Curiosity is key to unlocking true value of analytics investments

Damien Bueno, President and Managing Director, SAP ANZ

SAP SE has found Australian companies that foster a more curious culture experience major competitive benefits, including up to twice the levels of employee engagement, and up to three times the turnover growth of organisations with a less curious culture.

Capitalising on Curiosity, a survey of senior business leaders and employees across Australia, found that leaders who strongly agree that their firm has a curious culture, saw annual turnover growth of 20.52% on average over the last 12 months; more than three times the 6% average growth in turnover experienced by those who only somewhat agree.

What were the key insights of the SAP SE survey?

Business leaders at large firms that are very curious report turnover growth that is 10.67% point higher than those who are not very curious, which could deliver additional growth of 2.5 million dollars in annual turnover, based on ABS turnover data for businesses of this size.

Medium-sized organisations that are very curious could see an extra 1.7 million dollars and SMBs an additional 550,000 dollars in annual turnover. More than 8 in 10 (82%) of senior business leaders believe a culture of curiosity is vital for their firm to grow in a post-COVID world but only four in 10 (44%) strongly agree their organisation has a curious culture.

The most common challenges senior business leaders say they would be better equipped to handle with a more curious culture are: employee engagement (41%); being able to adapt to changing market needs (40%); and dealing with staff retention (36%).

Despite the positive link between curiosity and business growth, four out of five Australian employees (82%) say there are barriers to asking questions and being curious in their organisation. More than eight in ten (85%) of senior business leaders across the country feel the same, admitting that talk about encouraging curiosity is not always supported by action.

Dr Amantha Imber, organisational psychologist and founder of behavioural science consultancy Inventium, said: “Creating and nurturing a culture of curiosity in an organisation takes time, but ultimately it will strengthen your ability to be agile, adapt and innovate.”

“At a time when businesses are experiencing more uncertainty from the pandemic, fostering a curious culture can be hard but it’s essential to build resilience and drive growth.”

Karen Twitchett, Director of Workforce and Technology at Northern Beaches Council said: “Building curiosity in your firm is like building a muscle that helps to keep you fit through all challenges. We were able to flex our curiosity muscle in real-time during the recent floods.”

“We provided the time, space and opportunity for our staff to engage with people in affected areas to proactively identify issues and collect data that will ultimately improve Council’s service offering to the community during extreme weather events in the future.”

Can curiosity to attract and retain talent?

In a market where the battle for talent has never been tougher, seven out of 10 Australian employees (72%) want to work for a curious organisation, and more than half (52%) would leave their current job for a similar role in a more curious organisation.

While employees are less inclined to categorise their firm as having a curious culture, (67% versus 89%), research found clear links between curious firms and employee satisfaction.

Those employees who believe they work for an organisation with a curious culture are almost twice as likely to say they are satisfied in their current role (81% compared to 44% and feel engaged at work (83% compared to 42%), than those who didn’t.

Battling fatigue in a workplace that is changing rapidly is also a factor, with one in three (32%) employees from large enterprises saying employee burnout is a barrier to curiosity.

Is curiosity essential to data intelligence?

Employees in more curious companies are better equipped to answer, and more capable of answering questions, using data than those who say their organisation is not curious.

Employees who say their firm is curious are twice as likely to say they are encouraged to use data to answer questions (82% compared to 40%). They are also twice as likely say that their firm provides the tools for them to do so (82% compared to 42%) and 1.5 times more likely to say they make good use of data and analysis tools (81% compared to 55%).

Business leaders who feel most strongly that their firm has a curious culture are three times more likely to believe their employees have the necessary skills to answer questions from data (73% compared to 25%), than those who only believe they have a curious culture.

Damien Bueno, President and Managing Director, SAP ANZ, said: “An firm’s ability to realise the value of tech comes down to how well its people understand data and apply curiosity.”

“Asking the right questions at the right time, being confident to seek out data and draw conclusions, leads to better decision making and enables firms to be bolder in approaching business challenges and able to take action on an idea with an informed approach.”

“This understanding and confidence is key to growth, success and transformation of ANZ firms, especially during the period of disruption we currently find ourselves in.”

What are the barriers to cultivating a curious culture?

Australian employees identified a lack of reward or encouragement as the biggest barrier to curiosity while business leaders pointed to too much pressure to deliver on short term goals.

47% of employees believe they are not rewarded for their curiosity and 2 in 5 (43%) feel they are not given time to be curious at work. Meanwhile, over a third (39%) say that asking questions and challenging the status quo is not encouraged within their organisation and this jumps to almost half (44%) of employees working for large organisations in Australia.

Dr Amantha Imber said: “Being able to challenge and debate ideas and assumptions is critical for building a curious culture in any oraganisation, but being curious and asking questions instead of jumping straight to conclusions takes time. SAP’s research suggests many Australian businesses are not giving employees the time or the space to be curious.”

“Business leaders who are serious about future proofing their organisation against the current climate of uncertainty need to start role modelling curiosity, giving staff time to explore and experiment, and rewarding curious and creative behaviour within their organisations.”

To view or download a copy of the full Capitalising on Curiosity report which includes top tips for how you and your organisation can start building more curious cultures, please visit here.

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