Productivity-Focused Leaders (26%): Believe curiosity helps in efficiency and productivity as well as leads to stronger collaboration and teamwork, though are less inclined to believe it drives inclusion and diversity of thought.
  • Anti-Curiosity Leaders (19%): Do not believe curiosity adds any value to performance.

Many organisations risk falling behind due to an inability to develop and harness curiosity

While there is growing recognition of the value of curiosity in the workplace, there is still progress to be made in many organisations, with the potential for a clear competitive advantage among those organisations that can effectively tap into the power of curiosity as a skillset among their employees. However, not all managers consistently agree with its inherent value and many organisations struggle to effectively foster and capitalise on it in their day-to-day operations.

While most managers surveyed believe curiosity is valuable, many face challenges fostering and encouraging this skill. In fact, more than half of managers admit they feel only somewhat or not equipped to identify curiosity in job applicants (56%), and direct reports (52%). Even if managers feel they are equipped to identify this trait, many say it is challenging to connect curiosity to job performance (48%) or develop curiosity in employees who don't naturally have it (43%). These findings highlight a disconnect between the perceived benefits of curiosity and organisations' potential to harness this skill among employees.

Many organisations and managers remain hesitant to encourage curiosity in the workplace. About a third of UK managers feel it leads to greater difficulty in coming to a final decision or taking action (33%), in managing employees (30%), or it leads to increased risk of errors or bad decisions (28%). Compared to other markets, outside of the US, more UK managers say their employer is not doing enough to foster curiosity in the workplace (21% versus 15% globally).

One way to mitigate these challenges is to look to organisations and managers who rate high in curiosity. Organisations and managers who have embraced curiosity often encourage curiosity across the enterprise, including employee performance reviews (83%), company training and development (82%), and hiring decisions (78%). These managers also use a variety of methods to further encourage this valuable trait in their direct reports, including rewarding curiosity in performance reviews (67%), one-on-one coaching or mentoring (62%), and publicly praising employees who demonstrate curiosity (57%).

“Our research paints a powerful picture that curiosity is no longer just nice to have. Instead it’s becoming a business imperative that helps companies address critical challenges and foster innovation. It’s also linked to organisations making better use of data to understand their business and drive digital transformation” said Laurie Miles, Director of Analytics, SAS UK & Ireland.

“However, the research also highlights how a significant proportion of UK managers still don’t rate curiosity as a particularly important trait in employees, and feel it leads to greater difficulty making decisions, managing employees and leads to increased risk of errors or bad decisions.”

For more insights into the Curiosity@Work report findings, please visit the Curiosity@Work website

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