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Free the intrapreneurs !

At the head of an internal startup, the intrapreneur dreams of freedom. However, even though most companies claim to encourage intrapreneurship, the people concerned generally do not have enough freedom to carry out their projects. Here are a few ways to help them.

Support functions sometimes find it difficult to keep up with the pace of intrapreneurship. For their part, business units rarely give them the freedom to address the customer directly, or to manage their partners. Not to mention the financing of their projects. Many intrapreneurs regret the inertia of their company’s internal processes, the time-consuming administrative tasks, and the absence of entrepreneurial structures.

So why not remove these constraints by creating, for example, support departments entirely dedicated to intrapreneurship projects? This is what Vinci did when they launched Léonard, a structure dedicated to innovation, watch and prospective, in 2017. A unit with an intrapreneurship program built as a real intrapreneurial path, called My Vinci Startup. Built as an autonomous body, Leonard was housed in an independent location and equipped with its own marketing, communication, legal, administrative and financial departments.

Valuing career paths within the group

Encouraging intrapreneurship projects should mean encouraging vocations and valuing candidates’ career paths. However, the opposite is often true: it is difficult to obtain a secondment to an assignment that is, by definition, not profitable in the short term. This is normal: the loss of earnings is a heavy burden for management. But who said you had to switch all of a sudden? It is quite possible to imagine predefined working time models according to the stages of the project, for example 20% in the ideation phase, 60% in validation and 100% in industrialization.

Enhancing the value of a project also means offering training. Many intrapreneurs ask to be trained on technical subjects, but there is currently no dedicated professional training. To remedy this, the company can develop internal professional certifications, such as the green and black belts of the Lean Six Sigma model. Or even distance learning courses on different topics, in the form of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).

Offering a full-fledged status

The question of compensation can be an obstacle for candidates. Indeed, when applying for a position involving risk-taking, candidates will tend to expect to be paid according to this risk. On the other hand, the corporate function will want to preserve its scales and the balance of its overall compensation system. The dilemma can be solved with the attribution of a bonus, an investment in capital and current account, a compensated time investment or stock-options. This gesture will make it possible to value the employee and to show  the confidence one needs.

The second legal problem is that it is often unclear at what stage the innovation project will become a legal entity in its own right. This question should be decided upstream, but this is often not the case.

Finally, there is the question of the intrapreneur’s reintegration into the group at the end of the project. However, it is important to discuss with them very early on the prospect of internal mobility, or why not, the creation of a new position such as that of coach.

Offer a library of tools

Isolated in his/her small company, the intrapreneur must invent the approach alone. They rarely benefit from a detailed process from the ideation phase to the industrialization phase. However, there are solutions here too, such as the Stages & Gates method, which allows the company to move forward in stages of increasing maturity, punctuated by decision-making committees.

If the company can develop its own tools, it can also make available a library of documents containing the traditional tools of the intrapreneur. Tools specific to the creation of the company But also tools specific to his sector such as job descriptions or contracts.

Offer ExCom sponsorship

The eagerness to launch disruptive projects does not always rhyme with their integration into the group strategy. This is paradoxical, because the raison d’être of this type of initiative is to be aligned with the strategic vision. When Comex does not sponsor the project, it quickly runs the risk of being marginalized or de-prioritized in favor of the recurring activity. It is therefore essential that Comex take the lead on these projects.

For example, at Sodexo Santé, a fictitious entity called Exodos, which brought together all innovation and start-up projects, was placed directly under the chairmanship of the Group Comex and the Sodexo Santé Comex. At the time of their launch, each innovation is explained, highlighting its consistency with the company’s vision. All employees are regularly informed of the progress of the project. The Investment Committee has been brought into the loop, enabling funds to be released progressively at key moments in the projects.