Full transparency as a lever for success at Teal Partners
by Nick Van Langendonck
The Unbossers Network is bringing together 11 influential changemakers alongside their colleagues from esteemed organizations to forge connections with companies that have successfully intertwined financial success with a genuine concern for both society and its people. As we embark on this unique journey, we are simultaneously capturing the compelling narratives of these exceptional events. We present to you the fourth installment of this series – a truly remarkable day at Teal Partners.
Introducing Teal Partners
Teal Partners is a technology firm specializing in supporting leading organizations with their digital transformation. Their primary focus is on helping corporate clients achieve efficiency gains through optimizing their operating model and existing processes with custom build software. Additionally, they assist them in transitioning to a more digital business model, aligning their operations with their business and pricing strategies.
Founded in 2016 by Jelle Huygen en Koen Denies, Teal Partners has experienced significant growth since its inception, currently boasting a team of +50 highly skilled software builders. What sets the team apart is their extensive expertise (>10 years average seniority) in software development and large projects, which allows them to foster a collaborative and mature work environment.
They collaborate with renowned clients, including SD Worx and Actief Interim, on transformative projects that drive their European ambitions and enhance operational efficiency. For SD Worx, they are engaged in developing an international core HR solution for the SME market, encompassing payroll input, core HR functionality, and expanding into various European countries.
Another notable project involves supporting Actief Interim in their digital transformation journey. By optimizing their internal structure and digitalizing operational processes, they have enabled their consultants to focus on client growth and provide enhanced staffing and recruitment services. Furthermore, they anticipate that this shift towards a more digital and autonomous offering will revolutionize the industry, allowing clients to access staffing services independently through digital platforms.
To complement their project and consultancy services, Teal Partners has also developed proprietary tools. One of these tools streamlines the bonus and merit cycle processes within larger companies, facilitating HR master data management, performance evaluation, and compensation adjustments. They also offer JOUBO shares, a product aimed at helping organizations establish employee stock ownership plans, fostering a sense of ownership and alignment among employees.
These are just a few examples of the innovative projects and tools they offer at Teal Partners. They also developed flexible income plan products, wage forecasting and budgeting tools, support for social elections, and simulation tools for individuals considering entrepreneurship.
It’s crystal clear that Teal Partners believes in leveraging technology to drive positive change and optimize organizations’ operations. Despite their impressive story, they remain very humble. They love to share their story and practices, but they do not claim to hold the universal truth or provide one-size-fits-all solutions. Their goal with co-hosting this roundtable with Unbossers is to inspire and offer insights, allowing other changemakers to find their own path towards success.
Consistent application of four simple design principles and their consequences enables Teal Partners to retain scarce talent effectively
Main design principles at Teal Partners
Over the past seven years, only three people have left Teal Partners. With a team of +50 employees, including almost 45 developers, they take pride in creating such a supportive and stable environment for their staff. Considering the typically high turnover rates in the IT industry, it is not unfounded to claim that they have succeeded in establishing a nurturing workplace which is based on four simple principles and their sometimes hard consequences:
Design Principle 1: Full transparency
Teal Partners embraces design principles not only in software architecture but also in their organizational approach. 100% transparency is the first key principle that enables trust, ownership, and entrepreneurship for both customers and employees.
At Teal Partners, they advocate for self-managed teams and decision-making. Therefore, they believe accurate information and transparent communication on most matters except customer-specific legally confidential (NDA) information is essential.
In line with their transparency ethos, Teal Partners even extends it to their remuneration policy, where everyone is aware of each other’s earnings. This transparency also applies to financial results, contracts, daily rates, and costs, internally and externally. They consider it their main lever to cultivate trust and ownership by providing comprehensive visibility to both employees and clients.
Design Principle 2: Co-ownership of the company
Secondly, Teal Partners also values creating a nurturing and prideful environment for their employees. People working at Teal Partners should consider it ‘their company’ and ‘home’.
This principle holds great significance to Koen and Jelle. Not only do they offer employees alternative ways to become co-owner of the company, such as contributing to strategy and vision, but they also share in profits, and participate in the company’s value growth.
While initially, they aimed to enable every employee to buy shares, but the practicality of this approach proved challenging. The rapid growth of the company led to a substantial increase in its value, making it financially feasible only for those with substantial means to participate. They were adamant about avoiding such inequality. As a result, they devised an alternative solution through a profit-sharing system.
Fifteen percent of the annual profits are distributed among all employees. The amount an individual receives is proportionate to the number of months they have worked with Teal Partners. Additionally, when a share is sold, fifteen percent of its value is divided among the entire team too.
This combination of autonomy and reward allows them to uphold the principle of shared ownership and ensures that every team member benefits from the company’s success, regardless of their financial resources.
Design Principle 3: Collaborate in a mature manner
At Teal Partners, collaboration thrives in a mature and caring culture. They invite team members to take ownership and drive initiatives, eliminating the need for managers, coaches, facilitators, or rigid evaluation processes. Instead, decision-making is decentralized and organized in a consent decision-making process that everyone can use. If someone has an idea or proposal, they have the autonomy to make it happen.
In addition to this collaborative approach, they place great importance on cultivating informal contacts and communication within the organization. They understand the value of building relationships beyond formal meetings. The office provides top-notch coffee and a welcoming space for impromptu conversations and connections. They also organize various events such as team lunches, TeaLbuildings, and quarterly updates, fostering a sense of community and engagement.
These informal interactions and shared experiences contribute to a vibrant and cohesive work environment. They facilitate the exchange of ideas, forge relationships, and build trust among team members. They firmly believe that these connections go beyond the professional realm, strengthening the overall work culture and promoting collaboration on a human level.
At Teal Partners, they recognize that a supportive and enjoyable workplace not only leads to greater software but also enhances the overall well-being and satisfaction of team members. They strive to create an environment where collaboration thrives, relationships flourish, and individuals can bring their whole selves to work.
Design Principle 4: Goal alignment
Aligning personal goals with organizational goals is the fourth guiding principle. Teal Partners’ organizational structure is designed to mimic a human cell, where self-managed project teams take center stage, connecting their customers directly with their talented developers. Meanwhile, internal teams focus on handling operational aspects, ensuring a smooth functioning of the company.
Frontline employees, mainly developers, are giving the freedom to choose which internal teams they join. This freedom allows them to align their personal interests and talents with their chosen roles within the organization. By integrating these internal responsibilities into their day-to-day work, they are able to contribute to multiple facets of the company’s operations. As such they have teams for recruitment, marketing and sales, operations, and other important functions.
This collaborative approach enables all employees to actively participate in shaping and driving the growth of Teal Partners. By leveraging their diverse skills and interests, they foster a dynamic environment where everyone has the opportunity to contribute in meaningful ways beyond their primary project responsibilities.
So wait, everyone knows each other’s pay?
“Our open pay policy has sparked curiosity and generated numerous inquiries. Let me clarify any misunderstandings right away. We do not all earn the same amount, but we do have visibility into each other’s earnings. An open pay policy fosters fairness and transparency, cultivating trust, which is crucial for a strong team. When communication about wages is open, trust among team members is enhanced,” explains Koen Denies, co-founder of Teal Partners.
At Teal Partners, salaries are determined based on the individual’s years of relevant experience and performance. Performance evaluation encompasses three aspects: individual impact, organizational impact, and commercial impact. They assess how an employee contributes to Teal Partners’ and its clients’ success, and this evaluation is carried out collectively each year with complete transparency.
So, how is the salary structured?
A Teal Partner’s salary comprises the gross salary, supplemented by hospitalization and group insurance, as well as compensation for copyrights. The software programmers receive royalties for the code they develop. Additionally, there is a flexible budget and a mobility budget. The flexible budget empowers employees to allocate funds for devices like laptops or cell phones, extra vacation days, or insurance according to their needs. Every Teal Partner shares in the profits and is eligible for a performance-based bonus known as the collective bargaining agreement 90, which rewards the achievement of predetermined goals.
Allergic to Agile
At Teal Partners, they wholeheartedly embrace and embody the Agile values and principles as the foundation of their approach. However, they are allergic to all the roles, rituals and methods commonly associated with Agile methodologies. Despite undertaking multi-million software projects, they intentionally avoid the presence of product managers, scrum coaches, and stand-up meetings, among others.
Their primary focus is on collaboratively building software alongside their customers. Their development teams take full responsibility for all necessary tasks and activities required to build high quality products. Nothing more, nothing less.
Koen Denies succinctly summarizes their philosophy, stating, “If you rely on daily standups to understand how your colleagues are doing, it indicates deeper issues beyond Agile methodologies. We firmly believe that effective communication, trust, and transparency should naturally exist within our teams, eliminating the need for excessive meetings or rigid structures.”
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