Entrepreneurial independence is on the rise. What we do mean by this? This means that in response to the continued labor market instability and lack of job security, a much more entrepreneurial mindset is taking hold where employees take care of their own careers by becoming self-employed and starting their own businesses. This is backed up by surveys which show increasing levels of self employment in both the U.S. and UK. The growing entrepreneurial mindset is particularly evident in the millennial segment of the working population with surveys showing that 71 percent of millennials in regular jobs would prefer to quit and work for themselves and 60 percent plan to do so in the next two years.
And with millennials making up nearly 36 percent of the workforce today, it’s the right time for employers to look at ways to attract and not repel the entrepreneurs within your business. I mean the worst case scenario is that entrepreneurial employees will leave and set up business in competition to you. So, why not have them working for you rather than against?
So, what can employers do to attract and harness entrepreneurial workers and not repel them?
I think there are three main strategies to adopt, based on examples from other businesses, and these effectively involve turning your business into a kind of incubator where employees have the opportunity to propose ideas; get them funded and supported by the business (if they are good enough); effectively develop their own new product; and perhaps create a business within a business. You can see the examples below.
1. Innovation Contest and Innovation Budgets
Gamify innovation in your business. Create an annual innovation contest, just like the Innovista Innovation competition at Tata where each year employees are invited to come up with a new business idea or product that can increase efficiency or sales. If they win, they receive praise and are given a budget and backing to take the project forward within the business. This is a great way to harness entrepreneurial spirit, and you could quite easily do the same in your business.
2. Imagination Breakthroughs
This is an idea that came from General Electric. In their business, their executives are required each year to come up with several imagination breakthroughs which are inventive new ideas and business proposals that can generate incremental revenues and take General Electric into a new area of business. Of course, these ideas have to go through a council and the ones that the company believes are most viable are given budget to move forward. You could do a similar thing in your business, that is, inviting employees to put forward new product or process improvement ideas forward each year and create a budget or pot which can be used to fund the best ones.
3. 10% and 20% time
These are used by 3M and Google, respectively. Here, certain employees are allowed to spend a half day to a day a week working on researching and developing new ideas, products and processes for the business. You could do a similar thing in your business.
As I have demonstrated, many employees are becoming more entrepreneurial and are choosing self employment and starting their own businesses, rather than working in-house for employers. The problem is these people are top talent, are driven and are exactly the sort of people that progressive businesses need to be able to attract and retain. And one way to harness this entrepreneurial spirit and not drive entrepreneurial talent away is to turn your business into an incubator, making it easy for innovators to develop ideas and new products and services within your business. Give the modern entrepreneurial employee the opportunity to create their own business within your business.