More and more businesses are realising the importance of nurturing innovative entrepreneurs among their employees to help drive growth, but what are the top strategies to promote innovation within the business?Latest research by Regus, the flexible workspace provider, reports that 49% of business people in South Africa think flexible working is key.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have been identified as productive drivers of inclusive economic growth and development in South Africa and around the world. Some researchers have estimated that, in South Africa, small and medium-sized enterprises make up 91% of formalised businesses, provide employment to about 60% of the labour force and total economic output accounts for roughly 34% of GDP.

Given the increasing importance placed on developing entrepreneurship within the business by companies such as Google and Dell, the survey asked respondents to identify which measures they regarded as key to nurturing so-called intrapreneurs and found that more than half of South African firms selected skills updating programmes (55%). Access to senior management (29%) and mixing staff from different functions (25%) followed.

These are the key findings of the latest research by Regus that canvassing the views of more than 19 000 senior business people and owners in 98 countries.

Some additional highlights include:
* 25% of respondents report formal innovation programmes are a key innovation driver;
* 90% of respondents think entrepreneurship has increased in the past five years in their sector; and
* 14% state that female entrepreneurship and 11% that repeat entrepreneurship is on the rise.

Rona Sauer area director: Cape Town and Port Elizabeth at Regus, comments: “With small businesses accounting for over 90% of businesses and over three fifths of employment in most economies, it is evident why entrepreneurship should be fostered and nurtured.

“But businesses have cottoned on to the powerful innovative drive of entrepreneurs too and are looking to foster entrepreneurship among their own employees. So how can entrepreneurial behaviour be encouraged?

“Flexible working not only taps into employee demand for a better work:life balance ,by allowing them to work their own hours and from different locations, but it also helps employees mingle with workers from different functions, and even different firms, vastly widening their outlook and experience. Flexibility and diverse inputs can really help employees think outside the box and seek out innovation.”