Support 'intrapreneurship' in your workforce

Create a competitive advantage through a more engaging people experience

Secure your future people experience: Five imperatives for action - Chapter 4

The process of employees innovating within an established organisation is termed ‘intrapreneurship’, and it encourages employees to develop new enterprises and commercially viable ideas within the corporation. Intrapreneurship can meet an organisation’s goal of developing new and disruptive ideas, while also fulfilling individual desires to create and innovate – without workers’ moving on. A majority of young people see themselves working independently at some point rather than being employed within traditional organisational structures. We are seeing a similar trend, with a significant increase in entrepreneurialism, in more mature sections of the workforce.

Technology has fundamentally democratised entrepreneurialism because to be an entrepreneur today, all it takes is an Internet connection and a service to sell. If a person needs investment for small entrepreneurial ventures, he or she can call on crowdfunding platforms. The social acceptance of entrepreneurship has also shifted.  Managing one’s own business once was seen as a lesser form of work compared with professions such as medicine, law, and the civil service. This stigma has faded. Close to 80% of people now believe that those running their own business have a high level of respect in society. This is not simply a case of more people passively admiring the self-employed; it is also a result of more people actively enjoying making, doing and selling.

This is the fourth in a series of five chapters on how your organisation can create competitive advantage through a more engaging people experience.

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To understand how prepared companies are to nurture their workforce for the future, we sought to identify the key organisational capabilities they will need to succeed. Building on PwC research and working in collaboration with Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at London Business School, we identified 45 key organisational capabilities. We then conducted a global survey of more than 1,200 business and HR leaders from 79 countries to gauge how important those capabilities are to organisations around the world. We also sought to learn whether organisations are taking action today to get ready – and which capabilities are most at risk owing to a lack of action. The full results are published in Preparing for tomorrow’s workforce, today.

According to our survey, the organisational capability required to support intrapreneurship is at high risk in organisations globally, with corporations in the Middle East and Western Europe most likely to be at risk. Globally, 77% of respondents rated this capability to be of high or extremely high importance in the future. However, only 56% agreed or strongly agreed that their organisation was taking action on these capabilities today.                                   

Organisations that fail to create opportunities for intrapreneurship risk losing innovative team members. The evidence: 70% of successful entrepreneurs developed their big idea while working at an established organisation, but left to commercialise it owing to their frustration with the level of organisational rigidity stifling their entrepreneurial flair. If companies provide opportunities for workers to develop innovative ideas and turn these ideas into businesses, they are more likely to retain the people who can contribute to their long-term success.

The key is to nurture a startup environment within an existing organisation structure that embraces continuous experimentation. Below, we identify three action areas that are crucial for supporting intrapreneurship.

Create psychological safety

Fundamental to supporting intrapreneurship is creating environments in which employees feel encouraged and safe in sharing new and challenging ideas. These psychologically safe settings produce fewer errors and more innovative ideas. Often, it is the day-to-day behaviour of leaders that determines whether this safety exists in an organisation. Are employees able to challenge authority? Do leaders actively seek ideas from their people? Do leaders act on the ideas put forward by the employees? All these facets contribute to employees feeling confident and able to share their ideas and opinions.

Provide time and avenues for idea generation

Creativity is a function of the quantity of ideas produced. The initial 20 ideas people generate are always significantly less original than their next 15.  However, generating lots of ideas takes time. Employees benefit from having the space, time and opportunity to experiment and try out ideas that may or may not work. Some organisations hold periodic hackathons in which workers present ideas and compete to tackle specific challenges aligned with the company’s broader strategy. Employees judged to have the best ‘hacks’ can earn prizes and recognition.

Reward failures

Rewarding not only successes but also failures will become increasingly crucial so that people feel supported in taking the risks necessary for innovation. For example, Tata Group has introduced awards that recognise attempts to create an innovation even if they failed. These initiatives normalise failure as an inevitable and useful part of the innovation process, enabling individuals and organisations to learn more about the products they are creating and the markets they serve.

Mutual Fun at Rite-Solutions

The Mutual Fun platform at Rite-Solutions combines social networking and gamification strategies to create an internal entrepreneurial environment. Mutual Fun operates as a stock market–based game for ideas and resources. An employee begins by creating a personalised profile, allowing that employee to find others with similar interests or complementary strengths to work with on innovative projects. Individuals can then invest their intellectual capital (in the form of a virtual US$10,000) into the ‘idea stocks’ of their colleagues. Each idea proposal is created with a starting price of US$10. Peers can invest in stocks, volunteer their time to move the project forward, and express interest via comments. Algorithms are used to derive each idea’s stock value through activity and investments in the idea, while also calculating a leaderboard of players. If the idea reaches the top 20 list of valuable stocks, the company often funds it and volunteer teams are able to move the project forward. Finally, if the project results in company gains (i.e., revenue or cost savings), the creators benefit by receiving a share of the profit.

Contact us

Carol Stubbings

Joint Global Leader, People and Organisation, Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 77 3987 4275

Bhushan Sethi

Joint Global Leader, People and Organisation, Principal, PwC United States

Tel: +1 (917) 863 9369

Justine Brown

Director, Workforce of the Future research programme, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 77 1016 9938

Nicky Wakefield

Partner, People & Change, PwC Singapore

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