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Your Intrapreneur Talent Are The Key To Business Growth. Here’s How To Retain Them


DATE: 25 April, 2022

Despite the fact that most executives feel that business has changed dramatically since the pandemic and that innovation is key to survival, few feel equipped to face the changes ahead. In fact, 90% believe that the COVID crisis will change the way they do business for the next 5 years, according to a recent McKinsey report.

So why is it still so hard for ideas to be heard in large organisations? Why are we still stuck with old hierarchical business models that are most at risk of disruption from smaller, more agile players?

In addition to the pressures of COVID, in this tight talent market, hiring your way out of this situation isn’t going to be an easy option.

Especially if you’re a traditional brand because the Canvas and Atlassians of this world have probably got something you don’t — brand permission to play with the cool kids along with their hallmark agility.

Australian Startup, Humanico, founded by Fiona Vale and Paul Rush, is seeking to shine a light on human potential in the workplace by creating a real-time human map for organisations seeking to understand and leverage human potential. By empowering owners, managers, and even board members, they aim to help enabled organisations to unlock and understand the full potential of all their employees. 

This approach can help businesses to map innovation roles to the right talent (without bias) that you already have right under your nose. What’s more, you could argue, these internal players are even more valuable as they already know your business, are connected to internal networks, and already understand company systems.

So what’s an intrapreneur and how is it different to an entrepreneur?

While they have many shared traits, University Lab Partners define an intrapreneur as ‘an individual who works on developing new ideas and products within the confines of the business that they already work for’. 

Intrapreneurs include any person within the company that applies entrepreneurial skills, vision, and forward-thinking to the role that they have within the company.

One of the more appealing reasons to be an intrapreneur is that it allows you to form new ideas, products, and business goals without taking on the risks that come with starting a new business as an entrepreneur. 

Sounds great, right? Having a group of people within your business who breathe new life into your existing business and bring new ideas? Ones that work within the confines of your capability and are aligned with your strategy? Google, Atlassian, and Facebook certainly thought so, they even created the environments and work cultures that supported and nurtured this way of thinking, along with flatter structures.

On the flip side, you’d also think that people who have an entrepreneurial mindset but don’t want to quit their job or cut off their income, would welcome the chance to have company resources at their disposal, to ensure that projects can be effectively completed. But while in theory, big corporations are giving permission by writing innovation into the strategy, the nuts and bolts and barriers of traditional business models aren’t moving fast enough and intrepreneurs aren’t being rewarded or enabled to reach their full potential.

So what can companies do to keep intrepreneur talent?

1. Reward them.  

Ask anyone who works in innovation inside a large company and they’ll tell you straight that it’s an uphill battle. 

When it comes to being rewarded, we’re stuck in old models that reward time and materials above new solutions. Atlassian recognises that ‘we’d grow stagnant as a company if we relied only on the ideas of a select and blessed few. Our long-term survival depends on our ability to continuously improve through change’.

You’ve probably heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. For a company, the opposite is true. Currently, no large organisation is going beyond solely giving time for their teams to develop thinking. If you were to acquire a company that built out an idea you’d pay big bucks, so why not create a system where people are paid what their hustle is worth? That way you can influence the outcome to better suit your customers by running early pilots and making it more valuable in the process. 

2. Create a culture of inclusion for intrapreneurs.

If your organisation’s full of hierarchical levels, only a few ideas will get through. 

In reality, ideas can come from anywhere, often from the most introverted or youngest person on a team. Being inclusive means everyone gets a voice and that is how the best ideas are shaped and formed — seldom do the best ideas come from one source.

Ideas are fragile and employees require psychological safety to voice their ideas. Often intrapreneurs choose to leave an organisation rather than continue to deal with the politics which can wear them down and block any progress.

3. Provide people who can build WITH them. 

Don’t create a chasm between the idea and building a minimal viable product (MVP) to test. 

I remember working with a big four bank on a consulting gig back when agile was still a new buzzword. The whole organisation had jumped onto the agile way of working — apart from IT. We had a great validated concept but we were told to ‘join the queue’ at a critical moment, which blocked us from testing a profitable solution.

We know that old ways won’t create new growth, but in order for there to be new growth, innovation must be nurtured and the barriers or restrictive models reimagined. So, what are you doing to fuel ideas from the employees already within your business?