This blog explores practices and research insights that can be valuable for communication practitioners and leaders who want to make their workplace more welcoming and empowering for employees to flourish.

Every organization is keen to retain its employees while acknowledging that they have a choice of joining other firms or branching out as entrepreneurs. In today’s ‘gig economy’, employees prefer autonomy and greater control over their lives. Organizations have seen an increase in ‘contingent workforces’1 and that presents unique challenges at the workplace. Employee commitment at the workplace, today, needs to be seen in a new light. Expectations for information access and sharing are increasing.  Employees, are viewed as a competitive advantage. Based on years of research, scholars believe that recognizing human potential and tapping individual’s unique skills and talent2 are expected to deliver far greater results for organizations.

These trends have triggered initiatives within organizations to tap the potential of employees and reap the benefits of ideas for future business success. For example, SAP allows employees to take sabbaticals to start their own business3 and is now extending the idea internally – providing a safety net for staff to continue in the workplace while pursuing their passion.4

Transforming Organizations from Within

With employee engagement levels5 remaining stagnant for years around the globe, the quest for truly engaged employees is becoming complex. The Intrapreneur Index6 ranks the intrapreneur, ahead of engaged employees – describing them as those who ‘are willing and able to develop and implement innovative solutions, thereby adding surprising value to some or all of the organization’s stakeholders’. Another definition states – the ‘intrapreneur’7 as a person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation’.  Gifford Pinchot III8 who coined the term ‘intrapreneur’ recently visited Bengaluru, India and I had the opportunity to meet him9. He spoke of the need to empower employees and transform organizations from the inside out.

Intrapreneurship is known to give organizations10 multi-fold returns. Firms that nurture organizational structures, have values conducive to intrapreneurial activities11 and focus on business orientations are more likely to grow than organizations that are low in such characteristics. Open and quality communication, existence of formal controls, intensive environmental scanning, management and organizational support, and values help an organization become more intrapreneurial.  In a study conducted in the United States12 among 528 employees to understand how fostering relationships strengthen their interest to pursue intrapreneurial activities, researchers discovered that when employees are given autonomy and organizations practice healthy interactive communication staff are more inclined to do more and commit even greater effort on behalf of the organization.

Creating a Nurturing Communication Environment

Knowing which employees are intrapreneural in spirit is a good starting point. An 11- country study on intrapreneurship indicates that less than 5% of employees were considered as intrapreneurs13, where high income countries have twice as many employees as intrapreneurs than low income countries. Creating a flexible, nurturing and personalized environment for these employees is expected to result in shared value for the organization. That also depends on the investments organizations make towards building a culture of risk-taking and rewards.

So, can internal communication help involve employees to do more at the workplace? The role of internal communication, although crucial to bringing intrapreneurship alive in organizations, is less understood. Inadequate and poor communication14, for instance, is known to limit progress of organizations pursing intrapreurship within. Internal communicators can however play a significant role in strengthening and redirecting the flow of communication, leading to positive employee intent.

Another approach is by surfacing inspiring stories of successful ‘intrapreneurs’ in the organization creating more awareness about the strategies adopted by employees to bring their ideas to life. Likewise, internal communication can influence how employees perceive the environment, exchange knowledge freely across levels and contribute their skills and talent. This allows for transparent communication and encourages employees to take risks and challenge the current ways of operating.

In summary, involving employees as equal partners in the organization’s progress is critical. By demonstrating positive intent to support employees as intrapreneurs and following through with consistent actions, organizations build trust and engage employees on a personal level to go over and beyond their regular duties. Such citizenship behaviors lead to self-driven individuals and a revitalized organization.

Note: Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the views of the organization the author works for.


Aniisu K. Verghese leads Corporate Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility for Tesco in Bengaluru, India. He is the author of Internal Communications Insights, Practices and Models and is passionate about engaging communicators and students through workshops, speaking engagements, teaching assignments and blogging

References:

  1. Korn Ferry (2017). http://focus.kornferry.com/employee-engagement/motivation-and-retention-in-the-age-of-the-gig-economy/?_sm_au_=iVVDWmqPVmSV0VJF
  2. Ghoshal, S., & Bartlett, C. A. (1999). The individualized corporation: A fundamentally new approach to management. Harper Collins. https://www.harpercollins.com/9780887308314/the-individualized-corporation?_sm_au_=iVVDWmqPVmSV0VJF
  3. The Economic Times (2016). https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/small-biz/entrepreneurship/sap-labs-wants-its-employees-to-take-sabbatical-to-become-entrepreneurs/articleshow/55933361.cms
  4. SAP website (2015). https://news.sap.com/intrapreneurship-run-your-idea/?_sm_au_=iVVDWmqPVmSV0VJF
  5. Gallup (2016). http://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/188033/worldwide-employee-engagement-crisis.aspx?_sm_au_=iVVDWmqPVmSV0VJF
  6. Intrapreneur Index. Retrieved on January 4, 2018 http://ii.bymonday.com/?_sm_au_=iVVDWmqPVmSV0VJF
  7. Retrieved on January 4, 2018 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intrapreneurship?_sm_au_=iVVDWmqPVmSV0VJF
  8. Retrieved on February 12, 2018 https://www.linkedin.com/in/giffordpinchot/
  9. Intraskope (2017). http://www.aniisu.com/2017/03/14/5-ways-to-harness-intrapreneurship-in-organizations/
  10. Deloitte (2015). https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/de/Documents/technology/Intrapreneurship_Whitepaper_English.pdf
  11. Antoncic, B., & Hisrich, R. D. (2001). Intrapreneurship: Construct refinement and cross-cultural validation. Journal of business venturing16(5), 495-527
  12. Park, S. H., Kim, J. N., & Krishna, A. (2014). Bottom-up building of an innovative organization: Motivating employee intrapreneurship and scouting and their strategic value. Management communication quarterly28(4), 531-560.
  13. Bosma, N. S., Stam, F. C., & Wennekers, A. R. M. (2010). Intrapreneurship: An international study. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3c1c/9fdd4837511cea9b789f224d27691eadcea1.pdf
  14. Mohanty, R. P. (2006). Intrapreneurial levers in cultivating value-innovative mental space in Indian corporations. Vikalpa31(1), 99-106.
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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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