In a recent CIO Magazine article entitled, Why big companies need to become more entrepreneurial to survive, the author discusses the corporate imperative to create internal innovation capabilities. Clearly, this topic is nothing new; there is always a great deal of discussion surrounding the need to constantly innovate at all levels of the organization. It’s also why leaders like Ernst & Young celebrate entrepreneurialism across all industries via awards like EY Entrepreneur of the Year. I am thrilled to be named a semifinalist for 2016 and very excited that Eliassen Group has been recognized for its achievements.
But while the need for entrepreneurialism is often discussed, the real challenge is in the development and implementation of programs that will make it prevalent throughout an organization and will lead to real change. Just how do we create internal capabilities to drive innovation, and not just in product and service development but also in work and employment practices?
The Evolution of Entrepreneurialism at Eliassen Group
For us, the journey started years ago when our founder, Mona Eliassen, established the core values of the company that support our employees, clients and communities in a way that enables each of these groups to transform and thrive. By maintaining a strong foundation, we can innovate and change to support growth while continuing to meet the specific needs of our constituents.
While we have established and continue to benefit from this solid foundation, we also recognize that simply taking our employees offsite once per year will not drive the kind of entrepreneurial impact that we are looking to have across the board. It takes collaborative leadership, hard work and focus. By committing to 3-5 key initiatives per year, making swift decisions, giving our team some room to be creative and setting them up for success, we are able to challenge the status quo; mistakes are made along the way but by “failing fast” we can adjust and drive transformation. It is this strategy coupled with strong execution that has driven our company growth of 26% over the past year when others are just keeping pace.
Programs That Support Our Entrepreneurial Imperative
Over the years, Eliassen Group has implemented several programs that not only drive transparent communication but also encourage all employees to contribute ideas and suggest improvements.
Back in 2012, for example, we starting running small off-site meetings to which we invited 10-12 employees of varying levels of experience, company tenure, roles and regions to represent the company as a whole. The goal of these sessions, run by myself and Ken Dreyer, was to first establish a strong sense of trust and transparency in order to assess the existing state of the company through the eyes of our employees and with no repercussions for their candor. With our objective of outlining specific “starts, stops, and keeps,” we listened to their feedback, evaluated the recommendations and developed a plan to implement these ideas. While we did not implement everything that was suggested, we have put some very meaningful strategies in place as a result of these sessions, moving our business forward and also giving our employees a say in the direction of the company.
Another program that we have recently embraced is called E-Tank. Starting last year, we decided to expand on our off-site idea, enabling all employees to contribute their ideas regularly and provide feedback about the company. By establishing an environment of trust and transparency, we have been able to effect change. All that said, we know that there is still room for improvement but we are constantly working to improve and are providing a medium to effect change in a way that gives everyone a voice.
Supporting Our Employees and Our Community Drives Greater Impact and Results
There is a lot of talk these days about flexible work schedules and mobility. The reality for companies is that employees require career opportunities and paths that enable them to meet their personal needs and by empowering them with this flexibility, they are more willing and better able to contribute to the organization. The evolving workplace means that people are able to work more effectively and in different ways; the more that we can embrace this evolution and support it, the more value we will see from our workforce.
In addition to this flexibility, employees are increasingly drawn to organizations that don’t just give lip service to the concept of “giving back.” As a company and as individuals, we are often inundated with options for community service and donations. At Eliassen Group, we have a Philanthropy Committee in place that is dedicated to this effort that works directly with employees to learn about local, smaller organizations and individuals who might be in need of assistance. We want it to be personal for our employees and give them the opportunity to support causes that really matter to them.
When several employees told us that they knew troops overseas, for example, our team went to work creating care packages for these soldiers. The troops shared photos and notes with us, really connecting with our team and making this effort so meaningful. The same is true for my involvement in Year Up, a non-profit that helps young adults prepare for and locate professional careers that they would not have had access to otherwise. These philanthropic efforts are about really connecting us to individuals and to our communities.
Be Open to Learn and Change or Else Get Passed By.
At the end of the day, all of us – regardless of role, experience or tenure – must be entrepreneurs. With such rapid change in the marketplace and in technology, no organization can afford to stand still. And while crafting your strategy is a great start, only those who figure out a way to evolve and transform their businesses accordingly will grow and thrive. Good luck to you in your ongoing entrepreneurial journey!