The benefits of organisational meritocracy

What is a meritocracy?

A meritocracy refers to a workplace without hierarchy – essentially, everyone has the right to speak and the right to be heard. On this basis, employees who work hard and achieve results should progress based on their performance.

A relatively new concept, a meritocratic workplace does away with the idea that those who have served an organisation the longest or simply have the most years of experience, should work in higher-ranking roles. In a meritocratic organisation, employees are rewarded based on their achievements and nothing else, disregarding age, gender and any other discriminatory factors.

Over recent years, the concept of meritocracy has seen a considerable rise in modern workplace culture, in organisations that wish to leave behind the stuffy corporate culture of the past and embrace the future.

However, “it’s important to understand that a meritocracy is not a democracy. There is no “decision by consensus”; not everyone has a vote.” So, while everyone is heard, there is no responsibility to act on everyone’s opinions – that, of course, would result in a melting pot of far too many ideas.

Instead, a meritocratic culture is intended to make sure that every employee is valued. This is why it often works so well – the structure of an organisation does not become so flat as to overrule those voices who have the weight of experience.

To help you understand why so many companies are adopting a meritocratic culture, we’ve put together some of the top benefits of rewarding your hard workers.

Get ready for increased retention rates

Recognising high performance is a sure-fire way to ensure your employees stay with your organisation. For employees, there is nothing more demotivating than achieving excellent results for your company, only to realise that they are being overlooked due to their age or length of service.

After all, if an employee has only been with you for a short space of time, but they’ve achieved over, and above what you’ve asked of them, nothing is likely to prove your commitment to them more than rewarding them early.

Happy employees are motivated employees

According to 6Q, happy employees are more present, engaged and loyal. A meritocratic culture can result in happier employees because when their achievements are recognised, they feel their contribution is valued.

It’s common knowledge that working hard with no pay off will soon result in a lack of motivation. Employees who aren’t motivated are unlikely to care about your organisation and their role in it. As a result, they will achieve less, and eventually, move on.

A benefit to rival others

While a meritocratic culture is becoming more and more common, it is not yet the norm, and there are still many, often larger organisations with more traditional, hierarchical structures in place. This means that a meritocracy is a significant benefit, especially for more junior level employees – it implies a clear career path and significant chances for progression as long as they work hard.

This is often where smaller companies and startups have an advantage over larger companies with fixed policies and procedures. Where large organisations may struggle to overhaul their promotional systems and reward schemes, startups can implement a meritocratic structure from the very beginning. As a result, they are more likely to attract top talent and make quality, long-term hires.

How to make sure your meritocracy is fair

In a looser structure where there is the possibility for anyone to be promoted at any time, there is always a chance that some employees will be overlooked and still end up dissatisfied. Maybe some employees are just better at speaking up, or perhaps individual managers are better at recognising their employees’ achievements.

Whatever the issue, there are ways to make sure you do not keep rewarding the same people over and over again. For example, implement regular one-to-ones with team members to find out how they feel and cultivate an environment in which honesty is encouraged.

In meetings, give space to quieter employees who will not necessarily speak over other people to make themselves heard. As well as this, make sure managers have time to manage effectively. You cannot promote a meritocratic environment when some team members have proactive managers, and others have overworked managers who are unable to give their all to every member of their team.

Improving business success from the inside out

While a meritocracy isn’t always an easy structure to implement, research shows that organisations with happy employees have more business success. When implementing a meritocratic culture, there are many questions to be asked, such as how you recognise success and how you measure which voices carry more weight.

It’s important to keep asking questions, no matter how long you’ve cultivated a meritocratic workplace, to make sure that your employees are always at the heart of your answers. As long as they are, you’re on the right track to a productive, employee-led meritocracy.