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Recruiting the ‘entrepreneurial employee’ – why business leaders need these innovators

Before I relinquish my exact definition to the “I” word covered in this story, I would like to provide a few clues behind the significance and importance of this mysterious word, which so many Business Owners, CEO’s, HR Managers and Executive Recruiters within Australia are still so unfamiliar with. I shall refer to this word as ‘Intra’ for the time being.

‘Intra’ has been in the dictionary since the 1970’s, and has been embraced and adopted by business leaders and serial entrepreneurs since this time, within highly successful companies around the world, like Google, 3M, Lockheed, Toyota, Twitter, etc.  ‘Intra’ has a direct correlation to the word ‘entrepreneurship’ and is focused around innovation, pioneering of new ideas and products, and boosting the competitive position and spirit of an organisation.

I must at this point, be clear that the word ‘intra’, once extrapolated, actually refers to the words ‘intrapreneur’ and ‘intrapreneurship’. An intrapreneur can be also referred to an ‘entrepreneurial employee’.

I am compelled to write this story, after feeling perplexed and somewhat frustrated of the reality of intrapreneurship within the Australian workplace environment. Many business professionals including CEO’s, Executive Recruiters, Business Owners, and the like, and still unaware of ‘intrapreneurship’, and the potential this could have for the business operation they work for.

Fortunately however, I was able to recently identify a person within the recruitment industry and amongst my LinkedIn contacts that has a high level of interest and solid understanding of the term intrapreneurship, and was willing to share her insights to me in an intimate 30-minute phone interview.

Emma Rendina is an HR Specialist and works for ‘Brisbane HR’ located in Brisbane.  Emma is also a loyal follower, commentator, and supporter of my blogs and articles focused around intrapreneurship.  During my 30 minute conversation with Emma, I was able to dig deep and uncover the true thoughts and feelings of this subject matter, and explore how intrapreneurship is relevant to her profession in connection with recruitment, workplace culture, staff training, leadership development, and human resources management.


After years of researching and exploring the topic of intrapreneurship amongst my connections, I have come to the conclusion that less than 1% of business owners and leaders within the medium to large business sectors actually have a solid understanding of intrapreneurship.

I must further add that if you type ‘intrapreneurship’ into Google search within Australia, you will barely find any material available, as compared to subjects relating to ‘entrepreneurship’.    This problem extends further across popular Australian business magazines like BRW, Smart Company, Business Spectator, etc.  There is no surprise therefore why so much of the Australian business community still lives in the dark ages with respect to intrapreneurship.

The Traits of an Intrapreneur:

My conversation with Emma started with the general definition of an intrapreneur.  Emma described this person as ‘someone who is opportunistic, with personal and professional characteristics to innovate and implement new ideas within the confines of an organisation.  A person with similar skills to an entrepreneur, but brings them into an organisation’.  I totally agree with Emma’s definition, and can personally enrich this definition by adding a few additional key words to accurately depict the common traits of an intrapreneur including – risk taker, pioneer, creative, intuitive, unconventional, challenges the status quo, business builder, passionate, visionary, team player,  dreamer, free-spirited, innovator, optimistic, inventor, and radical.

This definition does remind me of an entrepreneur, but I can distinctly differentiate the two by saying that intrapreneurs prefer to work for an organisation and be under the guidance of their manager or boss, and typically be financially non-accountable for the inherit risks of their work or ideas; as compared to an entrepreneur who decides to embrace and absorb the full financial and operational risks associated with running their own business venture.

The Labelling of Intrapreneurship:

Emma openly admits that the term ‘intrapreneur’ within her recruitment practice is not referred to at all.  She feels that this problem is mostly attributed to the unfamiliarity of the word itself and not so much connected to the qualities of an intrapreneur.  As a recruiter, she admits that ‘they are always searching for people with intrapreneurial traits, people who are innovative, self-starters, business drivers, excellent communicators, results oriented, etc.  However, labelling these people as ‘intrapreneurs’ can pose a problem for some employers, and isolate job seekers who call themselves intrapreneurs, purely for reasons of terminology.’  Using the term intrapreneur in a resume can be risky business, despite the fact that employers are expecting candidates, especially within medium to senior roles, to possess common intrapreneurial traits and skills.

Hiring of Intrapreneurs:

So where does the intrapreneur fit into an organisation, and how do recruiters, business leaders and business owners manage this problem, but at the same time exploit the potential of intrapreneurs ?

Emma firmly believes that ‘the organisation that chooses to hire intrapreneurs, must firstly know where the company needs to go in the short, mid and long terms, and how those intrapreneurs would fit in to help achieve those aims’.  She feels that ‘this is particularly important for medium to large organisations that are dealing with a globally competitive environment’.  In addition, Emma believes that ‘Australian organisations really need to start benchmarking themselves in their approach to human resources management and the types of people they choose to hire’.

Emma considers herself as an intrapreneur and would not be afraid of using such a term when introducing herself to others in the business / recruitment industry. She would encourage candidates seeking work to adopt this approach too, especially by being able to define exactly what that means for an organisation they would like to work for. This would include demonstrating their past success with proven results and achievements; the ability to effectively communicate and extrapolate an idea; how they see themselves fitting into an organisation that does not necessarily have an entrepreneurial culture, or be ready to embrace the intrapreneur, etc.

Management of Intrapreneurs:

Intrapreneurs think and function differently to conventional employees. For this reason, they need to be managed in a manner that nurtures their needs and wants; providing an opportunity for them to foster their entrepreneurial ideas and talents within the workplace, without the bureaucracy or red tape typically present within medium to large organisations. It is my view that management must try harder to acknowledge their efforts and desire to make a positive impact for the organisation they work for, and also for society as a whole.

The leadership team have a responsibility to ensure that intrapreneurs have a creative platform to work on and can organically fit into the organisation. This is best achieved firstly by creating awareness of intrapreneurship to other employees and teams; building a culture for change and innovation within the organisation; tolerating a higher degree of set-back or even failure; embracing the new millennial generation that is equipped with strong social media knowledge and technology; and rewarding the high achievers that are willing to challenge the status quo and take risks within set parameters.

The Future:

The success in managing intrapreneurs in the 21st century takes a new leadership approach, geared towards making intrapreneurs the focus, allowing them to make a positive impact on the organisation they work for, as well as for society and future generations.

Australia also requires more pioneers like me that are willing to challenge the status quo and the mindsets of traditional business owners and leaders. As far as the recruiters, they are also an essential cog in the wheel with regards to ensuring intrapreneurship infiltrates the workplace at a faster pace, to ensure Australia keeps up with this global trend largely driven by the US and the UK.

This article has been exclusively written by Federico Re for ‘Business First Magazine‘ – May/June, 2015 Edition.

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