When we interviewed Thoughtworkers to understand their thoughts and opinions about cultivation, we realized that for most people “cultivation” didn’t mean much or it meant different things for people in different regions. So we identified a strong need to align on a definition and shape what cultivation means at Thoughtworks.
We socialized the definition from the Schneider model, alongside some sentences crafted to address the most common questions and doubts from our colleagues:
Finally, to ensure a shared understanding of Cultivation, we spelled out what cultivation is not:
Once we agreed on a definition, we focused on how to help our colleagues to practice “Cultivation”. Therefore, we created and socialized cultivation behaviours, to help people understand how they can bring cultivation to life and to provide them with a common language to describe actions related to cultivation. One behaviour doesn’t exclude another, and all Thoughtworkers are invited to explore the behaviours, play and practice with them to find inspiration for their own way of cultivation.
"The idea of introducing behaviours comes from the desire to make an abstract concept like cultivation tangible. Our beliefs manifest in our actions. Our behaviours can be observed by others that can encourage us or help us to improve."
- Sara Michelazzo, Service Designer
Our journey towards Cultivation culture followed 4 main steps:
1. Shifting Mindset
The first step towards a culture of cultivation was to make sure that everyone understands what Cultivation is, how it can be brought to life and why it is so important for each employee and the organisation as a whole. For Thoughtworks Germany, this mindset shift was supported through company-wide Cultivation Workshops that focused on sharing the definition, tangible behaviours and individual cultivation stories of what made people grow in their professional career. We ran workshops with 299 participants, 86% of the total headcount. After the workshop, 93% of participants agreed they knew how to apply cultivation behaviours.
Once the foundation was established, we moved the focus towards upskilling employees to develop the capabilities required for cultivating others. Some of the most important skills we identified are: effective feedback, mentoring, having difficult conversations, setting growth goals and spotting and nurturing potential in others. Our Learning and Development specialists produced custom learning experiences (playbooks, training, workshops, online courses) needed to grow others, such as ‘Giving and receiving feedback’. These learning resources were made available to all Thoughtworkers via our intranet.
To sustain the cultural change in the long term, the team defined clear roles and responsibilities for ongoing support and a governance structure to keep Cultivation at the forefront of people’s minds is key. Cultivation started as a change program in Thoughtworks Germany and after 15 months we are transferring the ownership of cultivation activities to the Talent team and, in the near future, they will treat this as business as usual.
Employers, employees and in our case, also clients, can benefit from a culture of cultivation alongside the support of individual growth.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.