Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Entrepreneurial instincts

Here’s a question that I’d recently asked on Twitter.

Does HR value people with entrepreneurial instincts ? Or do we try and fit square pegs in round holes?

Surprisingly, I got consistent replies from across geographies. The answer was – No, HR doesn’t value entrepreneurial instincts. We try and fit square pegs in round holes. There are multiple answers to this question. Some may work, others might not. Some have the required flexibility, while others deal with rigidity.

As clichéd as it sounds, entrepreneurs are a rare breed. They come with characteristics and traits that differ a lot from most people. Traits include (but not limited to): high competency, high levels of risk taking, high self confidence and very competitive, creative bent of mind, innovative spirit, proactive behavior and need for freedom at workplace.

Given that we know certain traits of an entrepreneur it brings me to ask a couple of questions:

What can HR do to value entrepreneurial instincts?

  • To start with, it can improve the talent management system in the organization that gives flexibility to entrepreneurs to choose their career paths.
  • Map the entrepreneurial traits identified and create performance management systems that include innovation at the center of the review. Look towards the results achieved rather than the approach.
  • Encourage and train managers to accept or have for a higher tolerance for failure. Not all entrepreneurial ideas will take off.
  • Get the recruiters to hire right. If the Company doesn’t have a culture that supports entrepreneurship, then it doesn’t make sense to get someone who will eventually leave you just as quickly. It’s critical to identify what’s needed for the role.
  • Work closely with managers to indentify what percentage of their workforce needs to be entrepreneurs. Not everyone needs to be an entrepreneur.
  • Have a robust feedback system. Entrepreneurs need to be given feedback on a regular basis.
  • Bring in transparency into the performance review system. Employees need to know the parameters that define the role of an entrepreneur. However, there’s a catch to this approach. You cannot have performance review processes that make it mandatory for innovation! It’ll back-fire big time, since this approach will ask employees to take up roles that they aren’t comfortable with.
  • Promote the jobs internally within the organization and then share it with the outside world. Employees must be encouraged, based on their competencies, to take up roles that require innovation. And they’ll appreciate the role was shared with them first.
  • Money matters. Even to that entrepreneur who tells you that he wants freedom for innovation above all else. Really. Pay structures need to be flexible depending on the role that one play’s in the Company. Entrepreneurs should have a high incentive plan, that’s directly linked to their performance. Better performance means more money.

Why doesn’t HR value entrepreneurship instincts in employees?

  • The challenge is not in accepting the need for entrepreneurship within the Company. It’s the lack awareness on how to make the fit happen. The need to look for a way to fit in innovation, risks and costs involved, are a bigger challenge. There’s already a team in place and business has defined its goals and objectives. Challenging status quo in a process oriented Company might not work in the best interest of the Company.
  • Company culture plays an important role for hiring/retaining entrepreneurs. If the culture doesn’t support the system to fit in entrepreneurs, then it’s a disservice to both the candidate and the Company to come together to work.
  • HR might not have been given the authority to take the call on hiring entrepreneurs. It means that HR/recruiter will eventually fall back on the hiring manager who’ll make the decision.
  • Lack of transparency might make it really hard to determine if the Company really needs an entrepreneur. If not, not amount of talking/incentives/promises will keep them back.
  • It could also be a result of of not identifying the candidate's entrepreneurial instinct at the hiring stage.

What’s your take? Your replies will give some food-for-thought to HR readers of this blog.