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While most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) likely began as startups, they must remember their foundation for success by identifying workers with entrepreneurial DNA and duplicating a work environment that promotes an entrepreneurial spirit — otherwise known as intrapreneurship — within an organization. Intrapreneurship enables workers to operate like entrepreneurs and unleash their creativity to boost business success.
SMBs that establish and nurture intrapreneurship programs are better positioned to address the ongoing challenges of filling positions with the right people because they have an internal source of great talent and become preferred employers for job seekers who wish to work for companies that encourage their entrepreneurial DNA and spirit.
Intrapreneurship presents a win-win for SMBs by benefiting employees and employers with improved professional performance and company growth, so it behooves SMB leaders to revisit their keys to success to maintain an edge in a competitive, fast-changing workforce and marketplace. Below are four things to keep in mind for an effective intrapreneurship program.
Review the mutual benefits
Intrapreneurship affords employees who have an entrepreneurial mindset/drive the luxury of exploring their ideas in a safe environment with financial support, technical support and valuable resources – rather than going it alone — alleviating any obstacles that may hinder their creativity.
Intrapreneurs are given the leeway to use their talents to solve a problem, create a new product or improve processes in a company they are familiar with. It is rewarding, fuels professional growth and propels a company forward for unbridled success. Mutually beneficial relationships developed from intrapreneurship opportunities can lead to long-term employees who advance within a company and set the stage for others to follow in their footsteps while enabling a company to grow.
Identify employees and job candidates
Entrepreneurs are typically described as self-motivated, proactive leaders who think outside the box and take risks to make a difference in their industry. Leaders should identify employees with entrepreneur DNA and encourage them to use their skillsets to innovate and create positive changes for a company. Managers can typically recognize team members with the appropriate characteristics, or a personality/skills assessment test can be administered to identify candidates internally and externally.
Recruiting efforts should include the desired qualities in job descriptions to help boost the talent pool for intrapreneurship programs. With a still-tight labor market and potential layoffs in some sectors, workers might decide to go the entrepreneur route; however, intrapreneurship can be a differentiating factor for job seekers that offers a great alternative.
Nurture work environment
One of the critical success factors for entrepreneurial endeavors and SMBs is constant evolution because companies that become complacent get left behind in today’s fast-paced environment. With change a given, it is critical for leaders to create and nurture an environment that encourages innovation, creativity and new thoughts — one in which intrapreneurs feel free to express their opinions, offer solutions and take risks.
For example, managers should be encouraged to structure their meetings in a format that solicits input from all employees, enabling collaboration and generating excitement that leads to different perspectives and fresh ideas. They should not be penalized for failure but encouraged to fail fast so they are not inhibited from coming up with the next big idea.
When intrapreneurs have the support to make their interests known to management, the possibilities are endless, and it can also be contagious, encouraging others to do the same. An open, supportive work environment that enables intrapreneurs to flourish is necessary for an effective intrapreneurship program.
Although intrapreneurs are typically fulfilled by the freedom they have to innovate, create and help a company grow, leaders need to recognize their innovative contributions with verbal praise. This can be accomplished through formal and informal approaches, such as recognition during company/team meetings, verbal kudos posted on the intranet and a simple pat on the back and thank you from managers and co-workers as intrapreneurs go about their daily activities.
When intrapreneurs receive credit for their ideas, it encourages them to continue to find more ways that make a difference for a company. When leaders recognize intrapreneurs, it places a spotlight on the valuable role intrapreneurship plays within a business and encourages other employees to think outside of the box and present their ideas to management.
As SMB leaders continue to seek novel ways to stay ahead of the competition and boost business success, leveraging entrepreneurial DNA within their workforce and supporting an environment that encourages innovation and changes through intrapreneurship initiatives is one approach — already in their wheelhouse — that can make a difference in the trajectory of their company. Intrapreneurship also presents a rewarding experience for SMB leaders as they support and grow the next wave of intrapreneurs following in their footsteps to affect change.