When you think of innovative businesses in Pune, which ones come to mind? Volkswagen, Amdocs, Visteon, Accenture, and, of course, Infosys are all up there – but what about Rapid Circle? The five-year-old firm, a Microsoft Cloud company (and formerly called Zevenseas), has created a work culture that’s unique.
Founders Daniel McPherson and Suyog Patki started the company in 2010 with some revolutionary ideas. Foremost, they wanted to create a workplace without a hierarchy. They wanted their workers to focus on creating great products and pleasing customers, not pleasing internal managers. They didn’t stop there. At Rapid Circle India, employees get goodies like free meals, an open office layout, and a space to play video games (there’s also a mural by a Pune artist). People aren’t required to come to the office. The flexibility is a huge benefit; some employees might do their best work from home, others might want to do some work while visiting family hundreds of miles away.
“We wanted to empower people to take their own initiative, to decide how to run their day,” McPherson said.
Most companies still use the traditional 9-to-5, hierarchical management system. However, some have started to mess it, primarily Silicon Valley tech companies that offer free meals, relaxed dress codes, ping-pong tables, and more. With that, ideas like holacracy, employee engagement, workplace culture, and people analytics have breached the borders of North America and are influencing companies around the world.
But, how does a company with no hierarchy function? Without bosses, who makes sure employees stay on task? If someone is working remotely from, say, Chennai, how can you make sure they’re not just relaxing along Marina Beach?
One way Rapid Circle India guards against misbehavior is by hiring the right people. They don’t recruit hiring agencies but instead search for people who are passionate about SharePoint through LinkedIn and references. It’s easier to trust people who are enthusiastic about the work they do. They don’t do job interviews, either. Instead, they hold a series of discussions with a candidate. They’ll run through potential work scenarios to help the candidate feel like part of the team. Even if the candidate is not hired, the hiring team makes sure that the discussions are productive and candidates learn something new and useful, plus they make a connection, Suyog Patki says.
Finally, there are only three job titles at Rapid Circle. Employees new to SharePoint start as interns. After interns are consultants, the most senior are fellows. This gives internal candidates a clear career path. Since the company’s founding in 2010, Suyog Patki says, only three employees have advanced to become a fellow.
The backbone of the company is a commitment to transparency and engagement. To keep everyone in touch, Rapid Circle uses TINYpulse, an app that allows company leaders to gauge worker happiness through light, weekly surveys. Workers get a different question each week, but some questions repeat so leaders can establish benchmarks around happiness and engagement. Rapid Circle has been using TINYpulse for over two years, and has found it invaluable to maintaining transparency. They also use it to involve employees in the operations of the company. TINYpulse is especially valuable alongside the company’s work-from-anywhere policy because it helps keep everyone in touch.
“We can easily peep into employees’ minds and see what the real problem is,” says Avani Patki, Rapid Circle’s culture consultant. They talk about TINYpulse explicitly during job discussion to ensure that candidates are comfortable with the tool, and are comfortable contributing solutions to company problems. The company reviews and publishes the TINYpulse survey results every month in an open forum. “It’s about ownership,” McPherson says. “We encourage employees not to complain, but to pick an idea and come up with a solution.”
McPherson believes that the company’s progressive values help them attract talent, which is tough in India as homegrown tech workers clamor to get jobs abroad. The number of software developers in the world will reach 25 million by 2020, up from about 19 million today, according to Evans Data Corp.’s 2013 Global Developer Population and Demographic Study. Asia will lead that growth, specifically India, where the population of developers will exceed 5 million by the end of the decade – more than the number of developers in the U.S.
Perhaps Rapid Circle’s take on the workplace will help them attract talented engineers who don’t see value in a 9-to-5 slog, or working for a boss who might be a dud. Visit the Rapid Circle India website and you’ll see the company’s answer that old approach. They call it “the right sort of different.” “We’re not afraid of taking a new look, from a different angle, and taking a chance on a new idea, a new way of doing things. This is what quality is, people enjoying what they do, and taking pride in it.”
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