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The Key to Improving Employee Productivity & Engagement? Hint: It's not Cash (or Perks)

Cornerstone Editors

Companies can throw all the perks they want at workers — from unlimited vacation time to on-site massages — but research increasingly shows those fringe benefits do little to make their jobs exciting.

What works? Ask Google, which encourages employees to innovate by letting employees spend 20 percent of their time on personal projects that advance the company’s mission. The program is a win-win for Google: employees get a sense of freedom in their jobs and Google benefits from the product of their labors (see: Gmail, which was born out of employees' project time).

These so-called "intrapreneurships" can work for any company, says Alexandra Levit, a workplace consultant and author. Here's how Levit advises companies to get started:

Get the C-suite to Buy-in

The whole company won’t be able to champion intrapreneurship without the support of senior management. Senior managers should show their support by publicly saying, "We want people to be free to experiment with their ideas. They’re not going to be negatively penalized for taking risks, and if they try something that doesn’t work out, they’ll still have their jobs," says Levit.

Start Small

Don't introduce intrapreneurships company-wide, advises Levit. Start with one department or group to see how it goes and to identify hiccups. Also, create a committee of about a dozen people who can help improve morale and jumpstart the program. "Pick someone who’s been innovative in the past and has gotten a project off the ground — and make sure to include people with different perspectives and establish a clear mission and direction," she says.

Focus on the Company’s Mission

Companies should encourage employees to pursue projects that are related to the company’s mission — they can even specific a certain topic or area to explore. While Google’s focus is tech, Hilton has steered the mission of its intrapreneurship program around social responsibility. The hotel company created a corporate responsibility council to innovate and vet new ideas — and ultimately introduced LightStay which calculates the hotel’s environmental impact, notes Levit.

Recruit Younger Employees

Companies can use intrapreneurship programs to attract recent graduates brimming with the entrepreneurial spirit. "It’s a win-win on both sides — the organization gets the brain power and the creative ideas, and the individual gets freedom. Everyone’s always saying how difficult it is to recruit the Gen Y’s or the Millennials, and I think this is definitely one way to do it.

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