Monday, December 23, 2019

Russian Companies Fail to Encourage New Ideas or Implement Them, New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 21 – Employees of Russian companies often have good ideas, but such ideas are translated into innovations only rarely, according to a new study by four sociologists at the Higher School of Economics. Indeed, they say, “only 15 to 25 percent” of Russian companied innovate on a regular basis.

            The study, by Ye.S. Balabanova, A.G. Efendiyev, A.S. Gogoleva, and P.S. Sorokin, “Innovative Behavior of Employees of Russian and Foreign Companies” (in Russian), Vestnik Sankt-Peterburgskogo universiteta, Seriya 12: Sotsiologiya, 12:3 (2019): 215-233 at

                Their survey of more than 600 employees of small and mid-sized companies, nine foreign-owned and eight Russian-owned in Russian cities, found that “more than a third” of the employees proposed an original idea at least once a year, with the difference on this measure between Russian and foreign firms being remarkably small.

            The problems arise, they write, at the stage of introducing innovations in operations and production. There, Russian firms lagged far behind because the sociologists say, the firms and their leadership lack the motivation to make innovation a priority. Employees of Russian firms think the bosses are to be the innovators; those at foreign firms think everyone is responsible.

            The greatest gap between the two with regard to innovation is found in the areas of improving instruction and retraining. There only 21 percent of workers in Russian firms say their ideas are implemented, compared to 54 percent of workers in foreign firms, an enormous difference and one that casts a shadow on everything else.

            Foreign-owned companies are more ready to support entrepreneurial activity among their employees and reward those who come up with new ideas that add to profit. Russians who come up with ideas get pay raises in only nine percent of the cases, while in foreign-owned firms, employees are given them 19 percent of the time. The same pattern holds for promotions.

            Employees of Russian-owned firms have to be content with expressions of thanks and the feeling that the bosses value them more, but these are not sufficient in many cases to cause other workers to push innovative ideas, the sociologists say. Thus, the autarkic and vertical organizations of Russian firms keep them from innovating.

            According to the survey, 66 percent of employees of Russian firms say that even when they have a good idea, they don’t push it forward because everything is up to the people above them and they won’t benefit even if their ideas are accepted. In foreign-owned companies, only 51 percent of those who don’t make suggestions give those reasons.

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