Almost two years on from the end of the recession, many UK employers are continuing to suffer the after-effects of the global economic downturn.

Returning to sustainable growth remains a difficult challenge for some firms, and for those which continue to struggle, maximising the value of people resources is critically important.

With many business leaders scratching their heads, some directors are thinking outside the box – or at least the boardroom – in a bid to set their companies on the road to recovery.

According to a new Orange study, an increasing number of employers are seeking inspiration from support staff as they bid to grow their organisations.

Caterers, cleaners and security guards are among the employees being invited to contribute ideas on how to improve the way their companies operate.

A quarter of British bosses surveyed said support staff regularly submit ideas to improve their business, leading to unprecedented growth in business innovation from within.

Some 32 per cent of such companies said they ask employees for ideas in a bid to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.

And 44 per cent claimed they seek worker input as part of efforts to cut expenditure within their organisation.

Some 39 per cent of employees surveyed claimed their firm asks more staff for their ideas now compared to the boom times of 2002-07.

Orange reported that the average businesses turned four staff suggestions into new offerings over the last 12 months.

Furthermore, for a third of the companies surveyed, these suggestions generated an extra £250,000 in profit over the same period.

As such, 52 per cent of respondents said bosses should spend more time asking staff for ideas to grow the business.

There is a new connected culture of bosses asking their whole organisation for ideas, commented Martin Stiven, vice-president of business at Orange.

“It is sweeping through British business and with fears of a double-dip recession growing, new ideas are exactly what is needed to kick start the economy.”

According to Professor Dominic Swords, from Henley Business School, business innovation cannot come solely from the top of the organisation.

“To innovate successfully the whole business, from product development, to sales and marketing, must be fully engaged and energised behind that goal,” he stated.

“Companies that are always improving and investing stand a much better chance of offering their markets what they want.”