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Would you let colleagues decide your salary?

An Argentinian software firm aims to treat employees with transparency, from sharing profits among staff, to asking them to set each other's salaries

An Argentinian software firm aims to treat employees with transparency, from sharing profits among staff, to asking them to set each other's salaries

Imagine a work get-together where you discuss who gets paid what: whether Dave in IT deserves that pay rise, or if Carol in HR should wait another month to kick up a grade.

At Buenos Aires-based software developer 10Pines – which shares 50 per cent of profits with its staff – ‘rates meetings’ are a reality. And though they might sound like the kind of staff gathering with potential for toe-curling embarrassment, the company’s founders believe their radical approach is paying dividends.

“We tried to find a response to the classic problem in our industry: people doing the same job but earning different salaries,” said 10Pines co-founder Jorge Silva.“Often, a new starter begins on a higher salary than existing employees. They might be needed urgently, or might just be better at negotiating. We try to eliminate that unfairness: if you do the same job, you can expect the same salary.”

"There are no hidden numbers: our employees can see where the money goes."

High staff turnover is another issue in the software sector, with job-hopping considered a standard tactic to leverage pay rises.“We’ve tried to generate trust and commitment by having an open book policy,” said Silva. “There are no hidden numbers: our employees can see where the money goes.”

10Pines staff meet monthly to chew over important decisions, and all but new entrants who are on ‘probation’ meet three times a year to debate pay. They can put themselves forward for a pay rise, or can be nominated by a mentor. Silva said an employee has never faced a pay cut, but explained how one newcomer agreed to start on a lower salary after an open discussion about his skill level. On the flipside, there are examples of staff saying no to a pay rise, if they don’t feel its justified.

Jorge Silva 10Pines founder

10Pines co-founder Jorge Silva calls the firm's approach 'sociocracy'. Image: 10Pines

For would-be employees, the final stage of the interview process means meeting the whole team of up to 80 staff. “Usually there will be 40 to 50 people there,” said Silva. “They get to participate in the process of having a new co-worker.”

Silva said 10Pines’ ideas – inspired by the experience of Brazilian businessman Ricardo Semler (as explained in his book, Maverick!) – are catching on with other companies in Argentina. Silva is happy to lend a hand. “I know we are in a radical position,” he accepted. “But we are helping them to start thinking about salaries or how they make decisions. We are helping them to have a healthier environment at work.”

Main image: Antonio Janeski

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