Employee turnover is an expensive habit, with some estimates for total costs associated with turnover ranging from 90 to 200 percent of someone's annual salary.

Adding insult to injury, Mercer's Global Talent Trends report revealed that 34 percent of employees plan to leave their company within 12 months

If that sounds like your company, stopping the bleeding won't happen with a flip of the switch; it'll take innovative engagement solutions over a few seasons to set you culture and leadership pointing in the right direction.

The Right Strategy 

To get the wheels in motion, leaders at any level must consider their employees as business partners and engage their workforce in an entrepreneurial way.

For example, think about whether your employees are granted access to the big picture, and whether they are allowed to have a voice to bring ideas to the table. That's letting them think and act like an owner. It's removing the fear and letting your best people to be in the driver's seat because, well, they may be smarter than you, the manager. 

Carey Smith, "Chief Big Ass" of Big Ass Solutions, a leading manufacturer of fans, lights and controls for commercial and residential use, figured out that giving his employees ownership led to a high-performing culture.  

Smith says that it all starts at the hiring level. When you hire bright, entrepreneurial-minded employees who take initiative, are curious, and have a contrarian mindset, "you've got the makings of a great workforce." Here's Smith in a recent interview I conducted:

"We're continuously looking to break new things, whether they are channels, ideas or conceptions of products. From my perspective, that is the definition of an entrepreneur -- somebody or a group of people continuously trying to tread a new or different path. When you hire bright people who take the initiative and are creative, and you offer them that opportunity, you've opened the door to being entrepreneurial."

The Entrepreneurial Strategy in Practice 

To empower your employees to think and act like business owners, they should feel like they can make decisions, and bosses should let them. That may require a significant shift in the way bosses lead. As they adapt to handing off the reins and simplifying decision-making processes for a preferred flatter hierarchy, bosses will begin to shape a culture of knowledge and leadership at all levels.

Here's five things to get the entrepreneurial spirit in motion:

1. Minimize the rules.

Unnecessary policies coming from bureaucracy stifles the entrepreneurial spirit. My advice is this: go on a policy or rule diet. Better yet, enlist a few people cross-functionally to create a council where they meet just to look for ways to keep the bureaucracy to a minimum.

2.  Give people opportunities to exercise their ideas.

If a team member comes up with an idea that may not be part of their "scope of responsibility," help connect them with the right teams and let them bring their ideas to life.  It will expand their skills, thinking and creativity, and ultimately drive up your engagement scores.

3. Reward people for thinking like entrepreneurs.

Reward those employees who are constantly sharing ideas that are simple and small, but still make a significant difference to either the customer experience or company bottom line.

4. Give them access to information.

To think like business owners, employees will need access to the same information that owners receive; they need to be included in important conversations; they need a clear understanding of the big picture, strategic goals, and changes of direction.

5. Allow them the freedom to ask anything.

Leaders should want to foster a transparent culture by allowing for any question to be asked, even the tough ones! This will dramatically increase trust with your employees, and build a collaborate, trustworthy culture. 

Final Thoughts

Some of the largest organizations most definitely embrace an entrepreneurial spirit: Apple, Virgin, Google, Zappos to name a few. As with most elements of a company's culture, the entrepreneurial spirit has to come from the top and from within. Whether you're in upper management or not, setting an example for yourself and your department can always help trigger more responsive, innovative ideas around you.