When it comes to establishing a healthy, collaborative work culture for personnel, many companies emphasize things like flexible workspace, internet connectivity, healthy snacks and wellness activities for employees. But what about fostering an environment that gives team members — no matter how junior — the confidence and initiative to bring innovative and sometimes disruptive ideas to the table that will push the company forward?
There is great value in business executives who afford employees and tech talent the freedom to contribute fresh ideas that could expand product offerings and/or the services companies provide — both from a management standpoint, as well as a sales and revenue standpoint.
Employees don’t have to be corporate founders or CEOs to be innovators—by giving them independence, supporting their goals and staying open to new, risky ideas, you can unleash your employee’s inner entrepreneurs for a healthier culture and even new, profitable products or services.
What Is Intrapreneurship?
It’s hard to keep track of the buzzwords floating around the HR/leadership space. While talk of intrapreneurship is certainly nothing new, it’s not nearly as domineering as other hot-button topics. It is, however, just as important.
The idea of intrapreneurship is built on the foundation of encouraging people within a company or organization, regardless of role or seniority, to harness their own entrepreneurial spirits through creativity and innovation. It’s applying the key components of entrepreneurship—be it a vision, the ability to take risks, leadership, or ingenuity—to a position served within a business.
Why is it so important? Think about it: when your employees are empowered to think outside the box, the rewards are bountiful. In some cases, your employees can turn their visions into a valuable, profitable product. Great ideas soon become great realities—ones that even advance the bottom line. Employees are assured to believe in their ideas with a team of leaders and colleagues behind them. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, and it’s what fosters a strong company culture while simultaneously propelling a business forward.
How It’s Done: Cultivate Autonomy
So, how can companies create an intrapreneurial environment? It starts by promoting autonomy. Freedom is an innate, human desire. When you foster it in the workplace, you’re bound to get positive results. In fact, studies show that embracing autonomy in the office leads to better well-being and job satisfaction while increasing intrinsic motivation, creativity and job fulfillment.
If you want your employees to tap into their inner-entrepreneurs, promote autonomy and self-empowerment. While every company has an agenda and goals to march towards, allowing your talent to take the reins can make all the difference. Let employees identify the projects that matter to them, even if it’s not something your company has ever done before. Then, step back and give them the power to lead and advocate for these initiatives. Elevating levels of independence and self-governance can help open the door to new ideas that just might surprise you.
While independence and self-governance should be encouraged, your employees still need a path. “Autonomy” and “guidance” aren’t mutually exclusive, especially in the workplace. Whether it’s explicit protocols and processes, or just general input on a project, you and your fellow leaders should provide ongoing support, before and after employees come to the table with new ideas. This healthy balance between freedom and constructive direction empowers your employees to deliver the best results.
You know the saying—the greater the risk, the greater the reward.
Risk-taking and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand, so if you want your employees to take more chances, you’ll need to be open to taking them, too. This means staying open to new ideas and not shying away from the unknown, even in the most nontraditional circumstances. It doesn’t mean, however, accepting every project blindly–it’s mitigating liabilities ahead of time and strategically assessing potential roadblocks and outcomes. Novelty can’t happen without the right risks. To prioritize intrapreneurship in the workplace it requires an open mind and a clear understanding of when to say “yes” instead of simply saying “no.”
The story of our tax time series confirms entrepreneurs aren’t the only ones who can innovate–employees of all backgrounds can, too. Intrapreneurs can and should bring their own ideas, experiences and opinions to the table–you never know what might actually stick. When given the right amount of autonomy and support, your employees are empowered to unleash their own entrepreneurial spirits for, potentially, a better bottom line.
Read more: How CEOs Can Turn Innovative Technology Into Lucrative Acquisitions