Victor Allis and Quintiq: Fairness is Fundamental


Nothing jeopardizes a high performing corporate culture more than real or perceived unfairness. Conversely, nothing engenders loyalty like a leader and a culture that is committed to being straightforward and fair in dealing with people.


Anyone with kids knows that the word “fair” quickly becomes a four-letter word. As soon as one of my kids declares, “That’s not fair!,”  I immediately give them the classic father reply: “My friend, life’s not fair.”

Yet adults are just as attuned to fairness as children.  Nothing jeopardizes a high performing corporate culture more than real or perceived unfairness. Conversely, nothing engenders loyalty like a leader and a culture that is committed to being straightforward and fair in dealing with people.

Victor Allis and his company Quintiq http://www.quintiq.com/ are great examples of developing a high-performing culture with fairness at its core.  Headquartered in suburban Philadelphia and the Netherlands, Quintiq uses a proprietary software platform to help a wide range of clients solve their supply chain “puzzles.”  On any given day, they are helping an automotive parts manufacturer to schedule production that meets customer demand, a logistics company to optimize its truck delivery routes, and a shipping port to get ships in and out quickly and safely. Whatever logistics puzzle they are solving, Quintiq has lots of smart, experienced people to tailor their system to meet each client’s goals. They have been successful at recruiting and retaining this top talent due in large part to a culture that employees perceive as extremely fair.

How do Victor and his leaders translate this commitment to fairness into practice?  Here are a few challenging examples from which all of us can learn. These insights are drawn from my own discussions with Victor as well as from other articles and interviews including this interesting New York Times article:  http://nyti.ms/2uuZwGu

The Open Board Meeting

Victor says that when the company was first founded, he and the other co-owners would meet as a board.  When they started hiring employees, they invited those employees to the board meeting and shared all the same information except for individual compensation.  As the company grew, every employee knew exactly how it was performing financially.

Most business leaders are not going to share this level of financial data, and I am not arguing for “open-book management.” But I think Victor and Quintiq should challenge all of us to consider how transparent we are with our own teams. When people don’t have detailed, accurate data, rumor and conspiracy theories prevail.  Over the years, Victor and his team have been willing to have a radical level of transparency and employees have responded in overwhelmingly positive fashion. Because they know the numbers, employees base their opinions and actions on facts not rumor. Furthermore, Victor and his leaders are able to earn buy in for their decisions because these decisions are based upon numbers to which every employee has access.

Money Doesn’t Talk – It Screams

Historically, Quintiq has given 15 percent of its profits back to employees. Each employee from the CEO to the most junior employee receives the same amount of money from this profit sharing (base salaries are market priced and vary by person and position).  Again, I share this example because it is unusual – most annual bonus plans are based on a percentage of base salary. The challenge for us is to consider if our compensation plans reinforce the fact that business is a team sport where everyone is valuable. As a friend of mine says, money doesn’t talk – it screams. Our compensation plans have to reinforce the attitudes and behaviors that we want on display in our organizations. If we want more teamwork and “all for one, one for all” attitude, our compensation plans must reinforce those attitudes.

Promotions based on Passion not Politics

Over the years, Victor has repeatedly told people that hanging around his office to get face time, inviting him to play golf, and other forms of schmoozing with senior management will not get you promoted. Instead, he and Quintiq are very intentional about broadcasting advancement opportunities to the whole company and giving everyone a shot at promotions. They accomplish this by sending out a company-wide email letting people know when, for example, a new international office is opening. Anyone within the company who is interested can apply for these roles. What’s interesting is that it is often not the people who look best on paper who are selected for these promotions.  Instead, it is the people who are both well-qualified and the most passionate that end up being given these opportunities.

People don’t expect to get every promotion or opportunity that arises. By giving people a shot at being considered for a role they want, they are more likely to view the process as objective and fair vs. subjective and political. Victor and his team have systematized fairness in this area. They are intentional about creating a politically-level playing field when it comes to being considered for the career advancements that are so important to most motivated people.

Summary

While adults are quieter about it than kids, human beings are highly attuned to fairness. Just like parents and families, no leader or culture can be perfectly fair. But we can learn from the examples of those who are particularly effective in creating a level playing field for their employees. Without an intentional effort like the one Victor Allis makes, human beings and the organizations they create default to operating by rumor, favoritism, and politics. We can do better than that. Let’s consider the model that Victor and Quintiq provide. In ways that fit our own vision and values, let’s work to create a culture that spurs creativity, innovation, and performance through fairness. Good things will happen if we do.

 

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