A software company takes a radical approach to how it interacts with employees. 10Pines tries to be transparent and democratic, it even allows employees to set one another’s wages.
Ariel Umansky, one of the team members, decided to reject his proposal to increase the salary by 7% in December 2020. He felt he could not justify it to his colleagues. In fact, it was the second time in five years that he refused a 10-pine augmentation.
“I felt a little insecure and exposed because I was (on a level) close to or even higher than the people I considered better than me,” Umansky explains.
“It’s easy to feel like a hustler.”
The salaries of the Argentine company are determined three times a year at a meeting that includes all employees, except for the new employees who are still under probation.
Employees (or mentors on their behalf) can apply for a bonus, which is then openly discussed.
10Pines is a technology company founded in 2010, with headquarters in Buenos Aires. It has 85 employees and develops software for clients, including Starbucks and Burger King, to do things like online loyalty cards, apps, and e-commerce platforms.
Every year, 50% of the profits are shared among the employees.
“An essential aspect [dos salários abertos] “It’s not just about knowing how much everyone earns,” says Umansky. “It’s about knowing who gets more than who – it’s the hierarchy, isn’t it?”
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 at open monthly meetings, where major company decisions are made regarding new prospects, expenditures, and financing – and, of course, salaries.
There is no CEO, and there are no managers within the teams, although there are high-profile personalities, known as “colleagues” and “masters”.
“Because there are no bosses to decide the increases, we are delegating that authority to the people,” says Jorge Silva, 10Pines’ co-founder and “lead”.
“We don’t want a wage gap like in the United States.”
New hires can negotiate their wages to an extent, Silva explains, which can be a problem at first. The proposed salary is discussed with the employees with similar experience in the company to obtain their approval.
In the final recruitment process interview, the candidate meets the entire team of more than 80 people, which is an introduction to how group dynamics work. There are no technical issues at this point, it’s more about learning about 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 it’s informal,” says Silva.
“But we are cutting off hiring operations at this stage,” he adds.
“Even if they were geniuses, we can sense if they would create tension by not being part of the team.”
10 Pines calls this approach “sociocratic.” It was inspired by Brazilian businessman Ricardo Semler, who promoted a transformation at Semco, his family’s manufacturing company.
He transformed it into a “flexible and collaborative company”, where employees oversee issues traditionally left to managers, reducing employee turnover and revitalizing the company’s destiny.
Smler wrote about this in “Turning His Table”.
“It has become our holy book,” Silva says.
There are more and more “progressive and transparent companies” like this all over the world, according to Ben Whitter, author of Human Experience at Work and president of the consulting and employee training firm HEX Organization in the UK.
He believes that the idea of pay transparency could be a good way to balance the game, for example, between men and women.
“In many companies, salaries can be left in the shadows, and there is a fear that“ whoever you know ”will decide them. In this way, it turns out to be accountability.
However, it also sees some flaws in the 10Pines system. While this setup can work when you have 80 employees, once the company doubles in size, the benefits may diminish, in his opinion.
In addition, hiring decisions based on a one-on-one encounter with the entire workforce can hurt those who are more introverted, while creating “a natural bias in group thinking, whereby people make decisions that they would not normally make as individuals, raising questions about diversity and inclusion.”
However, 10Pines says it promotes diversity programs, such as unique learning plans for women, and believes its overall approach can continue at scale.
“We’ve been developing the process for 12 years,” explains Angelis Tila-Arena, a seasoned software developer.
“For example, we started salary discussions when we had 30 employees and we were afraid it wouldn’t work with 50 employees, but we are continuing to adapt. We need to update processes so that trust is maintained.”
According to her, opening a second office might be necessary if the company continued to grow, which would duplicate the process and operate in the same system independently.
“The key is to understand that there is a difference between equality and justice,” says co-founder Jorge Silva.
“We are not all the same, but we try to be fair. We don’t want to be like the classic company trying to control employees and treat them like children.”