Cultivating an Environment of Entrepreneurs within Your Organization

Ruth Veloria, Executive Dean, University of Phoenix School of Business

Cultivating an Environment of Entrepreneurs within Your Organization

Entrepreneurship is not just reserved for business owners.

While many workers still dream of being their own bosses, today employees are also leveraging their entrepreneurial talents inside their organizations to be “intrapreneurial” at work. Companies that embrace this spirit and create entrepreneurial environments not only benefit from the ideas that are generated, but potentially a more loyal and engaged workforce. In fact, a University of Phoenix School of Business survey[i] finds the majority of workers who are satisfied with their jobs, work in organizations that provide entrepreneurial opportunities (61 percent).

Intrapreneurs are professionals who do not slide by on how business is currently done. Instead they are always seeking new ideas, processes and approaches to make their organizations more profitable, efficient and even more socially responsible. They look for opportunities to improve how business is done, regardless of whether or not it is their primary job responsibility. When properly cultivated and embraced, employers can derive tremendous benefit from employees with entrepreneurial ambitions. These team cheerleaders are problem-solvers and leaders in their organizations.

Organizations such as Facebook have retained their “startup” cultures and have even developed “incubator” departments that allow entrepreneurial-minded professionals to approach problems or new ideas outside of the constraints of a large organization bureaucracy. Google has long been known for its “20 percent time,” which allows employees to spend 20 percent of their time working on what they think will most benefit the company. This program is said to have contributed to the development of Google News and Gmail. 

These employee programs not only bring innovation to organizations, but create employer of choice brands that can help attract and retain high quality talent.

There can also be repercussions to not creating an entrepreneurial environment. Of the 71 percent of working adults who indicate their organizations have created barriers to behaving like an entrepreneur, more than half (54 percent) say their organizations are slow to change, 47 percent say employees are not encouraged to step outside their scope of work and 46 percent believe leadership is not open to new ideas.

What can leaders do to shake up the status quo and allow intrapreneurs to proactively pursue ways to improve their organizations?

  • Ensure the company vision and goals are truly understood by all employees
  • Brainstorm to address organizational challenges
  • Encourage creative thinking and suggestions
  • Offer compensation opportunities such as results-based bonuses for entrepreneurial efforts…while still making sure that failure is also a valued outcome  
  • Encourage involvement in projects outside of day-to-day tasks
  • Or hand pick rising stars and create project-based learning programs with new business ideas as the ultimate deliverable

Advisory boards with employees from all levels, mentorship programs, leadership training and cross-functional committees are some of the ways organizations are creating entrepreneurial environments. Delivering on the promise is as critical as offering the opportunities, so leaders must also create safe environments for idea-sharing and specific plans to put concepts into action.

About the Author

Ruth Veloria is the Executive Dean of University of Phoenix School of Business and a former senior executive with more than 20 years of experience in addressing business issues and opportunities. She is a former "top 3 firm" strategy consultant whose experience includes new market assessment, data analysis and modelling, market research and all aspects of customer relationship management. Veloria represents the University at the Bain Loyalty Forum, a customer experience best practices group. At the University, she is responsible for new program development and quality, aligning curriculum with employer and industry needs and student acquisition and progression. Veloria earned a Master of Management in Finance, Marketing and Organizational Behavior from the Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.


[i] The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix between June 30 and July 2, 2015, among 2,012 U.S. adults age 18 or older of whom 905 are full-time, part-time, or self-employed.