Love the idea of developing intrapreneurial staff, but worried they might leave and form a competing company?

Then don’t, because they probably won’t!

One of the risks organisations are concerned with when encouraging staff to be enterprising is the possibility they may leave and set-up a competing company. Whilst I understand why you might worry about this, there is a risk that by not encouraging staff to be more innovative they may leave anyway, either to work for someone else or themselves.

So what’s the worst that can happen if you encourage enterprise?

Whilst it is true that there has been a slight increase in law suits (mainly in the US) involving spin off companies, its not that high. The main problems have been staff taking ideas from their employer and doing it for themselves. However that’s always been a risk for employers. There is always a chance someone can take an idea and try and do it for themselves. However it’s unlikely.

Getting staff more involved in the roll-out of innovative ideas may in fact keep them on board as a member of your team. If they feel connected and rewarded for their efforts in developing your innovative project, they are far more likely to remain with you. I believe that when people leave and do it for themselves its out of frustration that they could do it better, or they don’t feel appreciated; just occasionally, it could be out of greed.

Overall, by involving your staff in innovative and enterprising projects, surely the many benefits outweigh these risks?

In reality, does supporting staff to be enterprising mean they might stay?

It is of course worth thinking about it the other way. It may be that you are able to retain staff who would like to be more enterprising. By enabling them to do it for you – their – employer, it means they don’t have to leave and do it for themselves.

We know that the reason staff leave is not because you have exposed them to the idea of being enterprising; rather they leave because they don’t feel valued. So how can you make them feel more valued and involved in your projects?

Consider the following:

  • Find ways for staff to bring their ideas to the table
  • Develop ways staff can try out their ideas in a safe and supportive environment
  • Consider options for staff to stay involved with projects once they have been taken on-board and developed on a larger scale

 

The key is to have things clearly spelt out at the early stages of developing an enterprise project. Staff need clarity about what will happen with their ideas. They want to know who will benefit from any ideas they put forward. Remember you are asking staff to expose themselves to reputational risk by putting forward an enterprise idea which may or may not work; the least you can do is help them to understand what will happen with the idea as well as their involvement in the ideas progression.

Can I prevent my staff leaving to become entrepreneurs?

The difference between a member of staff who has an enterprise flare and an entrepreneur, is that the entrepreneur felt the risk of going it alone was worth it.

The risks that stop most people from going it alone are:

  • Lack of stability concerning income
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Don’t have all the skills required
  • Don’t have the money to fund the start-up
  • Lack of connections to establish the business in the first place

For many people, they may like the idea of going it alone but the risks outweigh the benefits. For this reason, they stay in a salaried role.

However the more a staff member feels undervalued, under utilised or frustrated by their employer they may eventually be driven to leave and go it alone. If you want to keep enterprising staff you need to ensure they don’t feel the risk of going it alone is not so bad after all when compared to the current status-quo (i.e. their employer) which is not working out for them.

Now we will discuss some of the ideas you can make use of in order to team up with your employees to achieve a win-win enterprise situation.

Ways of retaining enterprising staff

Some companies have been known to fund employee start-ups in return for shares and some involvement in the new company. This enables them to maintain a connection to the previous staff members and their skill sets as well as developing other areas of the organisation.

Whilst many companies have tried different ideas such as; Microsoft offering a physical space for people to work on their ideas; Xerox offering staff members financial support to develop ideas; you need to be certain that if you want staff to work on enterprising schemes they have an option that enables them to see the idea come to fruition and also to have a say in what happens with the project long term. This not only avoids risk of lost investment in ideas which fall by the wayside but also helps retain staff rather than see them leave out of frustration.

Supporting staff in-house to develop their ideas will keep them and their skills working towards the betterment of the organisation. In addition, it often encourages them to be more involved and to work harder and more successfully than before, as they feel valued and able to try out their ideas. The more involved and connected they feel to the organisation as well as their enterprising idea, the more they will want to head up the idea in association with their employers, rather than do it for themselves.

However, it is possible that if you don’t expose staff to being enterprising that they may leave and choose to do it for themselves anyway, simply because they haven’t had an opportunity to do it as an employee. You choose; retain great staff and develop them and your business or let them leave and do it for themselves. What do you do about supporting enterprising activities within your organisation?

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