Rules and Regulations for Merit Promotions

An employer must work to define merit as clearly as possible.
An employer must work to define merit as clearly as possible. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Merit promotions allow companies to fill positions with the most qualified employees. Many government agencies and corporations implement merit promotion programs. For these programs to work effectively, companies should establish rules and regulations on how emloyees are promoted. The merit system has its advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the pros and cons and how to establish policies can allow a company to incorporate merit promotions successfully.


The rules and regulations for a merit promotion program should state the intended purpose of the program. For example, the Department of State Foreign Affairs states in its policy section that the merit program’s purpose is to fill its open positions with employees best qualified for the job. The department uses merit promotions to establish equality in the workplace. A company may decide to list in its policies the specific job positions covered by the merit program. An organization should make its policies accessible to employees.

Eligibility Requirements

The rules of merit promotions should detail the company’s eligibility requirements. For example, the organization should include the minimum amount of time an employee must work at the company before consideration is given for a merit promotion. The organization also should list employees who are ineligible. An organization may decide not to consider temporary, contract or part-time employees. To limit confusion and bias, a company should not make exceptions to the eligibility guidelines.

Selection Process

A company should include information in its policies about the selection process, including how to submit an application and how promotions are determined. Merit-based promotion programs are more difficult to define and measure than seniority-based plans. Implementing performance appraisals helps to inject equality into the selection process. Performance appraisals document employees’ past performances, whether good or bad. Companies should hold managers responsible for following their rules and regulations for merit promotions. Enforcing accountability can help reduce claims of unfair and unlawful discriminatory practices.

Pros and Cons of Merit Promotions

The ability to match an employee’s professional skills and abilities to a position is a primary advantage of merit promotions. Merit-based promotions can serve as a means to motivate employees. Many employees who know that promotion is based solely on merit work hard to increase productivity and perform at a high level. The risk of a manager showing favoritism during the promotion process is a disadvantage of merit promotions. Some subjectivity is required. Another disadvantage is that the system may create unhealthy competition in the workplace, which hinders productivity and decreases employee morale.

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