This article was updated on August 3, 2018.
Entrepreneurs are often revered for their risk-taking mentality, their bold ideas and their vision. However, the same entrepreneurial spirit can drive new developments for enterprises, from redesigning processes to creating new products.
Intrepreneurship is defined by Inc.com as employees who work at a business in an entrepreneurial capacity. They help create and develop innovative products and processes for the business. Creating the foundation for innovation often begins with HR leaders — how they hire, how they structure job time allocations and whether the organization's compensation system is designed to reward out-of-the-box thinking.
Here's a closer look at different approaches HR leaders can take to establish the foundation for successful intrepreneurs at their organization.
1. Give Employees Time and Space to Experiment
One of the key factors that employees need to innovate is time — the time to think, experiment and be refreshed. Fortune notes how many organizations are providing this time through paid sabbaticals. While time off or volunteer work is the focus of some sabbatical models, others use this time to encourage employees to tackle an intellectual or creative challenge related to their work. Often, these benefits are offered to employees after several years of service and provide between four to eight weeks of paid time off. For HR leaders interested in stimulating innovation, the underlying message is important — employees find it hard to innovate when they're drowning in their own work. The time for innovation must be intentional and protected.
2. Provide Access to Resources
Harvard Business Review notes that when a chemist at L'Oréal wanted to develop foundations that worked better for a wide range of skin tones, she took it on as a personal project. The makeup business provided her and the colleagues she enlisted for the project with lab space they needed. Supporting your team's innovation efforts often goes beyond time, or even money. In many cases, prospective innovators need access to information, advisers or physical space to make the right connections or test out new processes. Look for nonmonetary ways to support growth and innovation that make bigger thinking possible.
3. Model Support From the Top Down
Innovation is often elusive, and employees making the shift from an employee mindset to an entrepreneurial mindset need to feel secure in that transition. Do your top leaders truly support the firm's efforts to stimulate intrepreneurship? Are your C-suite leaders and mid-level managers taking risks and pushing for innovation in their own work, or do they model a risk-averse mindset? Ultimately, your management team sets the tone that determines success. Work with managers to provide language they can use to discuss entrepreneurship within the organization and share tools they can use to motivate their teams to participate.
4. Follow a Proven Process
One of the biggest barriers for HR leaders and managers in supporting employee innovation is the lack of a proven process. Innovation on the finance team may look very different from someone designing a new product. However, Adobe's Kickbox program provides a model for developing and vetting ideas. In fact, the organization has seen so much success with their program that they've created an online course and all-in-one kit other firms can use.
5. Create a Safe Space
Another way to encourage your team to innovate is by directing their attention toward a specific problem. Many enterprises have found success with adapting approaches from the tech world such as hackathons, scrum settings and competitions. Structure these sessions by focusing on a specific problem or challenge, like developing a new product for a specific market, expanding the features of an existing application or streamlining your customer service process. Dedicate specific time, encourage interdisciplinary teams to work together, foster healthy competition and reward people both for their participation and for outstanding contributions.
While large businesses have a reputation for moving slowly and focusing on keeping the business running, innovation and intrepreneurship can dramatically influence their trajectory. HR leaders can work to create a culture, processes and structure that help your most talented employees think outside the box and make entrepreneurial contributions that can push your business forward.
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