Curiosity@Work Report | Insights by Industry
Retail & Consumer Goods
Key Findings for Retail
- Retail/consumer goods managers struggle with issues related to employee morale, retention and getting employees to push beyond their basic duties – as well as challenges related to hiring applicants with necessary technical and interpersonal skills.
- Managers in retail/consumer goods recognize the value of curiosity as an intrinsic skill that will continue to become more important for employees to have and a skill which drives real business impact. When analyzing the differences across companies in this industry, we see that managers at younger organizations are most inclined to believe in curiosity’s ability to drive business impact.
- Curiosity can help address retail/consumer goods’ managers concerns. Highly valuable benefits of curiosity include greater efficiency (63%), employee engagement (59%) and more creative thinking (59%) within the workplace and among employees.
- Like managers in most industries, retail/consumer goods managers struggle with identifying curiosity in job applicants and direct reports. More than 2 in 5 find it difficult to develop curiosity in employees who don’t naturally have it (43%) and connect curiosity to job performance (44%). Managers in retail/consumer goods need further guidance on how curiosity can be effectively utilized and developed in direct reports to complement and amplify efforts they are already making to foster this trait.
- About a third (31%) of retail/consumer goods managers can be categorized as highly curious vs. only 18% having low curiosity – on par with other industries. It is beneficial for managers to display high workplace curiosity because these managers exhibit greater workplace engagement and motivation and do more to encourage this valuable skill among their direct reports compared to less-curious peers.
Curiosity is an increasingly valuable employee trait across industries, including retail/consumer goods.
Amid the Great Resignation and current hiring frenzy, retail/consumer goods managers:
- Believe curiosity is a very valuable trait in employees (72%).
- Believe curiosity is much more important for employees to have today than it was five years ago (49%).
Retail/consumer goods managers also strongly agree:
- Curiosity in employees drives real business impact (60%).
- Employees who have more curiosity tend to be higher performers (49%).
Managers in the retail/consumer goods industry believe curiosity is a very valuable trait across organizational levels:
- C-suite executives (61%).
- Directors and departmental leaders (58%).
- Midlevel managers (48%).
- Entry-level employees (53%).
When asked in which departments it is especially valuable for employees to have curiosity, retail/consumer goods managers say:
- IT (62%).
- Research and development (51%).
- Marketing (49%).
Retail/consumer goods managers, like their counterparts in other industries, recognize that curiosity is a skill that can address key challenges and concerns.
The top employee challenges managers in the retail/consumer goods industry are facing are:
- Keeping employee morale/motivation high (61%).
- Getting employees to push beyond just basic duties (59%).
- Retaining good employees (52%).
- Cross-collaboration with other teams/departments (49%).
- Achieving team performance objectives (49%).
Managers in retail/consumer goods recognize the potential benefits of curious employees:
- Greater efficiency and productivity (63%).
- Greater employee engagement and job satisfaction (59%).
- More creative thinking and solutions (59%).
- More flexibility and adaptability in times of uncertainty (56%).
- Greater diversity of thoughts and perspectives (56%).
Compared to managers in other industries, more retail/consumer goods managers say they struggle with getting employees to push beyond just basic job duties (59% vs. 51% across industries). With a key benefit of curiosity being greater employee engagement and job satisfaction, this further supports the need to foster this trait in retail/consumer goods employees.
The significance of curiosity in employees in the retail/consumer goods industry is recognized by managers in both younger and older organizations.
Regardless of the age of the organization, managers across retail/consumer goods organizations:
- Believe curiosity is a very valuable trait (77% at companies 10 years old or less vs. 69% at companies 11-plus years old.
- Believe curiosity is much more important for employees to have today than it was five years ago (54% 10 years old or less vs. 46% 11-plus years).
- Strongly agree employees who have curiosity tend to be higher performers (45% 10 years old or less vs. 51% 11-plus years).
Unlike their older counterparts, managers from younger organizations are more inclined to strongly agree curiosity in employees drives real business impact (68% 10 years old or less vs. 56% 11-plus years old).
Retail/consumer goods managers, like their peers in other industries, note the interconnectedness of curiosity and data expertise and digital integration.
To succeed in the next three years, managers in retail/consumer goods need employees with:
- Technical skills in artificial intelligence (64%) and data analysis (60%).
- Personal attributes like problem solving (58%), flexibility (57%) and creative thinking (57%).
Focusing on the beneficial outcomes of curiosity, retail/consumer goods managers believe it is valuable for employees to have this trait when:
- Innovating new solutions (57%).
- Tackling complex problems (52%).
- Analyzing data (51%).
- Understanding the hearts and minds of consumers (51%).
Managers within retail/consumer goods who rate high in curiosity:
- Use an average of 4 different data sources in their role vs. 3 for their less-curious peers2.
- More often use customer data (69% vs. 44% among those who rate low in curiosity), performance metric data (67% vs. 34%) and employee data (66% vs. 46%).
These more-curious managers in retail/consumer goods also tend to be more advanced in their company’s integration of digital technology. Overall, 2 in 5 (43%) retail/consumer goods managers believe their company’s integration of digital technology is very advanced. However, those managers who rate high in curiosity are more likely to describe their organization as very advanced (55% vs. 33% for those who rate low in curiosity), highlighting how curiosity can help organizations adapt and become more competitive.
Curiosity is integral to workplace success and career advancement – and companies across industries and in retail/consumer goods foster this trait in several ways.
Companies in retail/consumer goods formally include curiosity (or similar traits) in:
- Company training and development (74%).
- Employee performance review criteria (72%).
- Promotion or advancement decisions (70%).
- Hiring criteria (69%).
Managers in the retail/consumer goods industry personally consider or encourage curiosity via:
- Employee performance reviews (84%).
- Coaching or team development (83%).
- Hiring decisions (80%).
- Promotion or advancement decisions (77%).
Across industries, views toward curiosity are complex. Many managers in retail/consumer goods remain hesitant to encourage this trait and struggle with how to identify or develop it.
Retail/consumer goods managers note they are only somewhat or not equipped to identify curiosity in:
- Job applicants (46%).
- Direct reports (40%).
About 2 in 5 or fewer managers in the retail/consumer goods industry are very concerned about curiosity’s potential to lead to:
- Greater difficulty coming to a final decision or taking action (40%).
- Increased risk of errors or bad decisions (40%).
- Greater difficulty managing employees (36%).
- Decreased efficiency or productivity (33%).
These managers admit they find it challenging to:
- Connect curiosity to business impact (46%).
- Identify job applicants who have curiosity (45%).
- Connect curiosity to job performance (44%).
- Develop curiosity in employees who don’t naturally have it (43%).
- Identify situations or problems for which curiosity is most useful (43%).
Two in five (40%) managers in the retail/consumer goods industry go as far as to say employees and applicants today have too much curiosity, further highlighting the complexity between recognizing the value of curiosity in employees and effectively and efficiently harnessing this skill in the workplace.
More-curious managers in retail/consumer goods exhibit greater workplace engagement and work to foster this skill among direct reports in several ways.
The Curiosity Index was used to measure the prevalence of workplace curiosity in managers – managers in the retail/consumer goods industry can be categorized as:
- High curiosity (most inclined to identify with statements defining a curious nature) (31%).
- Moderate curiosity (51%).
- Low curiosity (least inclined to identify with statements defining a curious nature) (18%).
Highly curious managers in retail/consumer goods embrace differing ideas and have a relentless pursuit of knowledge and understanding. They often strongly agree that:
- They seek out opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills (88%).
- It is important to listen to ideas from people who think differently (83%).
- They continue to seek information until they understand complex problems fully (83%).
Further highlighting the value of curiosity in helping companies address some of their key challenges when it comes to employee retention and performance, more-curious managers within retail/consumer goods are likely to:
- Strongly agree they would continue to work for their employer for as long as possible (75%).
- Strongly agree they feel motivated to go above and beyond what their job requires (71%).
- Say their direct reports’ performance is very strong (73%).
The top methods more-curious managers in the retail/consumer goods industry use to foster and encourage curiosity are:
- Publicly praising employees who demonstrate curiosity (69%).
- Rewarding curiosity in performance reviews (68%).
- Allowing the use of work time to explore passion projects (58%).
- One-on-one coaching or mentoring (58%).
Managers across the curiosity spectrum can be further divided into one of four segments based on how each segment values curiosity in the workplace in various ways.
Managers in the retail/consumer goods industry can be categorized as:
- High-curiosity collaborators (32% of managers in retail/consumer goods vs. 35% across industries). The most curious segment. These managers value collaboration, are teamwork driven and are relentless in finding answers. They do this through listening and valuing co-workers' ideas and continuously seeking opportunities to expand skills but are more hesitant when new challenges present themselves. Focused on curiosity, these managers believe this trait leads to greater efficiency and productivity at work and results in greater job satisfaction.
- Flexibility-driven opinion seekers (29% of managers in retail/consumer goods vs. 26% across industries). These managers embrace challenges, and the possibility of being distressed does not impact their motivation. Curiosity leads to greater flexibility and adaptability during times of uncertainty and can bring more empathy and inclusivity to workplaces. These managers do not believe that curiosity leads to a boost in efficiency or overall team performance.
- Productivity-focused leaders (23% of managers in retail/consumer goods vs. 24% across industries). These managers believe curiosity can lead to stronger collaboration and teamwork and help increase efficiency and productivity in the workplace. They do not, however, believe curiosity drives inclusivity and diversity of thought.
- Anti-curiosity leaders (16% of managers in retail/consumer goods vs. 16% across industries). The smallest segment, these managers do not believe curiosity adds any value to performance or the workplace.
 Base note: n=151.
 Base note: n=312.
 Base note: n=144 high-curiosity managers.
 Base note: n=82 low-curiosity managers, results should be viewed as directional.
 The 2021 Curiosity Index: The Curiosity Index score is based on the ratings of 8 different attributes related to curiosity in the workplace. The index transforms the attributes’ raw ratings into a 0-100 metric where all the scores are averaged. Managers with a score of 71 or lower ranked “low” in the index; managers with a score ranging from 72 to 83 were categorized as “medium”; and those with a score or 84 or higher were assigned to the “high” category. The thresholds in each category were derived based on the index score distribution and best practices. Questions used in the development of this index were inspired by research conducted by Todd Kashdan and his team on the topic of curiosity in the workplace, “Curiosity has comprehensive benefits in the workplace: Developing and validating a multidimensional workplace curiosity scale in United States and German employees".
Given its global value and impact, it is evident that curiosity is an increasingly necessary and crucial skill that employees across levels within retail/consumer goods need to develop as well as a trait that these organizations must foster to remain competitive. Curiosity has the potential to help address some of the biggest business challenges identified by retail/consumer goods managers, particularly getting employees to push beyond basic job duties, by fostering increased engagement, efficiency and productivity, and addressing challenges related to employee morale and retention – key to mitigating the Great Resignation and hiring challenges that many organizations across industries are experiencing. Understanding how to identify and cultivate this skill will be essential as competition around hiring and business performance continues.
However, knowing how to effectively develop this trait among employees is difficult. Many managers within retail/consumer goods admit they struggle with how to identify this trait in job applicants and with connecting curiosity to business impact. Yet, managers identified as being more curious in our research show increased motivation and satisfaction in their role – a key challenge within the retail/consumer goods industry – and actively work to encourage this trait among their direct reports, further highlighting the importance of fostering this skill. This fostering can be done in multiple ways, such as by rewarding curiosity in performance reviews or publicly praising employees who demonstrate this trait. The case for curiosity is clear, it is now up to organizations within retail/consumer goods to further embrace this trait and for managers to continue to incorporate this skill in their employee development efforts or risk falling behind.