Having claimed a London Business Award for its trophy cabinet, take it from this global company that an inclusive workforce is a trick most businesses are missing out on
Having gone strong for 25 years while picking up business in a spectrum of nations like India, China and Brazil, it goes without saying ThoughtWorks, the tech software company, has learned a thing or two about making business boom. “We’re growing a business dramatically,” says Gary Butters, chief sales officer of ThoughtWorks. “If you roll the clock back five years ThoughtWorks had about 50 to 60 people in the UK and now we’re 350 people, [with] two-thirds in London [and] one third out of Manchester.” The company’s expertise was recently put to the test as nominee of the London Business Award for Highest Growth – International Company, which it promptly snapped up. “We’re delighted, we’re really delighted,” Butters reacts. “We’re an international company but we have a big base in London.” Although the victory is of course thanks to a sound strategy, understanding markets and all the necessary cogs of the business machine, there’s one crucial pillar that’s far more important to this company that many neglect.
With a totally colour-blind approach to recruitment, ThoughtWorks has been able to hire the best candidates across the world, regardless of background, creed, gender, race or religion. “We could literally interview our talent through a thick curtain with a synthesised voice, we do not care,” Butters stresses. “We’re hiring talent because our customers get a sensational outcome [and] the business outcomes are dramatically improved because of the quality of the talent.” Indeed, with a deep-seeded emphasis on diversity and inclusivity since its foundation, ThoughtWorks has been able to dodge pitfalls many companies experience from a tunnel vision take on hiring. Butters points to reports of some facial recognition software not being able to identify certain ethnic minorities thanks to who’s behind the scenes. “And our view on that is ‘Well, you know if you recruit in that way then there’s bound to be a bias that creeps in when you’re doing algorithms and designing software,’” he says. “But if you’re representative of the whole population, you're going to have that bias reduced and you can get substantial benefit from that.”
But this focus on diversity isn’t just to see business thrive: social justice is something ThoughtWorks rather altruistically strives for. “As a three-pillar company, one of our key tenants is about [achieving] social justice and diversity,” Butters explains. This extends to carrying out donations, pro bono work and charitable causes alongside business. “We really do believe we can do good things in the world of tech,” Butters summarises.
And since expanding offices from its home base in Chicago to 14 other countries, London has stood out as the perfect stomping ground for the company’s open-mindedness. “I think folks coming here from around the world don't feel as if they’re outsiders, I think they feel as if they’re an integrated part of a broader cosmopolitan group.” Indeed, with about 40% of the capital made up of non-white groups, according to the 2011 census report by the Office for National Statistics, ThoughtWorks has been able to bolster its richly inclusive talent pool. “In London, certainly more than 50% [of staff] are non-UK so we're very proud of that diversity,” Butters says.
It’s fair to say that with a quarter of a century under its belt, ThoughtWorks is far from a relic – but it certainly knows more than most. In fact, Butters holds close some sage advice from a 1966 John West Foods commercial. “I’ve joked because I'm old enough to remember ‘It’s the fish that John West rejects that makes John West the best,’” he laughs. “A lot of folks don’t get that but we’ve got such an inclusive approach that we really can pick off the best talent globally.” To those keen to get their own business growth on the go and start collecting awards, Butters can’t repeat that slogan enough.This article comes courtesy of London & Partners’ Business Growth Programme. Tailored to your business growth ambitions, the programme offers free impartial business advice and support to SMEs looking to grow across London