Building an ‘Intrapreneurial’ Culture: How to create an agency fit for the next generation of talent

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‘Intrapreneurial’ is a term coined by JFDI, what does it actually mean?

In the creative space we occupy, we all accept the notion of entrepreneurialism. That ‘can-do and I’ll find a way’ innate attitude and passion that helps build not only strong working relationships with colleagues, but also enduring relationships with our clients. All successful agencies have an accepted entrepreneurial spirit at heart.

In recent times however, what has become even more fundamental to success are the individuals within our companies who have the express permission and freedom to think, create ‘things’, and be rewarded for their creativity. All the positive traits of the entrepreneur, yet offered up within the safe confines of the company that recognises that potential. This is where the Intrapreneur comes in.

But never has it been more challenging to create an environment that is attractive to the young, up and coming intrapreneurs of today, where they can successfully grow and develop different skillsets. Generation Y is more hungry, curious and demanding than ever.

They are ambitious and self-confident, constantly seeking new challenges. Their attitude is very much ‘I work to live’ and not ‘I live to work’. They leave university with high expectations (perhaps in some cases unrealistically so), nevertheless, we have to ask ourselves how well placed are we to meet these expectations as well as tap into their creative and intrapreneurial potential.

For a start, it’s essential that we consider is how well aligned the individual is to the company culture.

We know culture is defined by those who lead the organisation – what we decide to do and what we decide not to do. Increasingly, culture is also that point of difference that will be a deciding factor in whether a fresh-out-of-university graduate elects to join you or another agency, offering what is essentially a very similar opportunity. That distinctive culture has to permeate all corners of the business – living and breathing day-to-day – not simply a set of words and graphics on a wall in a meeting room – but evidenced through how we communicate, behave, interact, and hold others to account every single day.

That begs the question: how many of us can say we foster a positive environment underpinned by our unique culture that gives everyone permission to speak up, contribute and get stuck in? After all, a good idea can apparently come from anywhere. And how many of us can honestly say we haven’t been in a situation where the best idea has unexpectedly in fact come from one of the most junior or inexperienced people in the room?

But what tools or forums can we say we have created to encourage this behaviour for it to become the norm?

If we accept that people are our greatest asset, then the time has come for us all to take a step back and ensure we genuinely practice what we preach. As leaders, we must invest far more time and energy into attracting and retaining our talent, not least by investing in the how we attract, recruit and on-board fresh talent. From the outset any prospective employee should have the most rewarding and professional experience possible and, once 12 months into their role, they should have become a positive, motivated ambassador for the agency.

There’s no doubt that given Gen Y’s natural trait to be challenging, as well as their desire to be constantly challenged, we need to market ourselves far better. We need to demonstrate not just what a fantastically creative industry we work in, where we create the forum to generate and share great ideas as part of our DNA, but also foster an environment that recognises the need for constant stimulation given their naturally more transient nature.

Only then will we have a genuine chance to engender any sense of belonging (or dare I say even loyalty) in the Gen Y intrapreneurs of today.

Chris Freeland is chief executive officer of RAPP UK