How to Encourage Innovation From Your Employees
By Alexandra Levit
4 Ways to Encourage Intrapreneurship
I’ve long been a fan of intrapreneurship, or the practice of entrepreneurial strategies within the context of, and leveraging the resources of, an established organization. I wanted to come up with some good intrepreneurship programs pioneered by HR for this piece, but it was more difficult than I expected.
Beyond the open allocation topic, which we discussed earlier this year and which is mostly limited to the startup community, a Google search revealed very little. I’m realizing that while intrapreneurship may be growing in popularity, the majority of initiatives have nothing whatsoever to do with HR.
Forbes contributor Adam Hartung shared a story about a consulting meeting he had with a company that makes nails and screws and was getting clobbered by adhesive manufacturers in Asia. “The company had become myopic, and did not even realize it. The people were so much alike that they could finish each other’s sentences,” Hartung related. “The HR head was very proud of his ability to keep the company so harmonious.”
“Only, it was about to go bankrupt. Because it wasn’t diverse at all, the company couldn’t see see beyond its locked-in business model. And there sure wasn’t anyone who would rock the boat by admitting competitors were outflanking them, or bringing up wild ideas for new markets or products.”
Hartung’s main point was that some HR best practices actually kill innovation – both inside and outside the department. HR professionals who want to be perceived as strategic contributors must adapt to change and put forth ideas that will help their businesses remain competitive. To that end, here are four ways to foster intrapreneurship in your organization.
Often, HR is the gatekeeper for ensuring that recruits fit within the established culture of the organization. But this often means that diversity is sacrificed and we bring in employees like ourselves, people with the same experiences and perspectives. So, if you’re a brick and mortar electronics behemoth based in the Midwest, hire a startup queen from one of the coasts who has no desire to conform. It’ll be scary, but I guarantee you’ll see a difference.
Listen to Your Junior People
Younger professionals, or members of the millennial generation, routinely look for the most efficient and effective way of doing something rather than adhering blindly to the status quo. Keep an open door and an open mind when your employees share their ideas for transforming the HR function.
Tooling around is at the heart of the intrapreneurship process. If you insist that your people always adhere to existing policies and procedures – staying in budget and staying in line – your organization will suffer in the long run. Communicate to your HR staff that they should feel free to tinker. Incentivize employees to take risks and launch new initiatives, and make sure they know that if an idea fails, their careers will go on.
Start with your department. Establish a committee dedicated to coming up with one new revolutionary process or service a month. Give each of your employees an occasional afternoon or full work day to work on passion projects that will drive HR – and the business – forward. Your goal should be to make innovation a priority and emphasize it as a skill that all of your people must hone.
Is your HR team innovative? Has this approach increased your visibility on the company stage?