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How can HR help build models of success?

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The post-pandemic world calls for growth, but also resilience. The world is changing faster than ever, forcing organisations to adapt quickly or fall behind. The pandemic has proven that a global shock of such a scale is very much possible and real. According to the IMF, a $28 trillion cumulative loss in output is expected over 2020-2025 due to the COVID-19.

On top of this, the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence, climate crisis and geopolitical instability are creating a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous business environment for organisations to operate. 

Business growth and innovation are certainly crucial, now more than ever. History suggests that companies who invest in innovation during downtimes outperform the market, while those who make cuts on innovation may risk falling behind.


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What will help businesses bounce back from the pandemic is building internal resilience to unprecedented threats and creating capabilities to adapt to change by innovating at scale. However, 33% of corporations have apparently reduced their innovation budgets.

How do you continue to innovate under such heavier cost scrutiny, while also becoming a more resilient organisation? And what role does HR play in delivering this organisational imperative?

 

Intrapreneurship is the answer

You’ve heard of entrepreneurs, so what’s an intrapreneur? Intrapreneurs are employees who think and act in an entrepreneurial way within their organisations.

They resemble entrepreneurs as they apply many of the same skills and mindsets, such as problem-solving, creativity, communication as well as critical-thinking skills to deal with ambiguity. However, they are able to navigate the complexities of a large organisation’s environment by applying stellar stakeholder management skills and collaborating closely with their leaders.

Intrapreneurs become agents of change and growth for organisations, helping them innovate and transform. They use their skills to find, validate and establish better ways of operating, identify sources of efficiency, and launch profitable initiatives generating new revenue. 

 

Why is intrapreneurship so powerful for growth and resilience?

Contrary to popular belief, innovation isn’t just about the people who work in the innovation labs or “skunkworks” teams that an increasing number of companies have now launched - and most of the time closed.

In an increasingly uncertain and ambiguous business environment, the organisation at large, not just a selected few, has to be able to adapt, react, and be resilient, at any level. Talent who lead and operate the core business must know how to manage ambiguity, come up with new ideas, validate and implement them, and mindsets too. 

A workforce able to work and think in this way will help the organisation become intrapreneurial and so more resilient, adaptable and agile, in the face of shocks and market challenges to come. 

Unsurprisingly, Intrapreneurship has been recognised as the most desirable skill of 2020 by the global recruitment firm Michael Page.

 

HR is key for intrapreneurship to deliver

While an entrepreneurial and agile mindset is crucial for innovation and transformation, becoming more resilient and innovative is essentially a cultural and people-centred change that needs to happen across the organisation.

This means ensuring that entrepreneurial mindsets, tools, and methodologies are understood and applied at multiple levels.

HR leaders have a key role to play in making this happen. As we head into a future world where automation and machine learning will increasingly augment humans and free up more time to focus on other areas of value, it’s becoming ever more crucial to plan for the future of work and prepare the foundation for a growth-focused, adaptable and resilient workforce fit.

Our Intrapreneurship programmes are designed to be cross-functional and focused on generating real business outcomes while building internal lean innovation capabilities that will eventually constitute a long-lasting core strength for the organisation.

We know well that organisations are different. This is why we partner with our clients to design programmes aligned with their specific culture and challenges. 

However, a few questions always come to mind when we first talk to them.

Does your people/talent strategy take into account the development, application and measurement of intrapreneurial skillsets and mindsets? Does your reward and performance approach incentivise idea generation and validation? Is your learning & development offering equipped to enable this?

Implementing intrapreneurship successfully requires a holistic approach as well as top-down and bottom-up alignment.

Ensure leaders/managers are aligned on the company’s innovation strategy and their teams are aware of the strategic direction. Define a clear process for generating and validating ideas and set the right metrics to quantify value and progress.

Last but not least, provide Intrapreneurs with the time and space they need for their initiatives by removing barriers and ring-fencing their activities, creating an environment that encourages their creativity and resourcefulness and psychological safety. 

 

Jamie Qiu is managing founding partner of Studio Zao