“If you want employees who think like entrepreneurs, you need to first support employees as intrapreneurs and create a culture where individual ideas and actions are valued.”
Every organisation is keen to retain its employees while acknowledging the fact that they have a choice of joining other firms or branching out as entrepreneurs. In today’s ‘gig economy’, employees prefer autonomy and greater control over their lives. Also known as the ‘flex economy’ or ‘mobile economy,’ the ‘gig economy’ reflects the cultural change millennial workers bring to the workplace. Although this is a rough estimate, according to a report by Serraview, it is projected that gig workers will comprise half the workforce by 2020, and as much as 80 percent by 2030. With such a steep increase in the ‘contingent workforce’, employers are set to face unique challenges at the workplace.
Employee commitment at the workplace, today, needs to be seen in a new light. Expectations for information access and sharing are increasing. Employees are viewed as a competitive advantage. Based on years of research, scholars believe that recognizing human potential and tapping an individual’s unique skills and talent are expected to deliver far greater results for organisations.
These trends have triggered initiatives within organisations to tap the potential of employees and reap the benefits of ideas for future business success. For example, SAP allows employees to take sabbaticals to start their own business and is now extending the idea internally – providing a safety net for staff to continue in the workplace while pursuing their passion.
Transforming Organisations from Within
With employee engagement levels remaining stagnant for years around the globe, the quest for truly engaged employees is becoming complex. The ‘Intrapreneur Index’ ranks the intrapreneur ahead of engaged employees – describing them as those who are willing and able to develop and implement innovative solutions, thereby adding surprising value to some or all of the organisation’s stakeholders. Another definition states – An ‘Intrapreneur’ as a person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation. Gifford Pinchot III who coined the term ‘Intrapreneur’ recently visited Bengaluru, India and I had the opportunity to meet him. He spoke of the need to empower employees and transform organisations from the inside out.
“Likewise, internal communication can influence how employees perceive the environment, exchange knowledge freely across the levels and contribute their skills and talent. This allows for transparent communication and encourages employees to take risks and challenge the current ways of operating.”
Intrapreneurship is known to give organisations multi-fold returns. Firms that nurture organisational structures have values conducive to intrapreneurial activities. With their focus on business orientations, they are more likely to grow than organisations that are low in such characteristics.
Open and quality communication, the existence of formal controls, intensive environmental scanning, management and organisational support, and values help organisations become more intrapreneurial.
In a study conducted in the United States among 528 employees to understand how fostering relationships strengthen their interest to pursue intrapreneurial activities, researchers discovered that when employees are given autonomy and organisations practice healthy interactive communication, the staff is more inclined to do more and commit to even greater effort on behalf of the organisation.
Creating a Nurturing Communication Environment
Knowing which employees are intrapreneural in spirit is a good starting point. An eleven-country study on intrapreneurship indicates that less than 5% of employees were considered as intrapreneurs, where high-income countries have twice as many employees as intrapreneurs than low-income countries.
Creating a flexible, nurturing, and personalized environment for these employees is expected to result in shared value for the organisation. That also depends on the investments organisations make towards building a culture of risk-taking and rewards.
So, can internal communication help employees to do more at the workplace? The role of internal communication although crucial for bringing intrapreneurship alive in organisations, is less understood. Inadequate and poor communication, for instance, is known to limit the progress of organisations pursuing intrapreneurship within. Internal communicators can, however, play a significant role in strengthening and redirecting the flow of communication, leading to positive employee intent.
Another approach is by surfacing inspiring stories of successful ‘Intrapreneurs’ in the organisation to create more awareness about the strategies adopted by those intrapreneurs and help employees to bring their own ideas to life.
“An eleven-country study on intrapreneurship indicates that less than 5% of employees were considered as intrapreneurs, where high-income countries have twice as many employees as intrapreneurs than low-income countries.”
Likewise, internal communication can influence how employees perceive the environment, exchange knowledge freely across the levels, and contribute their skills and talent. This allows for transparent communication and encourages employees to take risks and challenge the current ways of operating.
In summary, involving employees as equal partners in the organisation’s progress is critical. By demonstrating positive intent to support employees as intrapreneurs and following through with consistent actions, organisations build trust and engage employees on a personal level to go over and beyond their regular duties. Such citizenship behaviors lead to self-driven individuals and a revitalized organisation.