Social Intrapreneurship – the way to go for businesses?


Creating social good and impact at the workplace may soon no longer be an option.

Recent research and studies consistently validate the growing trend that millennials desire to work for companies that create a positive impact to society. Some key statistics from varying studies and surveys are as follows:

1. 50% of millennials wish to work for businesses with ethical values.

2. 75% of millennials perceive that businesses still focuses on their agenda, rather than society.

3. Millennials are willing to accept up to 15% less pay to work for an organization that shares their ideals.

For example, in another recent study, it was observed that the majority of the talent pool in China want to work for social enterprises – “to make the social impact and to make money out of it at the same time”.

It is very encouraging to see that many organizations and corporations are already adopting Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives to engage their employees and their stakeholders, such as suppliers, and their immediate communities. However, our future workforce is looking beyond CSR and corporate philanthrophy, and are keen to see how businesses give back to society or create environmental benefit while creating wealth. In other words, to create business value while doing good.

Related: Be a brand that gives back to society

For businesses that wish to continue to attract talent in the future, this has significant implications. Various factors impact the agility and appropriateness of businesses to respond to this trend. The question is – how much change does a business have to make, and is it worth it?

Here is where social intrapreneurship comes in.

The concept of intrapreneurship is hardly new but it gained traction in 2013, when Richard Branson and other likeminded entrepreneurs began championing this at a global level. Intrapreneurship can be encouraged within existing businesses and is the result of entrepreneurship, social good and innovation.

While the ideal scenario is for every company is able to structurally support social intrapreneurship as an entity within the organization, the reality is that many self-starters, motivated employees contribute their time to pursue this over and above their existing scope of duties. Getting an idea off the ground is much more difficult than it sounds, as the intrapreneur is akin to a founder of a start-up company, but within his or her existing organization. Research, prototyping, working out a business model, convincing management and board members – is no task for the faint-hearted. It is this entrepreneurial spirit that gave birth to ideas such as the Levi’s Water<Less collection and GE’s Eco-Imagination lines.

Organizations can encourage intrapreneurship in many ways – such as giving employees ownership as well as access to data, networks, intelligence and importantly, time. In addition, employers can also help pave the way for new ideas to be pitched and discussed with management or board members. Also, no idea is too small to make a difference, so be open to listen and implement.

Watch this TEDx talk for some insights and thoughts on social intrapreneurship.

Do you have thoughts and feedback to the story? Please leave a comment below, thank you!

[Image “White Collar” by Flickr user Sonny Abesamis / cc by 2.0]

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