Do you have an employee who regularly approaches you with great ideas, takes on new projects constantly, or adjusts easily to new circumstances? Is this person innovative, curious, and enthusiastic? If so, you are most likely the fortuitous employer of an “intrapreneur.”
Intrapreneurs are employees who exhibit entrepreneurial skills—inventiveness, creativity, adaptability, vision, resourcefulness—within a business structure. These individuals are both inspired and inspiring; they thrive on risk, change, and innovation.
If you haven’t guessed it by now, intrapreneurs are invaluable to your business, whether that business is small, medium, or large.
The term intrapreneur emerged in 1978 after Gifford Pinchot and his wife, Elizabeth, published a paper called “Intra-Corporate Entrepreneurship.” The paper identified how businesses can thrive by capitalizing on entrepreneurial behaviors shown by certain employees. They emphasized that entrepreneurial behavior is not taught or cultivated. Rather, it is a natural predisposition, an innate set of characteristics.
According to Pinchot’s research, untapped intrapreneurs are hidden in most working environments. Unfortunately, they may not always be recognized—or rewarded sufficiently. As a result, these intrapreneurs may become discouraged, bored, and lose momentum over time. This could equate in a loss of productivity, business, and therefore profit.
This chart provided by a Forbes article on the topic shows how engagement levels can affect your business both negatively and positively.
Therefore recognizing these invaluable employees before they become too disgruntled and engaging them, encouraging them, and providing them opportunities to develop latent entrepreneurial skills, produces a transformation of both individual and business.
Providing ongoing training, support, and challenges for intrapreneurs is essential when encouraging their talents to boost efficiency and earnings. As the chart above reveals, the “Intrapreneur”/“Engaged" employee will have a more positive mindset and thus contribute greatly to the success of your business.
How do you identify an intrapreneur? Group training/development can help you discover the intrapreneurs already employed by your organization. Observe how your employees react to innovation. You can also provide company-wide buy-in strategies/incentives giving opportunity for exceptional solutions. The intrapreneurs will rise to the occasion consistently and effortlessly.
How do you cultivate a working environment that helps an intrapreneur thrive? Intrepreneurs thrive on freedom and risk. Create a climate where employees are given permission to think outside the box and move beyond the scope of their job descriptions. Cultivate a culture that embraces change (innovation), transparency and constant flow of communication—up and down the ladder.
How do you keep your intrapreneur engaged? Because intrapreneurs are naturally independent, a great way to engage an intrapreneur is to provide him/her with new skills which can be used in multiple ways. Continuing education provides employees the opportunity to develop skills, build knowledge, and innovate which leads to improved productivity. One area of improvement is strategic communications. With ever-changing technology and business practices, professionals need to be at the top of their games.
What would a good writing/communications training provide? Intrapreneurs may have great ideas, but many may have a difficult time managing and delivering their ideas appropriately. For instance, intrapreneurs may not have the proper tools to navigate office politics. They may stumble delivering a compelling presentation or writing a succinct memo. Consider helping your intrapreneurs develop solid writing/communication skills to articulate their outstanding ideas with confidence and authority. They will learn how to prioritize ideas, engage colleagues, and take risks.
So if you are lucky enough to be the employer of even one intraprenuer, provide the opportunity for growth and development. Your intrapreneur will thank you not only in words but through inspired productivity, efficiency, and profit.