So how does one go about making the leap from an intrapreneur to an entrepreneur? The complicated answer is, it depends on some of the following:
- Too many levels of bureaucracy
- Lack of support for moving ideas up the chain
- Passion aligned to something unrelated to current work
- Unsatisfied with personal and professional growth opportunities
I chose to bold the only positive reason because to show that not all of the reasons for leaving regular employment for entrepreneurship are bad reasons, however, the negative reasons may greatly influence an individuals decisions.
I want to examine this not from the individual that chooses to leave, but from the employers perspective, so hang on.
Unfortunately, many employers use excuses and dangling carrots to keep underutilized employees for as long as possible. Why? Because they don't want to have to go through another round of hiring or perhaps good intentions just keep going sideways. Whatever the reason, it is unacceptable to limit the growth and opportunities of your employees.
I'm not exactly certain why, but most companies large and small view employees with grand aspirations with disdain. Ironically, these same companies are pushing some of their best talent out the door through these very actions and attitudes. Only companies are open-minded and willing to change will reap the benefits from their intrapreneurs.
Employers that put specific and actionable programs in place to develop this wealth of underutilized talent will reap the rewards.
- Foster creativity - Ensure that individuals and teams have plenty of opportunities to collaborate and put forth their own ideas without fear of backlash or embarrassment. Encourage multiple ways to submit ideas both publicly and anonymously. This helps ensure you'll get ideas from both introverts and extroverts.
- Provide Time - Give employees time during each week as well as larger chunks throughout the year to work on pet projects or ideas unrelated to current projects. Knowledge is transferable and interesting connections can be made from disparate topics. This happens organically and cannot be forced. Time to process will bring these ideas together.
- Provide Opportunity & Education - Give employees opportunities to cross-train with another departments, mentor peers,take online classes or get a professional certification. Could you benefit from helping your employees understand your company's process for registering intellectual property? Absolutely. Again, let employees elect what they are interested in and tailor programs based on feedback.
- Provide Resources - Employees can't grow without access to resources, in fact if you aren't helping them develop, you are letting them stagnate and atrophy professionally. Ensure there is decent funding for books, classes, conferences and just developing proof of concept products. Even small budgets can add value when properly allocated.
- Provide Infrastructure - Fast Tracking ideas and innovation can't happen in chaos, so be deliberate. Provide employees mentors related to getting a project off the ground. Help them understand the necessary processes to see their ideas move forward. Ensure that there are efficient ways for employees to get feedback so they can continue to iterate and explore.
When you company gets all the pieces for internal innovation in place your employees will:
- Feel Empowered
- Appreciate Growth Opportunities
- Appreciate The Work Environment
- Appreciate Their Creative Freedom
I can't wrap this up without some positive warnings. You may have helped develop the next Fortune 500 CEO. Yes, some employees will still venture out on their own, but not everyone wants to take on that level of personal risk. You'll still have a wealth of intrapreneur talent, and you should always be pulling more individuals into the program. Remember those employees that do venture out on their own, still be supportive of their efforts. If their venture doesn't work out, don't hesitate to pull them back into the fold.
This article was previously posted on my LinkedIn profile.