Businesses need people on board who are happy and productive, but finding the best way of motivating them isn’t always easy. Money is an incentive for some, but the effect is often shortlived. What many employees really crave is the freedom to innovate and make a real difference to their organization.
Just as smothering any attempts at being creative is the easiest way to kill staff morale and lose valuable talent, creating an intrapreneurial culture that encourages creativity and innovation can provide the boost to employee engagement and performance that a business needs.
While many business owners simply don’t know how to encourage an intrapreneurial mindset, others are prevented from doing so out of fear, as entrepreneur Mike Southon, author of The Beermat Entrepreneur’ has discovered.
He says: “I have done ‘Beermat’ training sessions with corporate clients who wanted their people to be more entrepreneurial, but have then been horrified by what I suggested.”
The problem is that entrepreneurs can be ‘loose cannons’; imaginative, passionate, charismatic and incredibly confident, but also difficult, manipulative and arrogant.
“Many entrepreneurs have confided to me that one reason they started their own business is that nobody would actually employ them,” says Southon.
Any organization that encourages intrapreneurship has to be able to tolerate a measure of this. Similarly, aspiring intrapreneurs among the ranks have to let themselves go a bit crazy, but not too much.
Having a senior figure who ‘gets’ and genuinely likes these types of people, but who also has enough of the solid corporate player about them who can manage the balancing act.
“Such a person could ‘sponsor’ intrapreneurs, protecting them from internal enemies who fear or envy them, and having a quiet word when they are taking things a bit too far,” adds Southon.
Nevertheless many companies have established an intrapreneurial culture and when hiring will specifically target people with an entrepreneurial flair.
When content manager Julian Nowak joined casino comparison site WeCompareCasinos.com three years ago a key question in his interview was whether he saw himself as a potential or budding entrepreneur.
“It definitely surprised me, and I really wondered if it was a test to see if I had the desire to leave at any point in the future,” he says.
As it turned out it was simply part of a company culture where staff are actively encouraged to be intrapreneurs, attending events, creating their own blogs and spending an hour week on an extra project. “This business was built on the concept of finding gaps in the market and the founder wants his employees to do exactly the same,” says Nowak.
Intrapreneurship can also be found in some unlikely places. Virtual assistant agency Worldwide101 employees work very closely as a team, and also directly and independently with clients. It is their ability to find innovative ways of working and solutions to problems that helps to cement the client partnership.
Marketing manager Audrey Fairbrother says: “For this reason we need to hire intrapreneurs who have no interest in the risks of entrepreneurship but do have that burning internal motivation, beyond just a pay check, to see others succeed and to succeed themselves.”
Once they have the intrapreneurial talent on board, an entrepreneurial business leader needs to know how to manage that talent and channel it into successful growth of the business.
When Chris Newton left a larger law firm to launch his own, Newtons Solicitors, he knew that its success would depend on creating a dynamic, rewarding work culture. In nine years the firm has established 15 offices in the UK and built a team of 110 people.
His strategy has been to encourage others to develop their own offices and teams, thereby fulfilling their own aspirations while also helping to drive business growth. The key to his intrapreneurial approach, says Newton, is not to micromanage them.
“Things haven’t always worked and I’ve learned from a few decisions that haven’t gone according to plan,” he says. “However, over a period of time, as my confidence in the business has grown, I have been increasingly able to let go.”
Providing it is done in the right way, businesses that want to harness the innovative talents of their staff by creating an environment that encourages their should have nothing to fear in terms of internal disruption or the risk of entrepreneurial talent taking flight.
Julian Nowak says: “Having complete faith in your staff will, in the long run, create a strong sense of loyalty. If I was offered more money elsewhere, I probably wouldn’t even consider it as I know I would struggle to find another company that so openly promotes intrepreneurship.”