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Retaining Intrapreneurs: A Challenge Well Worth It

01/28/2016 03:08 EST | Updated 01/28/2017 05:12 EST
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Indian female business colleagues working around a laptop

More and more organizations hire entrepreneurs whose purpose it is to either create, build, innovate or restructure and ensure faster organizational development or growth. In such roles they become valuable members of the management team but may never become the founders of their own company. However they will experiment with the fundamentals of entrepreneurship within an organization. They are intrapreneurs.

Inspiring, attracting and retaining intrapreneurs

By using entrepreneurs to take control of and accelerate development, companies whose foundations are based on strong intrapreneurial values attract like magnets candidates with those same values. Driven by a dynamic environment that leaves room for experimentation and innovation, intrapreneurs that are allowed to flourish foster a positive image of their employer, and promote their employer brand with colleagues who share the same values... which over time encourages like-minded intrapreneurs to also join the team. Generating excitement through an innovative corporate model, these organizations show that they know how to find, develop and retain intrapreneurs. To remain competitive in acquiring the talent needed to create and innovate, they cultivate a "start-up" environment within their organizational structure, which attracts candidates driven by innovative projects.

But not all organizations who could benefit from intrapreneurs operate this way. In a strongly hierarchical structure, can executives work side by side with intrapreneurs? With companies' authority being more often than not concentrated at the executive level, the arrival of an intrapreneur can be registered as adding a competitive and privileged element, which may confront the established leaders who worked their way up. Sometimes such events trigger fights for power and distract energy from the priority task at hand. Faced with such obstacles, how is it possible to cope with the difficult task of maximizing the potential of intrapreneurs while keeping them stimulated and above all, loyal to an organization?

Retaining intrapreneurs: A MAJOR CHALLENGE

As previously mentioned in the article Tips for Attracting Intrapreneurs To Your Organization, recruiting intrapreneurs in the first place is not an easy task. To retain them is also a challenge. Many organizations already have one or more entrepreneurs internally who can propose new ways to increase efficiency, and generate economic value and benefits across products or services. Sometimes disgruntled and frustrated, these individuals prefer to leave (often equipped with expertise acquired within the organization), in order to have the freedom to realize their project elsewhere. Several methods can be used to retain intrapreneurs. Here are some examples.

Cultivate ideas

First, the culture of the company must be receptive to intrapreneurship, i.e. it must promote innovation through its values and practices. As it is the executive management team that conveys and inspires the culture of their organization, it is also their task to brilliantly orchestrate the introduction of a stimulating culture that will ensure the best practices in the industry; constant renewal of strategies; and ultimately to overtake the competition. Regardless of the selected strategy, make sure that it enables intrapreneurs to:

1. Identify and seize opportunities for innovation, improvement and change in the organization.

2. Establish internal units and enable external networks to mobilize all necessary resources.

3. Establish projects, learn from doing, correct errors and overcome obstacles.

By adopting a corporate culture that embraces these values, and encouraging new behaviors and attitudes as well as new ways of thinking, eventually the results will be felt and improvements will make the organization more agile and competitive.

Value and acknowledge achievements

Surprising as it may seem, some executives may fear intrapreneurs. With power to innovate, surprise, and often succeed where the team in place struggled, intrapreneurs may scare those executives who fear their influence could be diminished. On other occasions, it is rather the fear of losing the best talent to the hands of competitors that prevents leaders from recognizing and praising the success of their internal entrepreneurs.

Yet, recognition not only contributes to the retention of intrapreneurs, it also emphasizes the vision demonstrated by leaders, and can inspire. As leaders, aren't they, after all, the ones who enabled the selection of the right talent, approved the initiatives that would benefit the organization, and prioritized the supply of necessary resources? Recognizing talent represents an undeniable advantage that solidifies the bond between intrapreneurs, the organization and its leaders.

Promote shareholding

Being an entrepreneur can be hard at times but the efforts are worth it because the entrepreneur is building something that belongs to him. Meanwhile, an intrapreneur can rise to an equally great challenge by taking responsibility for it, except they may not have the satisfaction of actually owning what they build. This is where shareholding can fulfill the dual role of compensation as well as retain the commitment of intrapreneurs. In doing so, intrapreneurs become involved in initiatives that belong to them and they can also benefit from the gains conferred by shareholding (especially attractive and useful for retaining talent when their endeavor's results have proven highly successful).

In conclusion, we see that there are many ways to promote the retention of the dynamic and creative talent with the potential to transform organizations to make them more competitive and profitable. Every business is different; it is for you to decide which approach will work best for your organization.

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