Learning to look inside
In a time of talent scarcity, it’s these efforts to continuously foster and enhance existing internal capabilities that give enterprises a competitive edge. “The number one mistake I see companies making today is feeling like they have to go out and hire (digital) talent,” Parke says. “You can’t just hire your way out of this war.”
There’s a flipside to the emphasis enterprises tend to place on fresh recruits, Parke says. “A lot of companies are missing out on a lot of great people they have internally, and tend to undervalue the knowledge of the business that their existing employees have.”
Undervaluing current employees can be reckless in an environment where “everyone who has digital capabilities is getting inundated by recruiters on a daily basis,” Parke points out. “You have to think of your employees as people you’re constantly re-recruiting. The average time that people are spending at a company is decreasing, attrition overall in the industry is increasing. People think about their careers in a much more fluid way.”
This gives rise to the need to create what ThoughtWorks has termed a “cultivation culture.” Instead of one-off programs at defined intervals, opportunities to learn and develop are constant, and training and development a shared duty embedded in daily interactions.
“When we think about how quickly technology moves on and client expectations change, the ability to learn as an organization is one of our differentiators, and that needs to go down to the individual level,” Gorman says. “We’ve put a lot of focus on the collective responsibility to grow each other, to share knowledge, to teach, so as a collective we can be more impactful and pivot as we need to around technology change and client demands.”
“One of our explicit expectations is that everybody cultivates others,” Soman explains. “That means taking a keen interest in your colleagues, what their aspirations are, what their skills and talents are, what they want to do and giving those opportunities to them. And if you’re a senior leader, once you provide that opportunity, to get out of the way.”
What does cultivation culture look like in practice? According to Gorman, who has seen it take root with ThoughtWorks teams in India, it’s defined mainly by a clearly articulated focus and small but persistent practices “that make the concept of cultivation part of the vocabulary.”