Remaining Relevant In The Age Of The Employee Entrepreneur

We have been examining how the emergence of the employee entrepreneur has changed the way businesses operate.

The transition away from conventional management and HR practices has created a service gap that continues to go unfilled.

Despite this, highly entrepreneurial businesses continue to keep pace with, or outpace, highly established competitors.

This has been accomplished as these entrepreneurial businesses search for, and find, innovative ways to fill these gaps.

This has left some managers and many HR practitioners stumbling as they fight to remain relevant in a fast-paced, highly creative new economy.

For those wishing to remain relevant here are some suggestions on what you can do.


Workplace culture often develops as the result of a company's' operational requirements.

This is why similar businesses have similar cultures. For example, with the exception of minor variations, an employee who works for two different banks is likely to notice a high degree of similarity on their cultures.

Conventional management and HR practices have developed over time within the confines of these cultures.

However, highly entrepreneurial businesses are cut from a very different cloth and do not fit the traditional corporate model.

To compete against long established companies, entrepreneurial businesses have had to throw out the rule book and discover innovative ways to meet the needs of the market faster, cheaper, and/or easier than their traditional competitors.

Entrepreneurial businesses can only succeed at this if they adopt cultures characterized by creativity, agility, flexibility, acceptance, and accommodation.

This means that anyone supporting employee entrepreneurs must learn to perform their duties without dampening these essential traits.

Here are some ideas on how to do this.



Employee entrepreneurs are highly creative creatures.

Creativity requires freedom of thought and movement.

So every opportunity to accommodate these workers must be taken.

If a request is made in a traditional company, that request is compared to an existing policy and the decision is made based on whether the request fits the mold of the policy.

In highly creative, entrepreneurial businesses the opposite must be true.

"If I can, I will" should be applied such that if repeated requests made by workers run counter to a policy, it is the policy and not the requests that should be looked at.

The idea of accommodating employees wherever and whenever possible runs completely opposite to the way most organizations operate and, therefore, the way many managers and HR practitioners do their jobs.

Don't be afraid to break the mold and say "yes" for a change.


If you have never worked in an innovative entrepreneurial business before, you might be surprised to learn that the people who work there are generally very smart.

Like many smart people, they tend to think differently than "corporate" employees or line workers.

So stop trying to manage them because any attempt to do so will be seen as an attempt to control them...

And controlling an employee runs counter to the whole reason they were hired in the first place.

Any successful manager in an entrepreneurial company will tell you that guidance, not control, is the best way to get the most out of these incredible human assets.


I always get a kick out of hearing someone use the term "best practices" when referring to an entrepreneurial business.

The reason is that "best practices" is simply another way of saying, "doing what everyone else is already doing".

One simply cannot be behaving entrepreneurial and using "best practices" at the same time.

Look at it this way: many years ago someone had a problem that needed to be solved. They didn't know how to solve it so they came up with an innovative idea. Not too sure about it, they figured they would give it a try anyway and it worked.

Others with the same problem, upon seeing this strange new way work, figured they'd give it a try as well…and it worked for them also.

After a few more people tried this crazy new way successfully, it became commonly accepted as the best way to solve the problem and, voila, a "best practice" was born.

Simply put, yesterday's innovations have become today's best practices.

If managers and HR people don't let got of today's best practices (yesterday's innovation) at some point, today's innovation that could lead to tomorrow's new and improved best practice may never occur.


Flexibility is critical within an entrepreneurial culture.

However too many policies are created in a misguided attempt to address 100% of all possible scenarios and eliminate 100% of all possible risk.

To businesses with an entrepreneurial culture, this is the equivalent of handcuffing a person's wrists and ankles and then expecting them to swim.

Policies will always have a place in day-to-day operations, but in highly entrepreneurial environments these policies must be sufficiently broad such that they guide the employee rather than strangle them.

Boundaries, rather than policies, tend to govern entrepreneurs more effectively.


Celebrate the individual.

HR has a tendency to create a box in which all employment candidates must fit.

Unfortunately, the best candidates for an entrepreneurial culture rarely fit in this nice, neat, conventional box.

Instead, candidates should be evaluated based on the individuals they are and how they may benefit the business rather than comparing them to some pre-conceived notion of what they should look like.

Perhaps even more important is seeing how candidates are different from existing employees and assessing how these differences could create new opportunities for the business.

This is, after all, what is at the heart of being an entrepreneur.


Successful entrepreneurial cultures are a perfect marriage between relationship and results.

Employees in these environments perform best when they have the trust and respect of their coworkers, colleagues, and bosses.

However given the abstract nature of being entrepreneurial, concrete results can never be achieved without significant trial, error, and failure.

Under the traditional corporate model that creates cultures condemning mistakes and failure, these employees could never attain such trust and respect.

Therefore, managers or HR practitioners who desire to be seen as relevant in these new entrepreneurial cultures must first learn to let go of the old ways they treated as gospel and in their place embrace these new realities.

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