Are Managers to Blame When Companies Fail to Innovate?

The buck really does stop at the top. Specifically, when the company makes fewer bucks because it isn’t keeping up with the competition, its managers may be the cause.

That’s what some new research from staffing firm Robert Half suggests.

Robert Half interviewed Chief Financial Officers, who cited too much bureaucracy (30 percent) and being bogged down by daily tasks and putting out fires (27 percent) as the biggest barriers to innovation

These obstacles may also have the potential to hinder hiring efforts. In a separate survey, 87 percent of workers said a company’s reputation for being innovative is an important consideration when evaluating potential employers.

“Businesses strive to be innovative but all too often get in their own way due to self-imposed barriers,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half. “Organizations need to find a way to let ideas rise to the top quickly and create clear paths to implement them.”

Added McDonald, “When hiring, companies should position themselves as innovators and reassure applicants that their ideas will be heard and valued. Top candidates want to be associated with forward-thinking, nimble organizations.”

Robert Half offers the following do’s and don’ts for managers when it comes to fostering innovation:


  • Step away from your usual assignments and set aside time to brainstorm with your team. Host internal events where employees can present creative business solutions to company leadership.
  • Remove unnecessary red tape. For example, simplify project requests and approval processes.
  • Hire additional staff if heavy workloads are consistently getting in the way of innovation.
  • Be patient; new ideas take time to flourish. Make innovation an ongoing focus, and provide your employees the support they need to realize their vision.


  • Put creative thinking sessions on the back burner due to a lack of time or the daily grind.
  • Restrict idea sharing for meetings. Be accessible and create a collaborative environment where employees can freely offer suggestions.
  • Stretch your team so thin their only focus – and measure of accomplishment – comes from crossing items off their to-do lists.
  • Place unrealistic expectations on staff. It can take weeks or months to see results, particularly if you don’t give them the necessary resources or help with prioritizing tasks.

Of course, finding the time for innovation is difficult in today’s leaned- and stressed-out offices. But sometimes the cost of running too hard to keep up, is falling behind.

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