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Why Big Companies Should Act Small To Engage Millennials

November 2016

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Employee engagement is one of the biggest challenges in the American workforce. Earlier this year a Gallup survey indicated only 29% of millennials are engaged at work, which is the lowest percentage among any generation.

Companies try to increase engagement with benefits like paternity leave and a better coffee experience. But what can a company do within its culture to increase engagement, creativity, and even revenue?

Many companies-including global brands like IBM, eBay, and Facebook-focus on developing an “intrapreneur” culture. An intrapreneur brings the creativity and drive often associated with startups to larger, established companies.

Why intrapreneurship is important to engage millennials

“We have to figure out a way to leverage their strengths to fit into the work culture,” says Jonny Chia, founder of intrapreneur platform Doable.com. Doable is a cloud-based tool companies use to generate, refine, and execute ideas in their intrapreneurship culture.

Many millennials already pursue a side hustle outside of their job, which allows them to make more money and pursue creative ideas beyond work.

“Millennials are the most entrepreneurial generation,” says Chia. “They grew up following Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musak, and Jack Dorsey. There must be a way to bring those side hustles into the company. And benefit the company.” An environment of intrapreneurship give employees in general, and millennials in particular, the freedom to pursue new ideas that support the mission and vision of their company.

Millennials take ownership of ideas

Owning an idea from start to finish is important for intrapreneurship to work. IBM adopted an intrapreneurship mindset in recent years, and ownership is key for success. “Be the mini-CEO of your idea,” says Natalia Christenson, Marketing Strategy, IBM Watson. “That means doing your research, being strategic, gathering evidence, and laying out a clear, actionable proposal with milestones and a timeline.

Ownership of the intrapreneur culture must also come from executive leadership. “There has to be a commitment of time and money,” notes Chia. “The worst thing you can do is ask people to submit a bunch of ideas and never do anything with them.”

How to successful share ideas

“Many millennials don’t like to be stuck in organizational status quo,” notes Christenson. “They want to help shape their company by contributing unorthodox ideas that shake up expectations and make a difference.” Millennials are increasingly vocal in the workplace, but that does not mean the workplace is a safer place for ideas. Companies can be resistant to change, and new ideas often threaten the status quo.

What can a millennial intrapreneur do, then, to successfully present a new idea? “Find someone who will champion it in the organization,” says Chia. “They will help you navigate the politics and get the idea done. You need someone on the team higher up to help get you in front of the right people.”

One strategy to find a champion is to present a proven concept. Ideas are cheap, and everyone has them. The best way to get buy-in for a new idea is by presenting proof that it works . Chia even suggests making a version of whatever the idea may be. It requires extra work, but passion for the idea drives the work for the idea.

Decide a strategy for long-term success

Good ideas don’t get executed accidentally, and a great culture doesn’t happen accidentally. Long-term success starts with consistent support from the C-suite. Ideas should be encouraged and supported. When leaders commit a set amount of resources to get the idea built, they communicate their support to the entire team.

Along with financial support, leaders need a tool that empowers idea creation and collaboration. That’s why Chia and his team built Doable. “We’ve found companies to be more collaborative because of it,” notes Chia.

Doable has also conducted internal research to determine the effectiveness of their tool in an intrapreneurial culture. There was a 43% increase in users feeling like they frequently connect and collaborate on ideas with those outside their department, and a 30% increase in users feeling more satisfied with their opportunities for growth using the Doable platform. 

C-suite support is important, and so is a great tool that empowers ideas. But without clear communication and transparency from leadership, the culture will fail. “Whoever is in charge has to be regularly talking to the group and ensure the company is getting ideas made,” says Chia. 

Without communication and transparency, companies will continue to experience the same engagement challenges they already face.

 

This article was written by Wes Gay from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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