You may have heard of an intrapreneur, but what exactly is their value to a business? Read further on.
We’ve heard of entrepreneurialism. Now get ready for intrapreneurship. The difference? One is independent, and the other is an employee within a larger company. Intrapreneurship is a new name for an old trend of being an ambitious go-getter within an established business, setting new standards, or enabling new ventures for yourself and your company.
Intrapreneurs thrive in environments where employees are given freedom and receive recognition for their work, where talent is allowed to thrive, and merit is recognized regardless of rank. An intrapreneur is recognized not by their place in the business but by what they bring to the table, even at entry-level.
Intrapreneurship is very far from a new idea. In fact, it isn’t even a new term. It was first coined in the 1970s, to describe an “internal entrepreneur.” An intrapreneur is a person that every business – both small and large – must nurture and leverage. Common examples of the end result of intrapreneurship within a larger company include the Post-It note, the Facebook “like” feature, Gmail, and some of the most advanced military technology.
What do many of these examples have in common? They happened because the respective businesses emboldened employees to spend time brainstorming new ideas and investing resources into bold projects.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, of course. There are plenty of failed ideas within companies that were a result of intrapreneurship. It’s important to beware innovation theater and understand the difference between trying to come up with new ideas for an idea’s sake and developing an untapped value proposition that can scale and bring your company to greater heights.
Learning how to promote intrapreneurship and increase its success rate can exponentially increase the value of your business, both to yourself and to prospective talent looking for an environment that won’t stifle them.
What Does an Intrapreneur Bring to the Team?
First and foremost, intrapreneurship brings innovation to the team. On a practical level, this means the opportunity for new ideas, services, and marketable products in your industry or niche, or greater potential for your team to recognize opportunities to partner up and collaborate with other professionals.
We have to remember that although entrepreneurialism is associated with startup culture, the essence behind being an entrepreneur is being on the frontier of your niche, not being an entry-level professional. You can integrate that spirit into any company and garner success from it.
The caveat is that for intrapreneurship to be successful, you may have to bleed some resources. Can your company survive doing so? That depends on how much you trust and value the individuals in your company with the potential to be intrapreneurs – and what you can do to improve their chances.
Can You Create an Intrapreneur?
On one hand, an intrapreneur is defined by a set of behaviors and personality traits. On the other hand, intrapreneurship is also more a matter of circumstance than a constant state.
You likely won’t have a single dedicated intrapreneur on your team. Rather, embrace intrapreneurship as a descriptive noun for the kind of phenomenon that allows people to innovate through frustration, intuition, or sheer eureka moments.
That being said, there are ways you can improve the chances of fostering intrapreneurship in your company.
Fostering the Right Environment
Environment is key. A company culture that values its employees, fosters healthy communication between multiple different levels, and does not tolerate toxicity or abuse can go a long way towards enticing greater talent, and providing value beyond financial compensation. Other important incentives include career opportunities and training opportunities.
But the physical environment itself can make a big impact, too. While many companies have gone partially or totally remote because of the pandemic, there are ways to leverage the benefits of going remote without losing the benefit of a lively office environment. Coworking spots can help intrapreneurs thrive by creating a collaborative environment where they can discuss and meet other professionals, form partnerships.
Coworking spaces also help far-off or remote talent take advantage of the amenities a coworking space has to offer without requiring you to lease and set up an entire satellite office for them.
Training and Compensation
It’s an adage as old as time: you get what you pay for. Good compensation will encourage employee loyalty and help your employees make the best of their talent, by showing them that they’re valued while enabling them to focus on their work and live their best lives.
A lot of the time, what someone brings to work is also about what they get to do when they aren’t working. Fostering individuality and creativity in people requires giving them the tools to live interesting lives outside of the confines of their job description – which means having enough money to not worry about basic living expenses, or the immediate future.
But beyond proper financial compensation, unlocking an employee’s potential also requires fulfilling their other needs. Beyond a reasonable level of compensation, what employees value more then a larger salary includes:
- Career Opportunities
- Company Culture
- Corporate Leadership
- Work-Life Balance
Providing some sort of reassurance that a person’s efforts will be rewarded over time is important. This means opportunities for advancement and training, skill-building seminars, bonuses, and other recognition programs. Invest in your employees to see the most from them, and bring out their inner intrapreneurs.
Cherishing the intrapreneur in your business is important, but let’s not forget that other employees matter too. Not every worker needs to be a creative powerhouse. That entrepreneurial and endeavoring energy must also be tempered by realistic expectations.
For every major push, you need a strong pull. Intrapreneurs can help your business strive to do better, but without other employees to counter or temper some of these tendencies, you may find yourself wasting your budget, overshooting when it isn’t necessary, or taking on projects you cannot deliver.
Forgetting that balance, and rewarding certain personality types over others, can lead your business into ruin.