Launching an intrapreneurship program: the 5 keys to success

Céline Degreef had the pleasure to be on stage at the Innov8rs virtual event, last Wednesday. Innov8rs team attested of a great sense of agility and innovation to make us wait until December 9, date of the next event in Barcelona, by organizing these live sessions this week with lots of prestigious innovators. It was all about Innovation, and of course Intrapreneurship was a key topic. As the cofounder and CEO of Yumana, Céline shared her experience, revealing key success factors and mistakes you should not make when launching an intrapreneurship program. Can we speak of a special recipe?

Launching an intrapreneurship program is about creating something unique

Each company is unique and so their intrapreneurship program. It cannot be duplicated. Programs depend of a lot of internal factors, such as the company’s culture, the governance, the type of business you are in, the company’s risk sensitivity, the financial capability, the innovation lifecycle, the geographical scope and so on. Launching an intrapreneurship program is an incredible journey, but it is not the gadget / trendy / new program that your rival has just started. Let’s be honest, there is no special recipe to kickstart an intrapreneurship program, but here are key ingredients so that you can get you off to the right start.

1. Do not be too impatient. Get sponsors and set the goals 

Program’s objectives differ from a company to another, but you should have them defined. In fact, you should have a mandate from your executive committee, and you should be sure that they are aligned with the goals of the intrapreneurship program. Having a few KPIs defined with them can also be useful, to measure the success of the program. In terms of goals, experience tells that you should find the right balance between business goals and HR ones. An intrapreneurship program may not be the best solution if you only want to tackle business goals.

Working with startups and your partner’s ecosystem may be more effective to achieve short-term results. Focusing only on HR goals is not a viable solution neither, because it will maybe be hard to get CFO’s support on the long run. Launching an intrapreneurship program is a perfect way to build and develop viable business solutions while transforming the ways of working and the ways of doing innovation.

2. Stop sailing in the fog. Set clear rules of the game

To avoid any frustration from the employees you need to be clear about the terms and conditions of the program. What they may expect if their idea is selected for incubation? What about Intellectual Property rights? Are intrapreneurs rewarded and how? What happens if a project fails? Intrapreneurs need to know the rules of the game, what is at stake. The goals should be defined, so as the modalities of such a program.

3. Do not start an intrapreneurship program with empty pockets or it will ruin it. Get a budget!

Launching an intrapreneurship program without a budget is a mistake. It may be obvious but it’s better to be clear and aligned on that point. You must anticipate all phases of the project from the proof of concept to scaling. The level of funding is quite different to start up a project vs scaling a project and if you want to avoid having a fuel breakdown at the most critical moment of the project, you need to plan it. As a company does not work like business angels, this should be budgeted as soon as possible. Funding of the program should be one of your key priorities.

4. The more employees can participate, the greater the results! Be inclusive 

You must be inclusive enough to drive change. Designing an intrapreneurship program for 20 people is certainly not a good way to challenge the entire company’s ways of working and culture. Everyone does not need to become intrapreneurs but be sure you embarked enough people to be able to measure a success. This is something we enforce with our digital solution, intrapreneurs can easily identify skills required within the company and ask their support to perform some assignments.

5. HR and Managers, you are needed aboard! Get every stage of the company involved

Experience proves that successful programs benefited from middle managers and HR buy-in. In fact, developing an intrapreneurship program means that the employees involved will devote a lot of time to their new project, and often even be detached from their former position. Managers are going to undergo a loss, without knowing if the intrapreneur will be back after the program. In fact, they should not be abandoned, and this loss may be compensated. Managers should be included to the success of the program and a way to reward them should be found.

HR Departments have also a big part to play in the success of an intrapreneurship program. They are often the first point of contact to address contractual matters, but also at anything related to the well-being of the intrapreneur. HR department is more than an intermediary, they are at front lines backing the intrapreneur.

To go further on this topic. Read the article “What future for intrapreneurship?” in which Yumana deciphers the trends for the coming years.