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Talent Management, Talent Strategy

Top Talent Skills Most Important to Innovation Success

By Elizabeth Magill , April 8th, 2018

It’s been discussed in too many circles to count: innovation is one of the most instrumental keys to a company’s greatness. Yet, less discussed is how talent and the respective skills they bring to the organization fit into the innovation equation.

While innovation has traditionally been the responsibility of corporate research and development divisions, IT departments, or product engineers, more than some company leaders are taking advantage of the skills of their employees to get the innovation wheels churning. But what talent skills are most valued and beneficial for successful innovation? A recent survey shed some light on this question.

A report, titled Talent Strategies for Innovation, from the Economist Intelligence Unit examined how organizations handle the challenge of recruiting, engaging, and retaining top talent for company innovation. The findings were derived by interviews of 179 senior executives worldwide, who agreed to participate in the study. The executive respondents were from the Asia Pacific region (30%), North America (29%), Europe (29%), and other global regions (12%). Nearly half (46%) were C-level executives. The executives came from different roles and responsibilities, including general management (36%), strategy and business development (36%), finance (30%), and sales and marketing (23%).

Overall, the survey revealed that there is an unequivocal link between good talent management and an enterprises’ ability to innovate, with more than 75 percent of the executives reported as such.

With respect to necessary employee skills needed for successful organization innovation, the top spot went to creativity, according to the respondents, with 51% listing it as the top skill required. Rounding out the top 3 were the employee’s ability to collaborate (40%) and the employee’s ability to learn (35%).

Top Employee Skills Needed to Innovate (as listed as the top 3 by respondents)

  • Creativity (51%)
  • Ability to Collaborate (40%)
  • Ability to Learn (35%)
  • Ability to Solve Problems (30%)
  • Self-Motivated (25%)
  • Technical Knowledge (High Degree of) (23%)
  • Ability to Perform Cross Function Work (23%)
  • Entrepreneurial Skills (22%)
  • Ability to Transfer Knowledge (17%)
  • Ability to Network (11%)
  • Research & Development (R&D) Skills (7%)

“A company must keep in mind that the skill sets that made it successful in the last ten years may not necessarily be the ones that will make it successful over the next ten years,” said Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Cisco.

What’s interesting from these findings is that collaboration skills ranked as high as 40% for successful innovation, yet 53% of the senior executive surveyed reported that the lack of enough collaboration combined with organization resource sharing were among the main barriers to successful employee management for innovation. Greater global competition followed as the next main barrier reason cited (45%). Following closely behind at 44%, was a talent strategy for innovation not adequately in sync with the organization’s business strategy.

Yet, the Economist Intelligence Unit notes that perhaps the greatest challenge for companies is not necessarily in the developing of a talent management strategy for innovation. It’s in keeping the strategy vibrant, current, and responsive in a global economy that keeps changing rapidly.


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