The most important news
A software company takes a radical approach to how it treats its employees. 10Pines tries to be transparent and democratic, even allowing staff to set each other’s salaries.
Ariel Umansky decided to reject his proposed 7% salary increase in December 2020. He felt he could not justify it in front of his colleagues. In fact, it was the second time in five years that he had refused a raise to 10Pines.
“I felt a little worried and exposed to the fact that I was close to or even above people who I thought performed better than me,” Umansky explains. “It’s easy to feel like a fraud.”
Salaries are decided three times a year at the Argentine company’s “rate meeting”, which includes everyone except new hires still on probation. Employees (or mentors on their behalf) can come forward for a raise, which is then openly discussed.
10Pines is a technology company founded in 2010 with 85 employees, based in Buenos Aires. He writes software for customers like Starbucks and Burger King, creating things like online loyalty cards for customers, apps, and e-commerce platforms.
Each year, 50% of its profits are shared among the staff.
“A key aspect [of open salaries] don’t know how much everyone earns, “says Umansky,” but knowing who earns more than who – that’s the hierarchy, right? “
10Pines strives to have a flat hierarchy and to be as transparent as possible with employees. After a three-month trial period, new employees join the rest of the team in monthly open meetings where key business decisions are made, such as new leads, expenses, finances. of the company and of course the salaries.
There is no global CEO or real managers within the teams, although there are senior leaders who are associated, called “associates” and “masters”.
“Since there is no boss to decide on the increases, we delegate the power to the people”, says Jorge Silva, co-founder of 10Pines and “master”.
“We don’t want a wage gap like in the United States.”
Newcomers can negotiate their own wages to some extent, says Silva, which can be a problem at first. Their salary proposal is discussed with those with similar experience in the company, to obtain their agreement.
During the final interview of the recruitment process, the candidate meets the entire team of some 80 people, an introduction to how group dynamics work. There are no technical questions at this point, it is more about knowing people’s interests and giving them a chance to see how 10Pines works.
“I’ve been on the other side and it’s uncomfortable, but informal,” Silva says. “But we have stopped the recruitment process at this point,” he adds. “Even though they are geniuses, you can tell if they are going to create tension by not fitting into the team.”
10Pines calls his approach “sociocracy”. He was inspired by Brazilian businessman Ricardo Semler and his experience in transforming the manufacturing business of his Semco family. He made it into a so-called “agile and collaborative company,” with workers taking on issues traditionally left to managers, believing this resulted in low staff turnover and revitalized the fortunes of the company. He wrote about it in a book called Maverick!
“We took this as our bible,” says Silva.
According to Ben Whitter, author of Human Experience at Work and head of the UK employee coaching and coaching firm HEX Organization, there are more and more ‘pockets of progressive and transparent companies’ like this in the world. world. The idea of transparent salaries can be a good way to level the playing field, between men and women for example, he thinks.
“In many companies, wages can be put in the shade, and there are concerns that they are decided by ‘who you know’. It makes things clear and responsible ”.
However, he can also see some drawbacks in the arrangements of 10Pines. While this setup can work when you have 80 employees, once that doubles, the benefits may diminish, he believes.
And hiring decisions based on meeting the individual with the larger workforce can disadvantage those with an introverted disposition, while creating a “natural group-thinking bias, where people take it.” decisions that they would not normally make as individuals, which raises issues of diversity and inclusion ”. .
However, 10Pines says it runs diversity programs, like women’s-only learning programs, and believes its holistic approach can survive on a large scale.
“We’ve evolved the process in 12 years,” says Angeles Tella Arena, a senior software developer with the company. “For example, we started salary talks when we had 30 employees and were afraid it would not work with 50, but we continued to adapt. You have to update the processes in order to maintain trust. ”
It may be necessary to create a second office if the business continues to grow, which would replicate and operate the same system on its own, she says.
“The main thing is to understand that there is a difference between equal and just,” says co-founder Jorge Silva. “We’re not all equal, but we try to be fair. We don’t want to be like the classic company that tries to control employees and treat them like children.”
You can follow business journalist Dougal Shaw on Twitter: @dougalshawbbc