Social intrapreneurs and Generation Y
Internal agitators: the new corporate activist?
Don’t worry: your employees are not about to storm the barricades of your businesses (not if they want to stay in their jobs, that is). Yet their ability to activate for change from within shouldn’t be underestimated, this paper powerfully argues. In many ways, the “social intrapreneur” is not so very different from the social activist. Both operate without the benefit of formal institutional authority, for example. Both also have to get influential allies on their side and identify appropriate technologies to make their voices heard. Of course, there are differences too. Whereas social activists might raise a petition or organise a rally to achieve their objectives, change agents within a company are more likely to try to align their cause with the company’s core business objectives. Still, the two have much to learn from one another, the paper maintains.
The paper highlights four main areas where the “tempered radicals” of business, as Stanford University professor Debra Meyerson defines intrapreneurs, are effecting real change, namely products and services, business practices, people management and community engagement. One inspirational example comes from telecoms firm Vodafone, where the then head of global payments came up with the wacky idea of creating a mobile-phone-based money transfer and microfinance service. With the support of a handful of key organisational leaders in Vodafone’s product development and approval processes, mPesa was born as a small pilot in Kenya. Today, it has grown into the largest mobile money service in Africa.
For all the successful examples of social intrapreneurship, countless numbers fail. So what makes the difference? How employees present their ideas is one important factor. Tapping into organisational culture is vital. Northwestern University professor Klaus Weber talks of different “management logics” at play. A company with a “family logic” might respond better to language that emphasises qualities such as harmony, tradition and solidarity. For a firm characterised by “market logic”, on the other hand, the language of competition, economics and entrepreneurship might resonate more. Networking is also critical. Change agents need influential supporters. Today, technological tools such as NodeXL and Eigenvector can help accelerate the process of finding them.
Employee agitators need to beware, as well. Company compliance departments can, and do, check communications sent on office time. Intrapreneurs also need to know that shouting too loud can potentially damage their career prospects. But the tide is in their favour, the paper concludes. Reflecting the social values of employees and consumers is integral to future business success. Smart companies should recruit their staff to help in this regard, “a role for which social intrapreneurs are well suited”.
David G and White C (autumn 2015), “The New Face of Corporate Activism”, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Fall 2015 (40-45)
Generation Y: give them what they want
Generation Y, those who entered the workforce within the past decade, see the world very differently from older employees. Despite all that’s been written about the role social and ethical values now play in career decisions, there’s little to show for it in this empirical study of recent corporate graduates from a leading European business school. “Extrinsic” values such as money, image and leisure seem to be what drives them. In contrast, concern for others and the need for social approval – key motivators for earlier generations of employees – hardly register. The word “narcissism” springs to the minds of the authors.
While close observers of managerial values may not be entirely surprised by this shift to “Me Inc”, little consideration has been given to the behavioural outworking of such an attitudinal shift. This is where this paper comes into its own. One massive implication is around job hopping. Not only do young managers do it all the time (92% of managers in their first job report being on the lookout to leave), but they perceive it as a means by which they can increase their salary and promotion prospects. Companies appear to be bending the knee. After working for five years, employees still with the same employer typically see their wage packet increase by 11% compared to 13% among those who have changed jobs during that time.
So how to keep them from moving on? One obvious way is for employers to keep up with the market wage rates and promotional opportunities. Netflix provides an illustrative case. The Ca streaming media provider readjusts its high-performing employees’ pay as part of their annual review process so as to match labour market rates. More effective still, the researchers find, is investment in employee development. Generation Y’ers “crave” it, apparently. What cuts it with them in particular are assignments that offer clear responsibility and accountability for a project, projects that offer visibility to and support from senior managers, and formal training.
Employers may legitimately worry that investing in their up-and-coming managers will only make them more valuable in the job market. Don’t let that be a concern, this paper argues. The Generation Y members of your organisation are already looking at online jobs boards and talking to recruiters. One of the few ways to dissuade them, the data suggests, is to invest in building their talent. The take-away message in a nutshell: give the brats what they want.
Hamori M et al. (autumn 2015), “What High-Potential Managers Want”, MIT Sloan Management Review 57 (1)
Debby Goldberg will serve as the new director of development at Schwarzman Scholars, the Chinese equivalent of the US-based Rhodes scholarship programme. Schwarzman Scholars, which is based at Tsinghua University in Beijing, has raised $340m in donations since 2013.
The International Conference on Economics, Management and Corporation Social Responsibility is due to be held on 7-8 January 2016. It will be hosted by the International Centre of Economics, Humanities and Management and will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.