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Ranking in the top 5 Best Places to Work in Australia, Intuit tells us how it’s done

The desire to be happy at work and enjoy your job is not an unreasonable one – after all, we spend the vast majority of our waking hours working. True – some of us submit to the notion that getting paid to work is not synonymous with enjoyment, but an increasing number of the workforce are reaching the conclusion that this idea is just not good enough. As they say – life’s too short. What happens next has potentially disastrous consequences for a business. In what could be described as an act of passive protest, despondent individuals walk out the door in favour of greener pastures. Because they can. When this sentiment becomes representative of the wider workforce, a retention crisis beckons bringing with it a multitude of negative side effects. To name only one, it’s estimated that costs of recruitment, training and lost productivity can range from 90 percent to 200 percent of an employee’s annual salary.

‘We knew we had something pretty special in our culture’

But this all sounds extremely gloomy. Although there’s plenty to be said; discussions around where and how businesses fail don’t always make for the most constructive, let alone interesting read. With this in mind, Dynamic Business looks towards Intuit, a tech business that provides finance and tax software for small businesses and individuals. Why? Because this business achieved third place in the rankings for Best Places to Work in Australia after only two years’ operation in the Australian market.

Intuit Managing Director, Nicolette Maury
Intuit Managing Director, Nicolette Maury

Speaking to Dynamic Business about the position, Managing Director, Nicolette Maury, said “of course with our ‘Australian flare’ that our local employees have contributed to – we knew we had something pretty special in our culture.”

“That said, given our newness with only two years in the market growing from a handful of people to a team of 70 across 3 states, we didn’t know what to expect.”

“We were genuinely delighted and excited to have been ranked so highly and there was a lot of excitement as the results were read out!”

‘A case of careful alignment of business objectives and career expectations’

The award may have come as an unexpected delight but perhaps not so much a surprise. Nicolette’s comments suggest that Inuit has been very focussed on getting the business off on the right foot in Australia. According to Nicolette, it has been fundamental to the health of the business and its culture to hire individuals who are passionate about their mission “to profoundly improve the financial lives of their customers.” A case of careful alignment of business objectives and career expectations. Their ‘Customer Empathy’ initiative is one of the unique methods employed by Intuit to achieve this alignment. As a result of the program, Intuit employees have spent a total of 10,000 hours with customers worldwide.

“The energy and insight they come back with is outstanding – they understand how much we can help small businesses become more successful.

“We’re a passionate culture that hires people who are passionate about our mission. We live and breathe our values rather than just posting them up on the wall,” said Nicolette.

‘We call employees our number one stakeholder’

But here comes what is arguably Nicolette’s most throwaway, yet pivotal point: “we like to have fun – and that includes some healthy competition such as ping-pong and foosball,” she said.

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Intuit’s leadership team believe that a great deal of work needs to be done beyond the marketing of internal values and expecting a following in return. Nicolette said “we care and give back. There’s a lot of research that says you increase productivity by looking after employees holistically. This is our company philosophy and it leads to better business results.

“We call employees our number one stakeholder.”

‘It’s the actions that yield indirect results that carry the most clout’

Pursuing actions to achieve direct results could be where many leaders go wrong when cultivating a workforce. If they facilitate ‘entertaining’ gatherings to instill company values; will employees be those values? Probably not. As Intuit demonstrates, it’s the actions that yield indirect results that carry the most clout. And these often have little or nothing to do with the core business.

Nicolette said “employees are whole people. So we think, how do we look after them holistically so they are doing sustainable work.

“In fact, this week is ‘care and give back week’. We have held morning teas and various charity activities; for example, cooking for the homeless. Activities like this bring people together and they have fun along the way.”

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‘Unstructured time’ is another unique initiative that Intuit has built into its cultural fabric. Unstructured time enables employees to work on specific projects of their choosing – projects that are not part of their day-to-day role.

“We spend a lot of time developing our staff so they can become the best version of themselves,” said Nicolette.

‘Our staff create the environment they work in’

So how do you know what ‘makes employees tick?’ How does a business know what initiatives will have the indirect effect of engaging employees so they “bring their whole selves to work and do their best work,” as Nicolette puts it?

“Our transparent environment is critical. Our staff create the environment they work in. We engage our staff to decide through surveys, an engagement committee and representatives across the business, for example. We build employee empathy to understand the drivers of culture.” That’s how Intuit do it.

“If we didn’t do this, we would have a much higher turnover,” she said.

Having already reached 33,000 paying subscribers across Australia, Intuit recognise that they have come a long way since they established in the Australian market – much credit to the productive internal environment they have swiftly crafted.

That said, there’s apparently room for improvement: “we will of course aim to be number one – so we have some work to do to achieve that,” said Nicolette.

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Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs was editor of Dynamic Business.

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