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How to Spot an Intrapreneur at Your Company: The 5 Essential Traits to Look for

You need to single out these people, empower them and retain them -- before you lose them ... and their awesome ideas.
How to Spot an Intrapreneur at Your Company: The 5 Essential Traits to Look for
Image credit: pixdeluxe | Getty Images
Guest Writer
Entrepreneur, Growth Hacker and Marketer
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Within your company there may just be "intrapreneurs" carrying on unnoticed by you. But don't let them carry on unnoticed too long: Instead, you need to spot these people, empower them and retain them -- before you lose them forever.

Related: 6 Steps for Turning Your Employees Into Intrapreneurs

Of course you first have to know what you're looking for. What is an intrapreneur anyway?

Quite simply, the term refers to someone within a organization who has the entrepreneurial spirit. These employees show the ability to balance daydreaming and doing. They're the type who'll spend time coming up with innovative new ideas for your business as well as putting in the effort to bring those new ideas to life.

So, you may understand why it’s so important to spot these intrapreneurs and empower them -- because retaining and empowering intrapreneurs will allow you to dramatically boost the innovation happening within your company.

But how do you identify those employees who will help grow your company in this way? Here are the five essential traits to look for to spot an "intrapreneur."

Passionate self-starters

Intrapreneurs are by definition innovative, but if they haven’t shared their innovative ideas with you yet, they can be hard to spot. That's why you should look out for employees who are passionate self-starters. Self-starters are people ambitious enough to further their careers without the help of others. They set goals for themselves and meet them, they initiate problem-solving and they’re not afraid to take calculated risks or promote themselves.

Pay attention to employees who have side hustles and passion projects they work on at home, as well. Employees who have side hustles will typically be innovative intrapreneurs for your organization.

Not strictly money-motivated

Another trait of an intrapreneur is that they’re not money-motivated. An intrapreneur might appreciate a monetary bonus but it’s not what drives him or her to succeed. In fact, according to a study reported in the Harvard Business Review, the more people focus on their salaries, the less they focus on satisfying their intellectual curiosity or learning new skills, which can decrease their job performance overall.

Watch out, then, for employees who are not strictly motivated by money. Intrapreneurs are more driven by “influence with freedom.” This means they value having the ability to implement their ideas into the business with full support from management.

Related: What It's Like to Be an Intrapreneur at a Large Corporation

Thirsty for knowledge

An intrapreneur is a life-long learner and always thirsty for knowledge. An employee who is always learning new skills is one that will be able to come up with innovative ideas for your business. The more employees learn, the more they’ll be able to use that knowledge to their advantage and to the advantage of your business.

According to Robert Epstein, a psychologist and creativity and innovation researcher, there are four core competencies that can make an individual more creative, These competencies describe people who:

  • Capture new ideas.

  • Seek out challenging tasks.

  • Broaden your knowledge.

  • Surround themselves with interesting things and people.

A thirst for knowledge is key here: Whether that means taking continued education courses, reading, listening to podcasts or simply being curious about what the roles and tasks of their coworkers in other departments are, these people are more creative. And increased creativity means more innovative ideas.

Able to nurture that innovative idea

An intrapreneur doesn’t just come up with an innovative idea and leave it at that; rather he or she needs to put in the time and effort to nurture that idea through:

  • Brainstorming

  • Research

  • Detailed planning

  • Creating a proposal

Take notice of employees who have ideas, but only the ones with ideas that aren’t half-baked. An intrapreneur will back up his or her ideas with research and solid plans.

Ready to pivot

Being adaptable is another sign of a intrapreneur. Intrapreneurs know when they have an awesome idea, but they’re also willing and able to change course if they recognize that that idea might not work as well as they originally thought.

Intrapreneurs won’t be discouraged by “failure." Instead, they’ll take that failure as a life lesson and use it to move forward. Being able to identify when they should pivot and then doing just that allows an individual to grow. When an intrapreneur is given the opportunity to grow through failure, he or she comes back stronger -- with better ideas -- than before.

Related: How to Identify Intrapreneurs Within Your Company

Over to you

With these tips for how to spot an intrapreneur, you’ll be able to identify top talent in your organization who will help you take your business to the next level. I bet you already have at least one employee in mind. Just remember to empower those intrapreneurs; send them to workshops and conferences; and allow them time to be creative and recognize their accomplishments. If they feel empowered in their position, they’ll be more likely to stick around and share those awesome ideas they have.

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