According to the Career Advisory Board, “One in two American workers is projected to be self employed by 2020.” The recent study highlighted the fact that professionals today are choosing self-employment in order to control the type of work they want to pursue. Many are abandoning the traditional career path and choosing to work part time. They see contract work as a viable alternative.

These dynamics are changing work as we know it and creating new issues for organizations.

Organizations are being forced to embrace this new paradigm given the gap in supply and demand for critical talent. They are creating new business models based on a combination of full-time, part-time and freelance workers. These hybrid business models enable organizations to design work around the individual and leverage talent across the organization. In the next five years half of the workforce will be comprised of external talent.

In his article The New Free Agent Nation, Max Mihelich makes it clear that, “The notion of the free agent worker has not only changed the way people think about work. It has altered the employer-employee social contract.” Millennials in particular want to take control of their own futures and work where they are most productive. Generation X workers are independent, entrepreneurial and more committed to their profession than their company. Baby boomers not ready to retire prefer to work part time in positions that are aligned with their own interests and passions.

All of this is happening at time when there is shortage of high performing individuals.

Talent managers are under pressure to meet the demand for professionals who can help their organizations grow and deal with a rapidly changing competitive landscape. They are actively identifying freelance workers who can fill specialized positions. Individuals that that are interested in innovation activities that drive business value. Individuals that have the competencies needed to achieve success. Individuals that think and act like entrepreneurs. Among them are intrapreneurs.

Intrapreneurs are one of the most sought after professional in the 21st century economy.

The demand for intrapreneurs however outstrips the current supply. According to numerous studies only a small fraction of executives and professionals are entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial. We know there are more. In many organizations efforts to adequately identify, engage and develop intrapreneurs has been slow and ineffective. Part of the issue is that these organizations have not had a clear definition of what it takes to be a successful intrapreneur. Many intrapreneurs go unnoticed or overlooked because they don’t fit the typical profile of a high potential.

A high potential in the core business is not necessarily a high potential when it comes to building a new business.   It is for this reason that we see many intrapreneurs deciding to go out on their own and join the ranks of the self-employed, freelancer, contract worker movement. They are well aware that being different is what sets them apart but also makes them more effective in the role. These differences often stand in stark contrast to the rest of the organization. Not fitting in is the very reason why many intrapreneurs feel alienated and disconnected from the rest of the organization.

It is also why intrapreneurs take ownership for their own growth and development. They are not willing to wait for the organization to hand them an opportunity. They proactively seek out opportunities where they can stretch, grow, and learn new ways of working. They want to understand their own strengths and weaknesses. They look at every opportunity as a way to test themselves. They are not content to just learn a skill, they seek to perfect it and turn it into a competency. If an organization does not provide them an opportunity to do these things, they will either do it themselves or look for another company that will.

It is for these reasons that intrapreneurs may be the most valuable pool of free agent candidates an organization can hire. The question for organizations is how do you identify, develop and engage intrapreneurs. The current shortage of intrapreneurs makes that more difficult. Competitive forces will only drive demand for intrapreneurs higher and higher. It will not only be a question of finding them, it will be a question of providing an environment that keeps them engaged over the longer term.

For intrapreneurs it is a matter of demonstrating that you have what it takes to be an intrapreneur no matter whether you are inside or outside an organization. Being an intrapreneur is not an intellectual exercise. You need to experience being an intrapreneur to build the competencies that are required to be effective in that role. Think of every opportunity as a way to learn, grow and challenge what you know.

If you buy into the premise that we will all be free agents in the future then preparing for it now is critical. Explore your strengths and weaknesses. Understand what motivates and inspires you. Create a personal brand, develop presence and demonstrate credibility. Raise your hand to work on the toughest challenges and biggest problems. Build a portfolio of intrapreneurial experiences that show that you have what it takes. Take a hard look at yourself. Self-awareness is the key to your success.

As a free agent you stand alone. You are the product. It’s up to you to take the lead and pave your own path forward. The more experience you gain, the more success you have, the more valuable you will become to the companies that are embracing this hybrid business model.   Individuals that do it well will grow and prosper. Those that don’t will resign themselves to work as we did in the past.

According to Chauncy Lennon, Managing Director and Head of JPMorgan’s Workforce Initiative, “The workforce of the past was organized around the company. The workforce of the future is organized around the worker.”

Intrapreneurs are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this growing trend. The current shortage of intrapreneurs provides an opportunity for existing and aspiring intrapreneurs to take ownership for their own destiny. It’s up to you. The future belongs to you.

 

 

 

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