Meet the employee entrepreneur
If entrepreneurship is your true calling but securing loans, project approvals and legal sanctions seems like an insurmountable challenge then there is good news for you. Today many progressive organisations are encouraging an entrepreneurial bent of working with respect to employees. Sheetal Mahajan, a Delhi based HR consultant explains, “Gone are the days when private organisations focused their resources and energies only upon growing bottom and top line profits. They want to contribute meaningfully to varied stakeholders and the nation at large. And this intent is translating to two important things — one there has been an unprecedented pursuit for innovation (largely in terms of aligning business decisions and processes more effectively with the needs of the attendant ecosystem) and second there has been a profound emphasis on empowering employees so that they, among other things, can actively steer this wave of innovation.”
Empowered employees are the foundation of an entrepreneurial work culture. In the words of an HCL spokesperson who did not wish to be quoted, “We have decentralised our decision making process and encourage our employees to bring forward novel and unstraitjacketed ideas in every sphere of organisational functioning. Needless to say this has resulted in an entrepreneurial work culture and we are fast witnessing the surge of a pool of employee entrepreneurs who are called intrapreneurs.” Talking about some formal platforms within HCL that promote entrepreneurship he continues, “We have an online platform called Value Portal which is essentially a repository of innovative ideas that can be leveraged by employees who are in the process of developing new business and technical solu- tions for customers. We have platforms like Hackathon and Ekothon that are open houses for employees to propose fresh ideas that can solve existing marketing and technical/programming challenges or introduce alternatives.”
Exposure to the nuances of entrepreneurship while employed within the corporate sector need not be confined to the domain of hardcore business alone. With corporate social responsibility tipping the agenda of almost every medium and large-scale corporate, employees are gaining valuable lessons on entrepreneurship in the social sector. For instance Coca Cola’s career development centre in Dasna, UP, that envisages to enhance employability of underprivileged youth mirrors all the elements of a social entrepreneurship initiative. “We precede all our training initiatives with detailed assessments of the community’s needs, challenges and opportunities,” says Kalyan Ranjan, national head, public affairs and communication, Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Private Limited. “To ensure global relevance and local impact, we choose issues like health and sanitation, education etc,” he adds.
“Needless to say such an approach would expose employees to the 360 degree nuances of social entrepreneurship,” observes Mahajan. About the advantages that can accrue to firms if an entrepreneurial culture is encouraged Mahajan says, “Entrepreneurial firms can pave the way for better leaders — leaders with clear visions who can make better and swifter decisions and operate efficiently within constraints of resources and other challenges.” Adding on to this Ranjan says, “My observation is that the leaders of tomorrow will require to take very integrated business decisions — meaning they have to balance the mandate of business sustainability with the larger concerns of the surrounding ecosystem and leaders with a grounding on social entrepreneurship are best equipped to meet this challenge.”
According to the HCL spokesperson some key challenges that can deter organisations in their entrepreneurial journey include a corpo- rate bureaucracy that slows down project approvals, a refusal to allocate resources to new ideas, a lack of training and support for employ- ees, low rewards for success coupled with high costs of failure and performance evaluation based solely on job descriptions.