How GE, Ford and Adobe Win With Millennial Employees Through Intrapreneurialism

Posted by: Jeff Fromm

It’s no secret that the Millennial generation shares an entrepreneurial spirit unlike anything we’ve seen before. They’re cited for disrupting industries from transportation to technology, and they’re credited with the demise of everything from beer to breakfast cereal. And whether or not you see this impact as a positive one, Millennials are breaking the rules, challenging the status quo and provoking change.

This mentality is synonymous with the idea of entrepreneurialism, so it comes as no surprise that Millennials are gravitating toward the self-starter lifestyle and identifying as independent contractors. Yet, as attractive and aspirational as this might be, the majority of Millennials will never launch their own enterprise. Why? Their entrepreneurial spirit lies dormant under the confines of traditional (and typically limited) workplace structures. In the face of a slowly recovering economy and the not-so-distant memories of the Great Recession, Millennials stick to these structures for added security and stability.

But, this isn’t to say that they enjoy relinquishing their unique ideas and innovative tendencies. In fact, 21 percent of Millennials have reported changing jobs in the past year alone to find a role better suited to their interests. Not to mention that the internet has made exploring new employment opportunities more accessible to these savvy digital natives who have seemingly unlimited career possibilities at their fingertips. As a result, a mentality of the “grass is always greener” has developed, causing a disconnect between the kind of loyalty and commitment that employers have grown used to seeing among previous generations of workers.

For organizations seeking to retain their Millennial talent, the encouragement of entrepreneurialism is key. A strong workforce culture is the way to enable and stimulate innovation from within that has the potential to positively impact the bottom line. It fosters what we like to call intrapreneurialism: The manifestation of embracing the entrepreneurial mindset among internal employees and directing it inward toward initiatives that align with the organization’s brand idea.

GE, Ford and Adobe are three examples of organizations putting this culture to work to win with their Millennial employees, and thus, their customers.


As a digital and industrial company, GE is constantly striving to evolve to be more humanistic and approachable in its innovation. It’s commitment to intrapreneurialism is part of this endeavor.

“The culture of GE – at the heart – is this ability to change, adapt and evolve,” said Leslie Coyne, former Director of Global University Relations. “We operate in this way so we can continue to keep up with what’s going on in the world and with our stakeholders to provide the right solutions at the right time.”

To get to these solutions, GE introduced their Culture Compass, which obtains employee opinions with 10 straightforward questions. Upon collecting the scores, GE immediately broadcasts those results to the entire company to make positive culture changes, such as an organic uptick in team building and co-ownership of intrapreneurial projects – also known as the modern brand’s attack on external disruption.


No one has forgotten the aches and pains of the 2008 Recession, least of all those in the vehicle manufacturing business. It was a time of bail-outs and broken brands. And not all of those brands made it to the other side. But some did, and Ford was one of them.

While always closely associated with competitor brand General Motors, the Recession marked a significant divergence between the two. Ford did not take the bail-out offered. Rather than relying on the supplement of outside sources, the brand decided to leverage the culture it had internally to find new and innovative ideas for recovery and extended growth.

In 2016, the company also dedicated itself to revolutionizing its HR department, which involved a new HR operating model and technology platform. Ford chose a cloud-based system to streamline payroll, compensation, performance management, recruiting and talent review. These tools simplified the HR employee experience and have allowed employees across departments to spend more time on what matters most – leveraging entrepreneurial motivation for greater business outcomes.


Already known for offering the typical benefits and perks associated with work culture in a creative business today, Adobe goes further to encourage intrapreneurialism and employee development. Rather than micromanaging on challenging projects, which the company believes kills creativity and ingenuity, Adobe leaders offer trust and support along the way by taking on the role of coach. In this manner, employees aren’t rated on specific criteria but can set their own goals and determine how they should be reviewed based on their individual contributions to their role and collaborative teams.

Overall, internal culture is a powerful element that shapes workplace environment, professional relationships and business processes. Intrapreneurialism is a sound strategy to build this culture and keep Millennial employees engaged and satisfied in their roles. As they will one day soon be the lead decision-makers within organizations, now is the time to determine how to resonate with them properly.

For more on engaging the modern workforce, download our latest white paper, Building Brands Inside Out: Why Your External Brand Is Only As Strong As Your Internal Culture.

About Jeff Fromm

Although not a Millennial as defined by his age, Jeff Fromm is the Millennial Marketing Guy. Jeff is President of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy that specializes in Millennial trends, and is a contributing writer at...See Jeff's full bio.