If you believe that everyone in your workplace is worth listening to and you encourage all your employees to share their opinions, you already agree with the concept of meritocracy. This newly revived outlook on management is a valuable one for many small businesses, especially if you’re in the beginning stages of building your company’s culture.
Retaining Your Company’s Culture During Growth
Your company’s culture changes as you grow, and you may find yourself in danger of losing some of the beautiful elements that go with a small business, including high morale, flexible schedules, and a sense of community. Involving your entire team in decision-making — one of the key factors in a meritocracy — is one of the main ways you can keep your company’s culture intact through growth.
Other methods to retain the feel of a small business as your numbers increase include holding company events that bring everyone together and finding ways to stay approachable even as layers of management start to separate you from your lower-tier workers. You can also retain your workplace culture by finding ways to reinforce your values, typically by providing incentives for employees who exemplify what you want your company to stand for.
What is a Meritocracy?
Does the word "meritocracy" conjure up an image of stuffy academics making pronouncements from on high to determine how the "little people" should behave? Maybe it meant something like that once, but nowadays, that image couldn’t be more off the mark. A meritocracy is an organization in which everyone can express an opinion openly without fear of negative consequences. In a meritocracy, decisions are made by choosing the best ideas, regardless of who came up with them. Think of meritocracies as an extension of the old-school office suggestion box — but one that actually works.
Within a meritocracy, the owners or managers of the company still make the final decisions, but they choose the best ideas after hearing what everyone has to say. A meritocracy also provides a clear path to the top for those who consistently propose good ideas that are adopted and prove profitable. Based on the merit of their ideas, those people earn respect and are promoted into positions of greater responsibility and decision-making power.
How to Build Your Workplace Culture Around Meritocracy
When you build your workplace culture around meritocracy, you retain that "small business" feel because all your employees feel empowered to contribute ideas and opinions. So, just what steps can you implement to build a meritocracy culture?
Start by empowering leaders at all levels of your company. Don’t assume that all leaders hold a management position — in fact, you’ll find that thought leaders and influencers in your organization show up at every level. Take advantage of that influence by giving them the tools they need to bring about real change. Also at all levels, you can look for individual employees who show passion for a specific task, product, or project. For example, if an employee at any level shows real passion for the logo design for your new product line, transfer them into the department where they can exercise that passion.
Another key element in meritocracy is listening to the opinions of everyone. When you model this trait as the business owner, you set the standard that everyone else tries to meet. Encourage the free flow of ideas by establishing meeting protocols that make sure everyone’s heard.
Building your workplace culture around the concept of merit dissolves barriers that inhibit the free flow of ideas, opening your company to innovation and creativity while helping employees feel heard and appreciated.