Rabobank and intrapreneurship
Rabobank and intrapreneurship
2017 – The Rabobank is a Dutch bank that provides international financial services. In The Netherlands there are over a hundred local, very independent, locations of the Rabobank. The main office of the Rabobank is situated in Utrecht. At this main office new policies are initiated and new products and services developed.
About ten years ago a so-called ‘innovation team’, started performing experiments and pilots involving social innovation at the IT-department. During the crisis there was a dip in the attention for intrapreneurship, but in the most recent years the effort to promote it has grown. Intrapreneurship is stimulated again and a lot of attention is paid to the improvement of the innovative capacity of the bank. Now, the innovation team, which consists of around 10 employees, is placed directly under the Board of Directors and focuses on possibilities for intrapreneurship and innovation throughout the whole organisation.
Employees who work at the head office of the Rabobank have the possibility to participate in new development projects and/or cooperate in experiments with innovative concepts in several departments. At the local offices employees have the possibility to contribute to (smaller) improvements of, for example, existing processes. The head office tries to include employees who work at the local offices in the development of new products and services as much as possible; for example through Yammer, a platform where messages can be placed to reach all employees of the Rabobank and where employees can keep in touch with each other. There also is an innovation network, called ’Into innovation’, that connects around 1000 intrapreneurs and offers them a podium. A (former) trainee says: ‘The innovation network helped me a lot. Especially in the beginning, when, at times, I felt alone in my intrapreneurial activities’. Local offices of the Rabobank can also have their own initiatives. For example at the Rabobank IJsseldelta a group of employees is working as so-called ‘cross thinkers’. They have the task to talk with employees and discuss the ‘what, how and why’ of their activities and to tell them to be critical about that. Besides that, they teach them how to take innovative initiatives and how to help and guide the other employees on the location when needed.
Reason and approach
The Rabobank works in an environment in which a lot of changes happen and have happened, from digitalisation to the economic crisis, which have (had) a lot of consequences for the business- and regulatory environment of the organisation and its employees. Therefor the innovative capacity of the organisation and its employees needs to be large. The chairman of the Board of Directors is a big supporter of innovation and talks about it a lot within the organisation; he stimulates innovative behaviour. The Rabobank chooses an approach of stimulating this through projects and experiments that challenge employees to use their innovative and renewing capacities for the organisation, its products and services. Because of the participation in these projects of employees who work at the local offices, wishes of customers are brought in, while these employees generally are closer and more connected to the customers. Through the ‘moonshot-campaign’, an activity that is organised for the employees, they are stimulated to work on innovative ideas, with some competition between them. This often results in start-ups. Many employees have a T-shaped profile; that means that they do have a specialism but also have the competence to think in other disciplines and have knowledge about the steps in the operation that come before or after their own contribution.
Up to now the result of stimulating intrapreneurship can be seen in the many initiatives and new products within the Rabobank. An example of such a product is Tellow, an accounting-app for the self-employed, that recently is successfully launched on the market. Besides that, the result is also seen in start-ups evolving from the many initiatives of employees within the Rabobank. It is too early to see whether these activities stimulating entrepreneurship, result in any improvement of employee satisfaction within the Rabobank.
Several employees have experienced that an administrative job, with standardised and routine tasks, doesn’t challenge to be innovative and behave intrapreneurial. Initiatives to stimulate innovation often fail in an administrative work environment. Furthermore there appeared to be some managers within the Rabobank who would rather not see too many intrapreneurial activities within their department or local office. A change of mentality within this group can sometimes be difficult also within the Rabobank. However the inspiration and support that is provided by the chairman of the Board of Directors did start a change process also involving these people.
Korteweg, Mirna. ‘Rabobank Intrapreneurship’. 2017. Rotterdam, Erasmus University & Leiden, TNO.
The full casestudy description (in Dutch) is attached as pdf.
Sector: Financial Services