March 6, 2018

Encourage Intrapreneurship and Increase Employee Retention

Written by
ShaDrena Simon
Tags: HR

Two of the most common reasons that employees cite for leaving a job are

  1. boredom and feeling unchallenged at work
  2. not getting the opportunity to use their skills and abilities and expand upon them.

Employees, especially the millennials now entering the workforce, want to make a difference, to use their skills to improve the company and the community and to grow and move upward to new positions.

Also Read: How to Fight Employee Burnout

As a business owner, you have the option to foster this creativity and improvement; creating a positive work environment where employees will want to stay, or you can squash their attempts at entrepreneurship in the workplace (Intrapreneurship) and be stuck on the treadmill of hiring new talent when the old talent finds someone new.

What is An Intrapreneur?

Over the past few years, the term Intrapreneur has risen throughout the corporate landscape. This term is used to define entrepreneurship within an existing company. Intrapreneurs create something new from within their company instead of going outside to start their own business.

Intrapreneurs can be found in every company if you know what to look for. These individuals look for creative out-of-the-box solutions to problems and question the attitude of “Because that’s what we’ve always done.” They will introduce their hobbies into the workplace, sharing their passion for health or fitness, art, music, or learning with their coworkers. These employees thrive when given more freedom and less micromanaging, and they may be asking for increased opportunities to learn, grow, and expand job responsibilities.

Why is intrapreneurship Important?

You have a treasure trove of talent at your fingertips. Employees that have brilliant ideas can make your company money, or they eventually become your competitor. Why wouldn’t you want to tap into this and help grow your business?

Intrapreneurs help companies adapt to a changing environments, innovate, and solve problems for their customers. When you foster and reward that creative spirit in your team, you not only create loyal employees but happy employees.

Successful companies that have embraced intrapreneurship reap the rewards, including:

  • Intel: Their New Business Initiative (NBI) provides space for employees to pitch their business ideas and receive funding.
  • Dreamworks: Employees are taught how to formulate a pitch and are then given the opportunity to practice in front of executives.
  • Google: A program called 20% Time allows Google engineers to spend 20% of their time on projects that interest them, free of the bureaucratic slowdowns caused when ideas must be filtered through a boss.

5 Ways to Encourage Intrapreneurship in the Workplace

Whether you’ve embraced intrapreneurship in the past or shied away from it, creating a culture that encourages creativity is within your reach. The trick is to give your employees the freedom to express their talents and think like entrepreneurs. Here are a few steps that will help your company move toward this culture:

1. Welcome Risk and Embrace Failure

If your employees fear for their job safety if they stray off the beaten path, they will not allow their creativity to surface. When you encourage employees to try something new and assure them that failures will be celebrated rather than penalized, it takes the pressure off and lets them flourish.

2. Remove Barriers, Give Your Employees Freedom

Nothing ensures an awkward, uncreative environment quite like micro-managing. Having someone always watching over your shoulder and questioning every step you take can squash an employee’s ability to function–never mind innovate.

Give your employees the opportunity to prove themselves worthy of trust and freedom. This may mean allowing them to work from home occasionally, to make their hours, or even the freedom to decorate their workspace or showcase their personality with their appearance.

3. Offer Incentives and Reward Productivity

Before you snap your checkbook closed, realize that incentives don’t always have to be monetary (although that’s always nice). When employees come up with great ideas, give them credit and kudos in front of their fellow team members, and offer them small tokens like gift cards or comp time to thank them for their hard work. Keep track of successes and ideas within your HR software and use these notes to plan new initiatives and track which employees already work outside of their job descriptions. 

4. Provide Physical and Emotional Space for them to Collaborate

A stuffy break room that hasn’t been cleaned in decades and gives team members headaches from the faulty fluorescent lighting doesn’t cut it. Create a comfortable space for employees to socialize with people outside of their department. They may uncover problems no one knew existed, and discover solutions that would never be reached if they weren’t given the opportunity to speak in a social, non-confrontational setting.

5. Be Open to New Ideas (Even if you didn’t come up with them)

As the owner, founder, CEO, or leader in a company, you should be the one with the great ideas… right?

Wrong. Employees need to feel safe and supported when approaching you or their immediate supervisor with new ideas. Be open to feedback, accept that there may be issues brewing of which you are not aware, and embrace the fact that sometimes, your employees will come up with ideas that you could never have imagined.

If your company is too large to have employees come to you directly, implement a system where all ideas make it to the “powers that be” and are given careful consideration. As soon as an employee feels like they aren’t being heard, they will stop speaking, stop innovating, and possibly start looking for a new job.

Is Intrapreneurship the Answer to Employee Retention?

No matter how good your organization is, employee retention can be a challenge. Loyalty must travel in both directions, and if you expect your employees to stick with you through challenges, you’ll need to do the same for them. Like a toddler walking for the first time or a teenager taking their driver’s test, not every trip will be a success. Failure means that they are trying, and it should be celebrated.

Intrapreneurship may not be the solution to every employee retention problem. If other problems are brewing such as disorganization, upper management showing disrespect to employees, a lack of strong leadership, a lack of appreciation, or negativity festering among the ranks, intrapreneurship might not help. Look inside your organization and determine the main reasons for your high turnover and focus your sights on fixing these problems and creating a better working environment for everyone.

Embrace the wisdom, creativity, and talent within your employee pool and give them the freedom to think differently, find solutions, and innovate your company and your industry.


ShaDrena Simon is an inbound marketing expert for Yokel Local. She’s a digital strategist, brand developer, and graphic artist. By day she spends time driving results for thriving businesses. During her downtime, she’s often found developing brand identities for creative startups and lifestyle brands.