Do you have someone on your team who is a self-starter who proactively finds efficiencies and comes to you with fresh ideas and creative solutions to problems? There is a good chance you may have an intrapreneur on your team.
There is a rising appreciation for these types of team members, but what is an intrapreneur, and how do you create the right conditions to harness their unique talents? To better understand the topic, the best place to start is with a definition.
An intrapreneur is an employee who behaves in a way like an entrepreneur but within the company where they are employed. Like an entrepreneur, these individuals take the initiative to find solutions to problems, improve processes, uncover business opportunities, and develop new products or services.
Intrapreneurial individuals are driven by change and finding ways to add organizational value. Deloitte uncovered that most organizations have intrapreneurs; they just need to be discovered and nurtured. They said, “A recent study found that more than 20% of all employees exhibited at least some entrepreneurial activity.”
With their go-getter attitudes and drive to achieve, it’s no wonder leaders and organizations alike seek out intrapreneurial individuals. Hult International Business School agrees, “Provided they are given the right environment in which to flourish, intrapreneurs can be extremely valuable to a company, regardless of its size or the industry in which it operates.”
If you think you have intrapreneurs on your team, there are several ways you can nurture their skills and support their talents.
6 Ways to Support Intrapreneurship on Your Team
- Grant autonomy with boundaries
- Provide coaching and mentoring opportunities
- Be open to new ideas and change
- Challenge them to uncover innovations and find process improvements
- Reinforce the vision and goals for your team and organization
- Ensure they have the resources they need
1. Grant Autonomy with Boundaries
Creativity and innovation become stifled when employees feel too restricted in their roles. That’s why granting intrapreneurs autonomy where they’re free to tap into their entrepreneurial thinking is critical to harnessing their unique skills.
However, autonomy without setting boundaries can be dangerous, as these ambitious go-getters may get in over their heads when they don’t know when they need to tap in for your assistance or approval. To set them up for success, determine the amount of freedom they have and their boundaries upfront before you set their creativity free.
2. Provide Coaching and Mentoring Opportunities
Coaching and finding mentors is one way to show your employees that you appreciate, support, and are willing to foster their intrapreneurial talents. In addition, through coaching and mentoring, these employees have access to a sounding board to share their ideas and suggestions and receive feedback and advice.
In addition, intrapreneurs are often intellectually curious, so they will have an internal drive to understand the inner-working of the company, which can be discussed in your time with them or their time with a mentor.
3. Be Open to New Ideas and Change
Unintentionally, you may be smothering your intrapreneur's ideas and innovations. If you do not actively encourage new ideas, bring them up the corporate ladder, or help remove the internal red tape so their ideas can be implemented, your team members may not bother to offer them. A study published in Fast Company supports this notion, as “41% of survey respondents said leadership doesn’t value innovation, and 67% said leadership operates on the notion that ‘this is how we’ve always done it.”
4. Challenge Intrapreneurs to Identify Innovations and Improvements
Creating opportunities such as stretch assignments where your intrapreneurs can take on projects outside their job descriptions can be a great way to generate new ideas, innovations, and process improvements.
With encouragement and visible support, and appreciation for their entrepreneurial talents, these individuals feel free and welcome to share their ideas without the fear of failure or backlash from their peers or other leaders for trying to initiate change. Additionally, when there is an environment that embraces change across an organization, leaders do not become defensive when an intrapreneur from another department generates an idea that may show a deficiency. Instead, their ideas are embraced and seen as an opportunity for improvement and growth.
5. Reinforce the Vision and Goals for Your Team and Organization
The vision and goals of your team and the organization act as the guiding principles and framework for which your intrapreneurs work. Thus, confirming they’re crystal clear and deeply understood ensures your intrapreneurs are contributing to the direction the company wants to go.
Yet, Robert Half found that only 47% of employees could connect their day-to-day activities to how they impact the company’s financials. That’s why using your time together during your one-on-one meetings to reinforce the vision and goals by discussing them and drawing a line that connects their contributions to the impact on both is essential.
6. Ensure They Have the Resources They Need
Another way to support their talents is to grant intrapreneurs resources such as time, budget, equipment, training, and access to thought leaders and senior management. Deloitte explains, “Employees need time and resources in order to come up with innovations. The most famous example is Google’s 20% Rule, in which employees are allowed to spend one day per week on a project that is unrelated to their work. In addition, managers should grant quick access to resources, enabling intrapreneurs to validate their ideas quickly.”