Curiosity@Work Report | Insights by Country
Key Findings for the United Kingdom
- Managers in the UK struggle, similarly to their global peers, with issues related to employee morale, collaboration and – to a lesser degree – retention. These managers also face challenges related to hiring applicants with necessary technical and interpersonal skills.
- Managers in the UK are on par with global averages, and believe curiosity is an intrinsically valuable trait that will continue to become more important for employees to have – particularly among company leadership.
- Compared to those outside of the UK, fewer UK managers rank “retaining good employees” among their top challenges related to managing their employees (42% in the UK vs. 52% globally). While this is one of the top challenges managers globally face, in the time of the Great Resignation, managers in the UK more often face challenges related to keeping employee morale and motivation high and encouraging cross-collaboration with teams.
- Curiosity can help address UK managers’ concerns. Highly valuable benefits of curiosity include increased efficiency (56%), creative thinking (55%) and engagement (52%) within the workplace and among employees.
- Managers in the UK struggle with the development of curiosity in their direct reports as well as understanding the fundamental benefits and applications of this trait. Two in five UK-based managers have trouble identifying situations or problems for which curiosity is most useful. More support and direction is needed for these managers, as one in five do not believe their current employer is doing enough to encourage and foster this trait in employees.
- Fewer managers in the UK fall into a category of individuals considered to be highly curious based on the SAS Curiosity Index (25% in the UK vs. 38% globally). It is beneficial for managers to display high workplace curiosity because they exhibit greater workplace engagement and motivation, and do more to encourage this valuable skill among their direct reports compared to less-curious peers, leaving UK managers at risk of falling behind their peers in other markets.
Curiosity is an increasingly valuable employee trait both globally and in the United Kingdom.
UK managers agree on the value of curiosity – they:
- Believe curiosity is a very valuable trait in employees (69%).
- Believe curiosity is much more important for employees to have today than it was five years ago (42%).
- Strongly agree curiosity in employees drives real business impact (53%).
- Strongly agree employees who have more curiosity tend to be higher performers (50%).
Managers in the UK, like their global peers, believe curiosity is a very valuable trait across organizational levels – particularly within company leadership:
- C-suite executives (56%).
- Directors and departmental leaders (58%).
- Midlevel managers (52%).
- Entry-level employees (45%).
When asked in which departments it is especially valuable for employees to have curiosity, UK managers say:
- IT (59%).
- Research and development (50%).
- Marketing (44%).
UK managers recognize that curiosity is a skill that can address key challenges and concerns, similar to their global counterparts.
Top employee challenges managers in the UK are facing:
- Keeping employee morale/motivation high (55%).
- Cross-collaboration with other teams/departments (50%).
- Getting employees to push beyond just basic job duties (47%).
- Collaboration/working as a team (47%).
Just 2 in 5 managers (42%) in the UK claim they find it challenging to retain good employees (vs. 52% globally).
Managers in the UK recognize the potential benefits of curious employees. Very valuable benefits of curiosity in employees are:
- Greater efficiency and productivity (56%).
- More creative thinking and solutions (55%).
- Greater diversity of thoughts and perspectives (54%).
- Greater employee engagement and job satisfaction (52%).
Managers in the UK could be missing out on one key benefit of curiosity with the opportunity to address one of their biggest challenges – just 48% say stronger collaboration and teamwork is a very valuable potential benefit of curiosity in employees – 10 points lower than the global average (58%).
UK managers, like their global peers, note the interconnectedness of curiosity and data expertise and digital integration.
To succeed in the next three years, managers in the UK need employees with:
- Technical skills in data analysis (59%) and artificial intelligence (59%).
- Personal attributes like creative thinking (60%) and flexibility (56%).
Focusing on the positive outcomes of curiosity, UK managers believe it is valuable for employees to have this trait when:
- Innovating new solutions (59%).
- Tackling complex problems (57%).
- Analyzing data (54%).
Looking to managers who rate high in curiosity, these managers:
- Use an average of 4 different data sources in their role vs. 3 for their less-curious peers.
- More often use employee data (71% vs. 46% among those who rate low in curiosity), customer data (61% vs. 39%) and performance metric data (57% vs. 43%).
These more-curious managers, globally and in the UK, tend to be more advanced in their company’s integration of digital technology as well. Overall, fewer UK managers believe their company’s integration of digital technology is very advanced (33% in the UK vs. 44% globally). However, those UK managers who rate high in curiosity are more likely to describe their digital integration as very advanced (43% 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 in the UK.
Many companies in the UK have formally included curiosity (or similar traits) in:
- Company training and development (67%).
- Hiring criteria (66%).
- Employee performance review criteria (62%).
Like managers in other markets, those in the UK personally consider or encourage curiosity via:
- Employee performance reviews (83%).
- Coaching or team development (82%).
- Hiring decisions (78%).
- Promotion or advancement decisions (76%).
Compared to other markets outside of the US, more managers in the UK say their current employer is not doing enough to encourage and foster curiosity in employees (21% in the UK vs. 15% globally). With a fifth of managers in the UK saying employees and job applicants today do not have enough curiosity, workplace encouragement is necessary and vital.
Views toward curiosity are complex. Many managers in the UK remain hesitant to encourage this trait and struggle with how to develop it.
UK managers note they are only somewhat or not equipped to identify curiosity in:
- Job applicants (56%).
- Direct reports (52%).
About a third of managers in the UK (on par, if not less than global averages) are very concerned about curiosity’s potential to lead to:
- Greater difficulty coming to a final decision or taking action (33%).
- Greater difficulty managing employees (30%).
- Increased risk of errors or bad decisions (28%).
These managers, like their global counterparts, admit they find it challenging to:
- Connect curiosity to job performance (48%).
- Develop curiosity in employees who don’t naturally have it (43%).
- Identifying situations or problems for which curiosity is most useful (40%).
More-curious managers exhibit greater workplace engagement and work to foster this skill among direct reports in several ways – both globally and within the United Kingdom.
The Curiosity Index was used to measure the prevalence of curiosity in managers – compared to global averages, more managers in the UK can be categorized as moderately, if not less, curious in the workplace. Managers in the UK can be categorized as:
- High curiosity (most inclined to identify with statements defining a curious nature) (25% vs. 38% globally).
- Moderate curiosity (53% vs. 43% globally).
- Low curiosity (least inclined to identify with statements defining a curious nature) (21% vs. 18% globally).
Highly curious managers in the UK embrace differing ideas and have a relentless pursuit of knowledge and understanding. They often strongly agree that:
- It is important to listen to ideas from people who think differently (88%).
- They continue to seek information until they understand complex problems fully (86%).
- They seek out opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills (84%).
Further highlighting the value of curiosity in helping companies address some of their key challenges, more-curious managers both globally and in the UK are more likely to:
- Strongly agree they would continue to work for their employer for as long as possible (67%).
- Strongly agree they feel motivated to go above and beyond what their job requires (67%).
The top methods more-curious managers in the UK use to foster and encourage curiosity are by:
- Rewarding curiosity in performance reviews (67%).
- One-on-one coaching or mentoring (62%).
- Publicly praising employees who demonstrate curiosity (57%).
- Allowing the use of work time to explore passion projects (56%).
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 UK can be categorized as:
- High-curiosity collaborators (25% of UK managers vs. 35% globally). 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 UK managers vs. 26% globally). 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 (26% of UK managers vs. 24% globally). 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 (19% of UK managers vs. 16% globally). The smallest segment, these managers do not believe curiosity adds any value to performance or the workplace.
 Base note, n= 90 high-curiosity managers in UK, results should be viewed as directional.
 Base note, n= 76 low-curiosity managers in UK, 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”.
 Base note, n= 90 high-curiosity managers in UK, results should be viewed as directional.
Given its global value and impact, it is evident that curiosity is an increasingly necessary and crucial skill employees across levels (especially leadership) need to develop as well as a trait that organizations must foster to remain competitive. However, despite the recognized importance of curiosity as a skill in the workforce, findings among UK-based managers show there is a lack of understanding in how to develop curiosity in direct reports as well as how to strategically utilize this trait in the workplace. These insights, paired with the insight that nearly a quarter of UK managers believe their employer is not doing enough to foster and encourage curiosity, highlight a need for a wider conversation about curiosity in the workplace and implementation of initiatives and training that solidify this trait as an essential skill. Curiosity can foster more creative and productive workplaces, and address challenges related to employee morale and retention – key to mitigating the Great Resignation and employee engagement challenges that many organizations are experiencing worldwide.
Knowing how to effectively develop this trait among employees is difficult. Many managers in the UK and on a global level find it challenging to connect this skill to areas like job performance. Fewer managers in the UK rank high in the Curiosity Index compared to global averages, but those that identified as having more workplace curiosity in our research show increased motivation and satisfaction in their role and actively work to incorporate curiosity in their managerial style in multiple ways – like employee performance reviews or coaching and team development. The case for curiosity is clear, it is now up to organizations to embrace this trait and for managers to incorporate this skill in their employee development efforts or risk falling behind.