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Survey says most lower-level workers don’t feel empowered to innovate

An exclusive study for Fast Company by SurveyMonkey reveals disparity in attitudes between executives and the rank and file.

Survey says most lower-level workers don’t feel empowered to innovate
[Images: Fiona Jackson-Downes/Getty Images; janjf93/Pixabay]

While an overwhelming majority of workers (91 percent) say it’s important to them to work for an organization that values innovation, they don’t all feel equally empowered to contribute new ideas at work.

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A recent study of more than 3,000 workers across industries conducted by SurveyMonkey exclusively for Fast Company revealed that while 71 percent of C-level respondents believe they have opportunities to personally contribute new or innovative ideas at work, only 22 percent of lower level individual contributors feel the same way. Confidence in one’s ability to contribute innovative ideas in the workplace increased by both title and compensation level.

The survey, conducted between May 20 – 26, included 10 questions and generated 3,089 responses from people working in nine different industries. You can see the full survey results here.

The results also revealed a noticeable disparity between top level executives and the rank and file when it comes to overall perceptions about their company’s mission. While 48 percent of C-level respondents believe their workplaces encourage innovative thinking, only 30 percent of individual contributors agree.

Other notable findings:

• A higher percentage of African American workers (34 percent) feel they are ahead of the tech curve at work than their white colleagues (24 percent).
• Respondents across the board, regardless of race, gender, title, income level, or industry are much more likely to choose a job that offers 20 percent more in compensation over one that allows them to dedicate 20 percent of their work time to innovative side projects that benefit the company.
• While this is true of both full-time (70 percent) and part-time (63 percent) workers, a greater percentage of PT workers (35 percent) would prefer the job with more innovation time as compared to their FT counterparts (28%).

The survey was conducted as part of Fast Company‘s inaugural edition of Best Workplaces for Innovators. Developed in collaboration with Accenture, the full list of 50 winning companies appears in the magazine’s September issue.

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About the author

Noted expert on nicotine gum chewing and Hawkeye wrestling fan, Jay Woodruff is a contributing editor at Fast Company. After helping launch the quarterly DoubleTake, he joined Esquire and later held senior editorial positions at Entertainment Weekly and oversaw digital at Maxim, Blender and Stuff

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