Singapore: Employee Perception on Innovation

Article & report by Cassandra Mok, powered by Rakuten Insight data

Perspectives on Innovation among Singaporean Employees

Singapore positions itself to be a leader and hub for innovation with Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) as the ”cornerstone of Singapore’s development into a knowledge-based, innovation-driven economy and society”[1].

As such, this study aimed to measure the Singaporean state of innovation with 302 survey participants from the Rakuten Insight Singapore panel. These findings provide insights into current innovation practices, organisational structures and culture as well as potential areas for organisations and policy makers to enhance innovation capabilities and enabling environments in the Singaporean context. Key insights included:

1 in 5 employers considered “very innovative”

 The perception of the innovation level was robust with the majority (62.25%) rating their employer as being somewhat, moderately or very innovative” or higher. Specifically, 19.54% of respondents believe their organisation was very innovative.

8 out of 10 organisations actively innovating

Pursuit of innovative initiatives was extremely common with 84.4% of respondents noting that their organisation pursued at least one initiative in the past 12 months. In contrast, 7.28% of participants reported a lack of initiatives in any domain and a further 8.28% were uncertain.

Digital Technology most popular; Business Models – least 

The survey revealed that more organisations were more inclined to innovate with digital technology, with a total of 71.52% of respondents indicating that their organisation had succeeded, failed or was currently introducing something new and useful. Conversely, new and useful business models had the fewest responses of current or recent attempts to introduce innovation (57.95%); and the highest rate of uncertainty (18.21%)

#1 contributor to innovation: “Everyone”

Survey participants were given the option to choose multiple responses to the question, “Who in your company currently initiates or suggests new ideas or ways to improve?”. Notably, 35.43% of respondents indicated that “everyone” contributes to innovation. This surpassed other sources of innovation such as senior managers and executives (33.44%) and managers and supervisors (32.12%). Interestingly, Designated Innovation Champions, teams & staff were acknowledged by 20.53% while only 16.89% recognised Research and Development staff as initiators.

“Everyone” should contribute to innovation: 2 out of 3

A clear majority of respondents (58.61%) believe that everyone should be able to contribute new ideas and suggestions for improvement. This suggests a desire among employees in Singapore for greater inclusivity and grassroots participation.

Major gaps between current practice and preferred innovators

Management may not be strongly valued as initiators of innovation. Comparing responses between current practice and opinions on who should be able to initiate or make suggestions reveal that Senior managers & executives were selected by 11.26% fewer respondents, while managers & supervisors dropped by 5.63%. Interestingly, only 15.89% of respondents thought that innovations should come from designated innovation champions, teams & staff, which is 5.63% fewer than current practices. Research & Development teams & staff maintained the same rates between current and ideal practice.

The data reveals a major gap (23.18%) between respondents whose organisations currently allow everyone to contribute to innovation and those who believe that everyone should be able to. This may signal that organisations are not providing sufficient mechanisms or opportunities for staff to contribute to new and useful changes. The difference in responses (8.61%) indicating that no one currently initiates innovations compared to respondents’ preferences further supports this observation.

Perceived Organisational Innovativeness Directly Linked to Managerial Receptiveness

A direct correlation emerged between employees’ perceptions of their organisation’s innovativeness and how receptive they felt their colleagues were, especially management.

Simply put, those that rated their organisations as “very innovative” were also more likely to perceive their direct managers, senior management and peers & team mates as “extremely receptive”. In contrast, receptivity to suggestions by different colleague types was extremely poor in organisations that were rated as “not innovative”.

Culture of receptiveness in 2/3 organisations

Common behaviours and expectations among employees serve as indicators of organisational culture. Overall, 67.88% perceived openness to new ideas and suggestions throughout their organisation with all categories of colleagues being rated “somewhat receptive” or higher.

Conversely, 13.9% of respondents rated their colleagues as low/unlikely or uncertain about how receptive they would be. This could indicate hesitancy or reluctance to share ideas due to fear of reprisal or other negative responses. For organisations, this may mean that staff are not providing feedback or inputs to contribute to innovation or effective decision making.

This study offers insights into the current state of innovation from the perspective of employees. These insights invite a deeper exploration of the meaning of innovation, as well as factors that contribute to successful innovations adoption and culture. By delving into multiple factors that influence the perception of innovation, our findings offer valuable considerations for organisations and policy makers seeking to enhance innovation capabilities and enabling environments in the Singaporean context.

Download the in-depth report here:

Singapore – Employee Perception on Innovation

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