3 HR keys to ThoughtWorks’ business success

Lindy Stephens, global director of people operations for ThoughtWorks, believes global mobility is an important ingredient in the success of the business

Hiring employees with an ability to code in multiple languages and think outside the box with regards to their application has been critical to the process of innovation and growth within the business of ThoughtWorks, according to its global director of people operations, Lindy Stephens.

“We want our people to be relatively agnostic in the types of software that they build. While some of them specialise in a particular language, we hire people who are experts at the process of writing software – but then ask them to turn their skills to different languages, platforms and types of technology,” she said.

“That’s one of the ways that we build a workforce that is responsive to changes in the marketplace, rather than only being relevant for today, because new languages and new tools are being developed almost on a daily basis.”

ThoughtWorks, which helps clients use technology to collaborate, create and innovate through more than 3000 people spread across 30 offices in 12 countries, also stays ahead of the competition through employing people who are enthusiastic learners and who understand broader industry trends as they happen, said Stephens.

“We do have a number of thought leaders around the world and here in Australia on particular tools and techniques used to build software. So in some ways we help drive trends, but we hire in a way that we want teams to be open to change and really welcome those changes as they come,” she said.

“We do take some risks, as we do hire some unusual people that have very new skills and we don’t really know what they do at times, so we test them in the market and see how it works.

“So this is a forward-looking strategy and a very open process, which is underpinned by our culture in which there is a learning mindset and that willingness and enthusiasm to keep riding the waves of change,” said Stephens, who also came through the business in a range of technology and product development roles before landing in HR.

Stephens also said the business is always looking for high-potential people who are interested in ongoing learning and teaching others, because part of consulting is sharing one’s skills with other people and clients.

“While it is good to have superior software skills, if you can’t transfer and teach these to clients through excellent communication skills then we’re not going to be successful,” she said.

In such a niche space, the pool of talent is small and competition for the best programmers is strong, according to Stephens.

“We’re looking for the top talent and so are all the other companies obviously, so we’ve had to be quite creative in our hiring practices to find enough people,” she said.

For the full interview with Stephens and story on how ThoughtWorks grows its business through talent, see the next issue of Inside HR magazine. Image source: Hayden Brotchie