Do You Promote on Merit?


“I think we should promote Ethan,” a manager said.  “He has been here the longest and he gets along with everyone.”

“What about Angela?” asked another manager.

“She does good work but she is not certified.”

“What do you mean?”

“After training, she chose not to take the exam.  She only has a junior college degree and she has been with us for just two years.”

When evaluating persons for promotion, discussions often center around a mishmash of issues such as:  length of service, college degrees, licenses, certifications and even popularity among co-workers.

The major criteria for promotion, I believe, should evolve from the answers to two questions. What skills does the position require?   Which candidate best demonstrates these skills?

We have all known highly-certified and advance-degreed individuals who still did not possess the skills for performance excellence.  And there are countless examples of individuals with few, or no degrees, who are extremely talented and skilled.  Remember, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg are college drop outs.

I understand there may be social and media pressure to promote on factors other than merit.  I also understand that the most successful organizations, just like sports teams, strive to put their best players on the field.