How to convert employees into INTRAPRENEURS

A culture of intrapreneurship means an empowered workforce that is ready to step up and help grow your business. And, who wouldn’t want that?

“Intrapreneurs” – employees who are constantly looking for ways to make improvements, introduce new initiatives or change the way a company works – are important to have alongside you when building a successful business. Indeed, studies have shown that intrapreneurial companies outperform non-intrapreneurial companies in critical areas, like sales growth, profitability and market share. It’s clear that if you want to keep on growing and innovating, you’ll need to encourage a culture of intrapreneurship in your business.

Employee engagement levels have hardly moved in almost two decades. Research company Gallup, which has been tracking employee engagement since 2000, says that while there have been some slight ebbs and flows, “less than one-third of US employees have been engaged in their jobs and workplaces during these 17 years”.

These employees have direct contact with your customers, competitors and stakeholders. And, are often best-positioned to assess what’s really going on at the coalface and how to respond in order to improve results. By encouraging intrapreneurial thinking in your company, you can empower your people to actively pursue those ideas with the highest potential of adding real value to the bottom line.

Consumers can be great advocates of brands they love, but you can’t buy that loyalty. You have to earn it by being transparent and caring. Consider these four truths about service from Karl Albrecht, author of The Only Thing that Matters:

▪ Today’s consumers are more educated, sophisticated, demanding, and less tolerant than ever before.

▪ Customers are no longer “wowed” by the basic levels of service – the basics are the minimum; what you promised them. That’s why you must be moving toward the kind of astonishment that builds lifetime customer loyalty.

▪ We have to earn the right to do business with our customers over and over again. Every day is another opportunity to reinforce the relationship we have with them.

▪ The way you treat your people and the way they treat each other, is the way they will eventually treat the customer. You can’t do service well externally over the long-haul until you first learn how to do service well internally.

Consumers want to see tangible action, and intrapreneurship is the best way to deliver on that expectation.

The economic landscape is continuously changing. Many large and established companies are trying to adapt to this new context by embracing intrapreneurship in various ways within their organisations. They are leveraging the creativity and passion of their people, because they understand they have to be more flexible and agile to stay competitive. There’s no reason that you as the owner of a small business can’t do the same.

The following are five easy ways that you can empower your employees to act like entrepreneurs and create an entrepreneurial culture in your company.

BUILD PASSION. Entrepreneurs are passionate about their work, which is the key to success and fulfilment in any field or position. If an employee lacks passion in what they’re doing, consider how you can help them discover what they are truly passionate about. By identifying their strengths and those activities that make them come alive, they can slowly demonstrate those areas where they will add most value. This may open new opportunities they have not yet considered.

PROVIDE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES. Entrepreneurs take advantage of every resource and opportunity to learn something new, brainstorm ideas, and get comfortable with the unfamiliar. They then leverage that collective knowledge into new ideas. In your business, create opportunities for employees to learn new skills and move outside their comfort zones. Think how you can encourage personal growth, or improve interpersonal skills, critical and creative thinking, and practical skills.

FOCUS ON WHAT SETS THEM APART. Entrepreneurs focus on the things that set them – and their products – apart. Encourage your employees to highlight the things that they do differently and better than anyone else. Encourage them to share this knowledge as a learning opportunity for their peers.

ENCOURAGE OWNERSHIP. At the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CfE) at False Bay TVET College, selection for entrepreneurial competencies is key. One of the factors we look for is a high inner “locus of control”. This is the amount of control you believe you have over what happens in your life. An external locus – the kind where the world is against you – is a common fault among unsuccessful business owners. These people are more likely to blame employees and colleagues, or chalk their failures up to bad luck. They see success as something that is outside their control, and don’t acknowledge their role in mistakes made. An internal locus is when you take ownership of your business failures and learn from them. As a result, you learn to adapt and how to avoid mistakes in the future. Only one of those mentalities works in business.

LET THEM TAKE RISKS. Entrepreneurs know business ownership is all about risk. There are no rules when it comes to building a business and there are no guarantees of success. Allow your employees to propose and take smart risks in their various business areas. Share how you have taken risks in growing your business. Acknowledge that failure will happen, and that often the biggest lessons of all come from these failures.

By encouraging your employees to become intrapreneurs, you’ll enable them to start reaching their full career potential. And don’t be surprised, or despondent, if they start dreaming about starting their own businesses, and taking the next step to become entrepreneurs in their own right. We’re building our economy one small business at a time, and mentoring the right mindset in people makes an invaluable contribution.

This article was supplied by Steve Reid, Centre for Entrepreneurship (CfE) at False Bay TVET College, and first appeared in the April/May 2018 issue of Your Business Magazine.

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