Why You Should Encourage Your Employees to be Entrepreneurs

Are you worried about keeping employees in your workplace happy and engaged as the economy picks up and competitors start to hire? Are you concerned about maintaining your competitive edge in terms of innovation and industry leadership? One way to accomplish both of these challenging goals is to encourage entrepreneurship in your workplace.

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At first glance, fostering entrepreneurial employees might seem like shooting yourself in the foot:

“Why should I encourage employees who are just going to start their own businesses and leave?  They might even work on their own businesses on my time—and dime. No, thanks.”

But the benefits of encouraging entrepreneurial individuals in your workplace more than outweigh these risks. For decades, big corporations have sought out and nurtured “intrapreneurs” within their ranks. These employees, who have many of the self-motivation and leadership skills associated with entrepreneurs, are used to start and head new divisions, initiatives or projects within the company—and in doing so, they give big companies some of the advantages that smaller, more nimble entrepreneurial businesses enjoy.

A recent post on the Harvard Business Review blog drew an interesting distinction between two types of people: entrepreneneurial-minded people (EMPs) and serial entrepreneurs (SEs).  SEs are what we think of as traditional entrepreneurs. They have a desire to own their own businesses, are highly individualistic, want to be in control and have a “sense of urgency.”

EMPs share some characteristics of traditional entrepreneurs, but are happier within a company and working with a group toward a goal. They like organization, consistency, and working in teams. Clearly, a lot of these desires aren’t compatible with the often chaotic, lonely and ever-changing lifestyle of the true entrepreneur. But the good news is, as an entrepreneur, you can benefit from the entrepreneurial mindset of these employees.

Identifying EMPs in your workplace shouldn’t be too hard. It’s easy to spot the employees who like to be told what to do, follow rules and go home at the end of the day. But what about the employees who want something more—who want to come up with their own ideas, take charge and pursue them with a passion? These employees are also easy to spot—and should be encouraged.

Here are some ways to test and nurture your EMPs:

  • Ask them to come up with ideas for a new product, service or way of doing things.
  • Put them in charge of a project. Give them a goal, and let them figure out how to accomplish it.
  • Tie reward to their accomplishments via a bonus or pay-for-performance structure.
  • Let them lead a team.

EMPs can be found at any level, from your managers to your front-line staff, and should be encouraged at any level, too. Even an entry-level employee can be handed a goal and allowed to figure out how to achieve it, asked for new ideas, or rewarded for accomplishments. No matter where they are in your company, EMPs are eager to stretch, so challenge them!

Along the way, you may find some of your EMPs are really SEs. And yes, one or two may leave your business. But if you keep them happy and challenged, you will benefit enormously from their contributions while they’re with your company. And that’s really the most you can hope because, as you know yourself, you can’t keep a true entrepreneur in a cubicle.

How are you encouraging entrepreneurship in your workplace?

Encourage Employees Photo via Shutterstock

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.