85% of the jobs of 2030 do not yet exist today1. Far from the more or less fantasized professions of the future: urban farmers, space guides, asteroid miners, neuro managers or even drone managers, the employed entrepreneur or intrapreneur is a reality.
Although there is now a typical profile that is increasingly popular among companies, the intrapreneur is struggling to find a place in the job market. Has it finally become a real profession, or is it simply a mindset? Will we see an increase in job offers for intrapreneurs tomorrow? Will it be more efficient for the company to train its intrapreneurs internally or to recruit them externally?
The professionalization of the intrapreneur: myth or reality?
What is an intrapreneur? While the term is not well known to the general public, the root of the word easily betrays part of its definition. The concept was born in the United States in 1978, when Gifford Pinchot, an American entrepreneur and author, coined the word and defined its initial parameters. He finally popularized it 9 years later in his flagship work “Intrapreneuring”. “The intrapreneur is a member of a large company who, in agreement with the company and while remaining an employee of the company, has a viable project of interest to the company that can be carried out within the company. They are the people who turn an idea into a profitable activity within an organization.”2 A concept that is 40 years old and still very much alive in the company.
Why are we questioning whether this position should now be professionalized?
In 1985, G. Pinchot had already stated the need to recruit intrapreneurs. Indeed, as a visionary, he observed that if there were too few intrapreneurs within a company, it would either be a matter of attracting them from other companies or of recruiting managers with an entrepreneurial spirit and developing their skills internally. He had recognized the existence and importance of these profiles for the company before anyone else, and he himself anticipated the evolution of the concept by mentioning the possibility of recruiting them externally3.
“Today, we live in a world where it is easy to lose one’s bearings, to develop an inability to act or, on the contrary, to become exhausted by constantly trying to adapt to erratic changes in the environment”4. Developing this entrepreneurial skill becomes a major asset to respond to the challenges of a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous environment. Wouldn’t the profile of the intrapreneur be ideal to meet the challenges of 2022?
Intrapreneur: an unwitting superhero
Let’s first take a look at the characteristics of an intrapreneur. Is it a posture, a profile, a combination of skills to be detected in job interviews for all positions in the company (a communication manager, a web developer with an intrapreneurial spirit), or is it a profession in the making? Many companies covet these half-entrepreneur, half-employee profiles who still tend to stay under the radar because they have never been told that their talent is valuable. This trend is confirmed by recruitment firm Mickael Page, which reports that intrapreneurship is one of the skills most sought after by recruiters in 2020.
Intrapreneurs possess a “hybrid” and “atypical” profile5.
If the intrapreneur is an employee “like any other”, with a well-defined role and tasks, linked by an employment contract to the company that hires them and to their hierarchical superior, they still have some distinctive features. The intrapreneur aspires to develop an economically viable project internally. According to Géraldine Caron, HR innovation and intrapreneurship consultant, ex-intrapreneur and specialist in the field: “Intrapreneurs are people who want to embrace change and novelty, and feel that they are different or are perceived as different by organizations.”6 Either because they have changed trajectory in their professional careers, or because they have a free-thinking, creative, maker, “out of the box” mindset. This mindset is becoming increasingly valued during job interviews.
It is a profile for which we were able to identify the main skills. Beyond their technical skills, the intrapreneur must be agile, curious, possess leadership and communication skills, have a maker/doer spirit and think outside the box… They are a chameleon that adapts to changes and environments. Versatile, the intrapreneur seems all the more important for the company in the uncertain context of a health crisis and more broadly in a VUCA environment, to help identify solutions, ideas, find new business opportunities, etc.
How can we recognize them?
Assessfirst7 has developed an HR predictive tool that can testify to the candidate’s potential and analyze it in detail. Géraldine Caron, in partnership with Assessfirst, has built a predictive intrapreneur model that measures an employee’s compatibility with the “intrapreneur position” based on tests measuring skills, motivations and cognitive reasoning.8 As we can see in the box, this profile is analyzable. Therefore, it is a matter of questioning the possible learning of such a mindset.
The Assessfirst profile of the intrapreneur(by Géraldine Caron)
For the 10 characteristics, the standard “intrapreneur” profile must be located in the green.
Example: A candidate who obtains a mark of 1 to 4 on the segment “seeks stability” has an element corresponding to the intrapreneur profile.
- Create new things
- Make an impact
- Work as part of a team
- Invest myself wholeheartedly
- Surpass myself on a daily basis
- Have autonomy
- Make progress in an uncertain environment
- Do not expect too much discipline
- Manipulation of numbers
- Contingency management
- The use of their knowledge
- Situation analysis
Are we born an intrapreneur, or do we become one?
The intrapreneur has specific and identifiable characteristics. So, can you learn to be an intrapreneur? Can we acquire the skills associated with such a role? Although it is difficult to influence their personality or their motivations, intrapreneurs also rely on management and planning tools, agile working methods or startup methods and “hard” skills in project management and leadership. These skills and tools are assimilable.
Take the example of entrepreneurship. While entrepreneurship has long seemed to be the prerogative of a few, scientific research has demonstrated the contrary, and it is now proven that “assimilating the mechanisms of entrepreneurship could enable everyone to become an entrepreneur”9. Like entrepreneurship, its little brother intrapreneurship seems to be more acquired than innate. It is therefore possible to train someone to become an intrapreneur. If the “profession” of intrapreneur can be learned, this will lead to a true professionalization of this profile and a new way of training in companies, a hybridization of on-the-job experience and theory.
Is there any training program to become an intrapreneur?
Let’s take a look at the training situation. A forerunner in this field, Emlyon Business School (a top 5 French business school), gave its first courses on intrapreneurship in 2005. Today, the school provides customized in-company training and has developed a special curriculum: an Executive MBA with a specialization in corporate entrepreneurship. The target? Managers who have the “posture” of an intrapreneur and who now wish to acquire the skills. Some already have a project, others are in charge of innovation programs, or are simply interested in the subject and want to turn to innovation consulting, for example. In any case, students from these programs expect to acquire “the posture and knowledge that will enable them to carry out innovative projects within their company, discover how to transform its culture and set up systems that are favorable to intrapreneurship”.
Professionalization of the intrapreneur
We are therefore observing a rapidly growing professionalization of this profile, as recalled by one of the official objectives of the Institute of Intrapreneurship10 launched in October 2020 by Véronique Bouchard, professor at Emlyon Business School: To professionalize intrapreneurship by relying on training, research and the dissemination of knowledge11. It should be noted that the Institute does not only focus on the professionalization of the intrapreneur, but also on the professionalization of the entire ecosystem that revolves around intrapreneurship (program managers, middle management, etc.), as well as on the development of a network of excellence around the theme.
While most intrapreneurship training is reserved for companies and revolves around professional training12, some schools have also truly integrated an intrapreneur curriculum. Paris Dauphine University – PSL, for example, has launched its new CFEE (Campus Formation Étudiants Entreprises/Students Companies Training Campus) program. A 10-month interdisciplinary training course in intrapreneurship, where students carry out concrete digital transformation projects in companies. At HEC Liège, students are also offered a training program during which, immersed for a whole academic year in a company, they manage a concrete innovation project.
What are the official career opportunities?
At HEC Liège, “Graduates will be required to lead strategic projects and manage the dynamics of innovation and change within a wide variety of organizations. The professions targeted are in all areas of management, in high-responsibility management positions, as well as in the consulting professions”13. It is, therefore, worth noting that while we do observe the existence of intrapreneurship training courses, there is no trace of the “intrapreneur” profession in terms of official job listings. Is this a simple problem of terminology?
Expert point of view
A former strategy consultant (BCG firm) and professor of Strategy and Intrapreneurship at Emlyon Business School since 2000, Véronique Bouchard founded the Institute of Intrapreneurship in October 2020. An expert and author of numerous books and articles on the subject, she also provides customized training for major groups such as Safran.
Although the working methods and some of the knowledge can be assimilated at the Master’s level (design thinking, lean startup, business model, pitch, etc.), it is difficult to imagine an “intrapreneur” training program aimed at young students or even young graduates.
As with strategy, for example, intrapreneurship techniques can be learned at school, but require professional maturity and sufficient experience to be put into practice. The intrapreneur must have some “corporate” experience, be familiar with power dynamics in the business world, and even be of a “legitimate” age in order to be able to lead a project and persuade others within the company.
Why is converting to intrapreneurship such a challenge?
Although most managers want to promote creativity, versatility and involvement within their teams, they frequently find it difficult to create the conditions and implement the framework to encourage employee commitment and therefore the emergence of these intrapreneurial nuggets.
Turning an employee into an intrapreneur is difficult; there are many obstacles. The “non-intrapreneurial” corporate culture is highly limiting, and it is easier for the organization to maintain the status quo. Transforming corporate culture is not something that can be done overnight; it is a process that often requires support (via digital tools, consulting, etc.). “Inertia is a force that is difficult to overcome”14.
Moreover, intrapreneurial skills, knowledge and capabilities are often lacking, even in the most supportive cultural contexts. “The fear of failure is likely to outweigh any desire to try”15.
One of the pitfalls to avoid is thinking that an employee with a good idea would make a good candidate for intrapreneurship.“An intrapreneur is not an ideator”16, but a person who turns an idea into a product or new service which they test with early adopters and bring to the market quickly. All employees can have good ideas, but not all innovators are intrapreneurs. Professional retraining is, therefore, only possible if the company transforms itself and offers new playing fields to its employees. Recruiting serial intrapreneurs can accelerate the transformation of corporate culture by leveraging their skills and experience to train the next generation of intrapreneurs.
Intrapreneur (m/f) – A job title missing from job boards
Today, according to the official discourse, companies increasingly accept and value a resume that doesn’t fit into the usual boxes and breaks away from the “normal” career path. A positive thing for the profile of the intrapreneur? Certainly, but we note that 2 out of 3 candidates still think that this type of profile poses a barrier to recruiters, and 60% of HR departments admit that they have never recruited a candidate with this profile17. Beyond all the talk, companies are still struggling to select “non-standard” profiles. “They logically prefer good little soldiers to mavericks who often turn out to be thorns in the manager’s shoes”.18
However, the wind of intrapreneurship is blowing, and is starting to turn. Indeed, companies are starting to look beyond their internal resources to find talent and complement their teams of intrapreneurs. We’ve researched and scoured hundreds of job postings from the most well-known recruitment sites. While the term “intrapreneurship” or “intrapreneur” is showing up more and more in job postings, it mostly qualifies expected skills, and we don’t find it in the job title.
What job opportunities exist today that could resemble “intrapreneur” recruitment?
“Project manager for startup portfolio management”, “Intrapreneurship and incubation specialist”, “Trainee in charge of intrapreneurship”, these ads take on very different meanings. Although the profile of an intrapreneur is often widely described, and the candidate is expected to master well-identified tools and methods (design thinking, lean startup, etc.), these ads are hidden, and the recruitment of an intrapreneur is rarely explicit.
How do you recruit your first intrapreneur ?
Recruiting an intrapreneur is not an end in itself. The question must be asked as to why outsourcing is necessary. Make sure that the company is ready to welcome them and implement the right conditions favorable to their success.
Do’s and don’ts
As a matter of fact, in order to recruit an intrapreneur, the corporate culture must be compatible with this. “The profile of an intrapreneur is not appropriate for all positions in the company, and it is not for all companies either, nor for all managers.”19 You have to be willing to let the intrapreneur make changes, allowing them freedom and putting trust in them. “You shouldn’t seek to recruit an intrapreneur if you are not ready to give and take”.20
Give them access to top management and the resources they need to make the project a reality. Make sure that they quickly acquire the necessary business knowledge and understand the company’s codes.
While it’s true that an intrapreneur needs to be able to swim against the current in the sea, you don’t have to put them through Hurricane Katrina either.
Finally, don’t put the role in a box. By over-defining their profile, we forget that one of the main characteristics of the intrapreneur is their atypicality, their ability to step outside the box. By trying to develop job descriptions with specific expectations for candidates, we could lose the intrapreneurial spirit we are looking for.
Let’s not misrepresent intrapreneurial profiles, but rather capitalize on the fact that their skills and mindset are becoming increasingly necessary for the company. Therefore, knowing that training intrapreneurs internally is not easy and that intrapreneurs are not necessarily synonymous with innovators, there seems to be nothing to stop this from becoming a profession in its own right.
Intrapreneurship is already the mindset sought by HR today. Tomorrow, we will write it on our own resumes.
1 – Etude de 2017 publiée par Dell et l’Institut pour le futur1
2 – Advencia, avril 2008
3 – Intra : du latin « intra » : à l’intérieur de. Sous-entendu dans notre contexte : à l’intérieur de l’entreprise
4 – http://variances.eu/?p=2256
5 – Blog de Géraldine Caron : https://www.gcaronconseils.fr/post/quelle-place-pour-les-intrapreneurs-et-les-profils-atypiques-dans-le-monde-du-travail
6 – Ibid.
7 – Startup proposant une solution de recrutement prédictif pour anticiper la capacité des candidats à réussir et à s’épanouir en poste. Angles d’analyse choisis : La personnalité, les motivations, et le raisonnement.
8 – Géraldine Caron, Avril 2020 : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/recrutement-des-intrapreneurs-comment-d%25C3%25A9tecter-ces-talents-caron/?trackingId=tHIzVj4IQD%2BmumQR8Ee%2BQA%3D%3D
9 – Devenir intrapreneur : une « aventure » ouverte à tous ? 2019 : https://www.missmandarine.com/actualite/devenir-intrapreneur-une-aventure-ouverte-a-tous/17
10 – Pour en savoir plus : https://www.em-lyon.com/fr/actualite-ecole-de-commerce/Folder/communiques-sur-l-ecole-de-commerce/emlyon-business-school-lance-l-Institut-de-l-Intrapreneuriat
11 – https://www.focusrh.com/formation/formation-professionnelle/emlyon-business-school-lance-des-formations-l-intrapreneuriat-33226.html
12 – voir aussi la formation de l’Essec : Advanced Certificate – Intrapreneurship
13 – https://www.programmes.uliege.be/cocoon/20202021/formations/debou/G2UING01.html
14 – Larry Miller, 2014: Employers: Hire Intrapreneurs (Job-Seekers: Become Intrapreneurs To Land The Best Positions)
15 – Ibid
16 – https://www.frenchweb.fr/intrapreneuriat-comment-mettre-en-place-un-systeme-efficace/380504
17 – https://www.gcaronconseils.fr/post/quelle-place-pour-les-intrapreneurs-et-les-profils-atypiques-dans-le-monde-du-travail
18 – Ibid
19 – https://isarta.com/infos/pourquoi-les-intrapreneurs-sont-ils-des-perles-rares-pour-les-recruteurs/
20 – Ibid