A study produced by The Conference Board found that 53% of American workers are unhappy at work. This means that the average worker could spend upwards of 90,228 hours in places and spaces that do not serve them. I cannot be the only person who thinks this is an infinite waste of a finite lifespan.
When you delve deeper, you find that one of the reasons for employee discontent and disengagement is lack of purpose and motivation. This sentiment is especially prevalent when employees feel their value is devalued.
Fostering a culture of intrapreneurship changes the narrative of the real and perceived banal nature of corporate life. Similar to its sister term entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship is defined as an employee of a business who has the freedom to create new products and initiatives. In some cases, intrapreneurial employees may also assume some level of risk and garner reward, but within the confines of the company. As such, intrapreneurs are employees who operate with an entrepreneurial spirit, using their internal motivation, vision and creativity to elevate business for their employer and create opportunity for themselves.
In a labor market hungry for obtaining and retaining talent, while simultaneously keeping pace with innovation, it takes a team business owner-minded individuals to invest in a company’s future. Let’s explore four reasons why building a culture of intrapreneurship is invaluable to a company’s culture and employee success.
- Empowering Employees
I read an article in Inc. which asserted that Nick Saban, famed head coach of University of Alabama football, has a lesser known talent than the obvious. He is so adept at attracting and developing leaders in his assistant coaching team, that many ultimately become head coaches and other higher level positions in their own right. Interestingly enough, he has had 100% turnover of assistant coaches in the last two years. Yet, few would argue that the Crimson Tide has lost its momentum as a highly-acclaimed football program (my alma mater, The University of Michigan notwithstanding, of course). In fact, one may argue that the success of his past assistant coaches has attracted new crops of talent to apprentice under Saban in order to assuage their own ambitions of one day holding the title of collegiate or professional head coach.
It is a common misconception that if we give people too much freedom, they will take advantage of the situation or leave. In all transparency, employees can and will depart for what they consider to be greener pastures from time to time, and it can hurt to have strong employees leave. But leashes are for dogs, not humans. It is more damaging to employ people with a lack of motivation in a culture of micromanagement to keep them in place.
On the opposite side of the coin, maybe, just maybe, your company will be fortunate enough to snag an intrapreneur who has been tried and tested at another organization and will now to go to bat for yours. It’s the circle of life. Everyone wins.
Empowering employees to be independent thinkers with authority to suggest and implement change, reinforces their purpose in doing what they do. In many cases, those closest to a process or project are the best people to define and refine an offering, which improves quality, increases productivity and ultimately raises client satisfaction. Employees take ownership and feel that their ideas are valued and appreciated — even if they fail. All businesses experience failure as part of success. It is unavoidable. However, a team of dedicated leaders with ownership stake makes the recovery process achievable.
- Focused Hiring Processes
While intrapreneurs can be developed over time after hire, employers’ hiring processes should include the expectation that candidates are self-starting, solution-driven, and innovative from the start — and mean it. When ‘yes men’ and ‘yes women’ are hired, they may not accomplish anything except what they are told to do, just to be agreeable. It creates a clock-in/clock-out culture of lameness, sameness and tameness. What customer wants to buy from the okey-doke company?
Loyalty can be a good thing. However, it is necessary to make the distinction between loyalty and those who wish to stay in the same exact place for the duration of their stay in your organization. Unselfishly ambitious intrapreneurs collaborate, innovate, and advance. Initiative is needed to move a company forward with the innovation required in crowded marketplaces. If you want to be a leader in your industry, hire a team of leaders.
- A Cohesive Culture Emerges
Contrary to conventional wisdom, building an environment of empowerment is a two-way synergy between employee and employer. As is the case with setting the tone for overall company culture, CEOs and executive management support is vital to encourage and reward intrapreneurial behavior in word and action. This support does not only pertain to senior level executives, but managers at all levels.
Employees themselves play a significant role in creating a culture of intrapreneurship as well. Permission is not required to be highly motivated and ingenious in their approach to solution implementation. If a company has a closed-door culture with regard to introducing new ideas, they can still open the door and walk through anyway. After all, a life lived in fear is really no life at all.
Erecting a strong culture of purpose, passion and forward movement takes a village. It is a top-down and bottom-up effort.
- Company Success
The path to company success is like a chain reaction. Happy and engaged employees foster more collaborative environments, creating better client experiences, all positively impacting a company’s bottom line. To underscore this point, a study showed that happy employees are up to 20% more productive and sales increase by up to 37% for happy salespeople.
In her book, “Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy”, noted business consultant, Dr. Noelle Nelson, Ph.D., cites that over a 6-year period, the stock prices of Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For rose an average of 14% per year in comparison to 6% for the remainder of the market. In a world where for-profit businesses are focused on…well, profit, these are tangible and achievable results.
Building a culture of intrapreneurship in your organization does not just increase employee engagement and positively impact company revenue. It transforms the paradigm.
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