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A small software firm focused on inclusivity and flexibility to become India’s best employer

Intuit, headquartered in California, dethroned Google to reach the top of the list.

A low-profile software company has dethroned tech behemoth Google to become India’s best workplace.

Intuit climbed up nine spots from last year to top India’s Best Companies to Work For 2017 list. It clinched the top spot in a tough race: Over 600 organisations spanning 20 industries, each with over 500 employees, took part in the survey conducted by the Economic Times
newspaper and the India arm of the global research, consulting, and training firm, Great Place to Work Institute, to assess and benchmark their workplace culture.

American Express India and Google India were among the top three employers. Coming in fourth, Lemon Tree Hotels was the only Indian company to make it to the top five.

Intuit, headquartered in California, which develops accounting and tax preparation software, has 7,900 employees worldwide, compared to the over 57,000 who work for Google and 120,000 at Microsoft.

What changed the most from 2016 to 2017 is perhaps Intuit’s self-awareness and targeted evolution. “We went back to the drawing board and [wanted to] tap into the the magic of many,” Somnath Baishya, the head of human resources at the Global Development Centres at Intuit, told Quartz. “The entire submission [was crafted] by employees, not by HR and communications [teams]. Throughout the year, they went around educating and building awareness across the company.”

Here’s a look at the environment Intuit has created for its workers.

Like a startup

Despite comprising over a 1,000 employees in India, the company wants to keep a startup culture alive in its offices.

Rather than looking at them as working parts of a bigger whole, Intuit addresses its employees in smaller groups at a more personal level to maintain the close-knit energy.

“Instead of looking at one monolith of a 1,000 people, we thought why don’t we look at 10 startups of 100 people?” said Baishya. To celebrate successes, milestones, and even festivals, the company rallies up its staff floor by floor, aligning schedules of between 70 and 100 people at a time.

Moreover, Intuit employees don’t work the conventional 9-to-6 day. Each team, depending on which time zone and geographies it is working with, functions on its own schedule. To support this flexibility, the company provides transport shuttles at different times of the day. It has also set up mobile-enabled tools so people can work from home or on the go. Moreover, all employees get “unstructured time” – 10% of their work hours are committed to doing something that is not directly aligned with their day job. This could include improving themselves or innovating for the company.

Employees can even bring their kids in to work if needed. Alternatively, if they must work from home on a day or at a point of time, they can make such an arrangement after talking to their managers.

Besides striking a good work-life balance, Intuit realises maintaining good health is key to a productive workforce.

Healthy living

The company has adopted a preventive healthcare strategy, which encourages people to lead a fit lifestyle by initiating fitness reimbursement plans wherein it doles out up to Rs 15,000 (around $232) in a year to each employee to cover the costs of any fitness activities.

Intuit is going the extra mile for women especially. All new mothers get 26 weeks of maternity leave “irrespective of whether they’re going through pregnancy or surrogacy or adoption,” the company’s senior compensation and benefits partner for the APAC region, Manoshi M Ghosh, told Quartz. “There is no discrimination.” Employees can also claim up to Rs 10,000 (around $153) for any medical costs they incur 60 days pre- and post- delivery, and the company will reimburse adoption services and infertility treatment charges.

Aside from making work life easier for existing women employees, Intuit has also been hiring more of them.

Opening up

Currently, 27% of Intuit’s workforce is female, up significantly from around 13%-14% three years ago. With a special programme, it has also provided avenues for older women who have had a break in their career due to maternity or other reasons to partake in an internship of sorts. At the end of the program, most of them are placed at Intuit or a partner organisation.

The fight for diversity also extends to the LGBT community. Intuit has one of the top 10 employee network groups for the cause. Its Pride Network designates safe spaces throughout its offices and makes counselors available. Its insurance coverage recognises domestic partners and it bears the cost associated with gender realignment surgery.

When it comes to integrating the differently-abled, Intuit is only getting started. The HR department is ensuring that interviews accommodate the disabled, too, and that the job descriptions cater to them. The workplace is also equipped for people with sensory deficits. “We’ve hired three interns with special needs in the HR team,” Baishya said. “As they intern, we are learning a lot from them. And once we’ve learnt it ourselves, we’ll teach the 1,000 people at the centre.”

This article first appeared on Quartz.

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