Curiosity@Work Report | Insights by Country
Key Findings for the United States
- Managers in the US struggle, similarly to their global peers, with issues related to employee morale and retention, as well as face challenges related to hiring applicants with necessary technical and interpersonal skills.
- Managers in the US 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.
- A quarter or more (29%) of managers in the US admit to a curiosity skills shortage among current employees and job applicants – many believe they do not have enough of this trait. Likewise, these managers feel their employers can be doing more (24%) to foster and encourage this trait in employees.
- Curiosity can help address US managers’ concerns. Highly valuable benefits of curiosity include greater efficiency (64%), more creative thinking (62%) and stronger collaboration (61%) within the workplace and among employees.
US media analyses of articles like those published by Forbes and Harvard Business Review and findings from our own study show curiosity’s impact and how coaching, growth-mindset and hiring are commonly used tools to build this trait in the workplace. Our research shows:
- Companies in the US can do more to formally encourage and infuse curiosity throughout their organization’s practices, for example, through performance reviews and hiring criteria.
- Two in five managers in the US fall into a category of individuals considered to be highly curious based on the SAS Curiosity Index (on par with global findings). These managers exhibit greater workplace engagement and motivation and do more to encourage this valuable skill among their direct reports.
Curiosity is an increasingly valuable employee trait both globally and in the United States.
Amid the Great Resignation and current hiring frenzy, US managers:
- Believe curiosity is a very valuable trait in employees (67%).
- Believe curiosity is much more important for employees to have today than it was five years ago (47%).
- Strongly agree curiosity in employees drives real business impact (57%).
- Strongly agree employees who have more curiosity tend to be higher performers (54%).
Managers in the US are more likely to believe curiosity is a very valuable trait across organizational levels compared to most other regions – particularly within company leadership:
- C-suite executives (70% in the US vs. 58% globally).
- Directors and departmental leaders (68% in the US vs. 56% globally).
- Midlevel managers (58% in the US vs. 51% globally).
- Entry-level employees (52% in the US vs. 53% globally).
When asked in which departments it is especially valuable for employees to have curiosity, US managers say:
- IT (61%).
- Research and development (60%).
- Marketing (50%).
US 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 US are facing:
- Keeping employee morale/motivation high (62%).
- Getting employees to push beyond just basic job duties (51%).
- Retaining good employees (50%).
- Cross-collaboration with other teams/departments (48%).
Managers in the US recognize the potential benefits of curious employees. Very valuable benefits of curiosity in employees are:
- Greater efficiency and productivity (64%).
- More creative thinking and solutions (62%).
- Stronger collaboration and teamwork (61%).
- Greater employee engagement and job satisfaction (57%).
- More flexibility and adaptability during times of uncertainty (57%).
US 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 US need employees with:
- Technical skills in data analysis (58%) and artificial intelligence (56%).
- Personal attributes like problem solving (60%) and creative thinking (59%).
Focusing on the beneficial outcomes of curiosity, US managers believe it is valuable for employees to have this trait when:
- Innovating new solutions (67%).
- Tackling complex problems (59%).
- Analyzing data (53%).
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 (73% vs. 62% among those who rate low in curiosity), performance metric data (68% vs. 59%) and customer data (63% vs. 41%).
These more-curious managers, globally and in the US, tend to be more advanced in their company’s integration of digital technology as well. Overall, just a third (34%) of US managers believe their company’s integration of digital technology is very advanced. However, those US managers who rate high in curiosity are more likely to describe their organization as very advanced (41% vs. 20% 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 – but companies in the US can do more to encourage this trait.
Companies in the US lag others globally in their formal inclusion of curiosity (or similar traits) in:
- Employee performance review criteria (60% in the US vs. 70% globally).
- Company training and development (60% in the US vs. 71% globally).
- Hiring criteria (59% in the US vs. 66% globally).
- Promotion or advancement decisions (58% in the US vs. 66% globally).
Like managers in other markets, those in the US personally consider or encourage curiosity via:
- Coaching or team development (84%).
- Employee performance reviews (81%).
- Hiring decisions (78%).
- Promotion or advancement decisions (75%).
Almost a third of managers in the US (29%) note employees and job applicants today do not have enough curiosity, compared with under a fifth (18%) of managers globally, suggesting that compared to the global average, managers in the US feel they are facing a curiosity skills shortage.
Likewise, a similar proportion of managers in the US believe their current employer is not doing enough to encourage and foster this trait in employees (24% US vs. 15% globally), exacerbating these issues.
Views toward curiosity are complex. Many managers in the US remain hesitant to encourage this trait and struggle with how to identify or develop it.
US managers note they are only somewhat or not equipped to identify curiosity in:
- Job applicants (55%).
- Direct reports (50%).
About a third of managers in the US (on par, if not less than global averages) are very concerned about curiosity’s potential to lead to:
- Increased risk of errors or bad decisions (31%).
- Decreased efficiency or productivity (31%).
- Greater difficulty coming to a final decision or taking action (30%).
These managers, like their global counterparts, admit they find it challenging to:
- Develop curiosity in employees who don’t naturally have it (47%).
- Connect curiosity to job performance (44%).
- Connect curiosity to business impact (44%).
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 States.
The Curiosity Index was used to measure the prevalence of workplace curiosity in managers – managers in the US generally fall along global lines and can be categorized as:
- High curiosity (most inclined to identify with statements defining a curious nature) (40%).
- Moderate curiosity (41%).
- Low curiosity (least inclined to identify with statements defining a curious nature) (19%).
Highly curious managers in the US embrace differing ideas and have a relentless pursuit of knowledge and understanding. They often strongly agree that:
- They continue to seek information until they understand complex problems fully (87%).
- They seek out opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills (85%).
- It is important to listen to ideas from people who think differently (85%).
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 are more likely to:
- Strongly agree they would continue to work for their employer for as long as possible (80%).
- Strongly agree they feel motivated to go above and beyond what their job requires (84%).
- Say their direct reports’ performance is very strong (69%).
The top methods more-curious managers in the US use to foster and encourage curiosity are by:
- Publicly praising employees who demonstrate curiosity (75%).
- Rewarding curiosity in performance reviews (73%).
- One-on-one coaching or mentoring (57%).
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 US can be categorized as:
- High-curiosity collaborators (39% of US 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 (20% of US 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 US 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 (14% of US managers vs. 16% globally). The smallest segment, these managers do not believe curiosity adds any value to performance or the workplace.
 The Business Case for Curiosity.
 Base note: n=142 high-curiosity managers.
 Base note: n=66 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 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 US-based managers show their employers are lagging global averages in their company’s formal inclusion of curiosity in company initiatives like performance reviews and hiring criteria. These managers also admit their employers are not doing enough to foster and encourage this trait in employees. These findings paired with many managers’ belief that employees and job applicants do not have enough of this trait signifies a potential curiosity shortage within US workplaces. Curiosity can foster more creative and productive workplaces, and address challenges related to employee morale and retention – key to mitigating the Great Resignation and hiring challenges that many organizations are experiencing.
Knowing how to effectively develop this trait among employees is difficult. Many managers in the US and on a global level find it challenging to connect this skill to areas like job performance and overall business impact. Managers identified as being more curious in our research show increased motivation and satisfaction in their role and actively work to encourage this trait among their direct reports. This is 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 to embrace this trait and for managers to incorporate this skill in their employee development efforts or risk falling behind.