Why Meritocracy Drives Innovation of World-class Products

4 min readDec 10, 2020

Technology companies that employ a meritocracy, people forge their own path to leadership, not simply by working hard and smart, but by freely expressing innovative ideas that positively impact their teams and company.

For organizations to foster innovation effectively, employers strive to recruit, and retain top talent. To be able to accomplish this, they cultivate meritocracies. This means hiring and rewarding the best individuals based on their talents alone.

In an organization that practices meritocracy, everybody has the privilege to express their ideas, and do so transparently, without fear of negative consequences. These ideas are listened to, and decisions are then made based on the best ideas. While decisions aren’t made by consensus, the idea of meritocracy is that everyone’s views are heard. Involving everyone in the workplace is infact one of the top goals for fostering a positive and innovative work culture.

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 exclusively lead. Instead, a meritocratic organization truly values its employee, by nurturing and rewarding their talent.

Why meritocracy enables innovation

In a high tech company, true meritocracy is defined as a system where ability and achievement is the basis for advancement, rather than connections, status, or power. A meritocratic culture is the key for companies to remain competitive and successful. It tends to make the most capable individuals happier, as their achievements are recognized. And research clearly shows that happy employees lead to direct business success. To do so, meritocracies — hiring, rewarding, and promoting the best people, based purely on their merit, are a must.

Meritocracy fosters innovation of world-class products because it:

  • Creates a results-based culture of performance and accountability.
  • Provides clear and openly communicated expectations and metrics.
  • Ensures transparency of results, which is available to all.
  • Builds structures to keep the context alive.
  • Develops a culture of acknowledgment.
  • Prioritizes performance and uses it as a scale for rewards.
  • Enables achievement of employee’s goals.
  • Tends to make employers learn from coworkers leading to self-development.
  • And, endorses efficiency and effectiveness of organizations.

How to build and sustain a culture of meritocracy

Tech companies lead in making formal frameworks that ensure employees are judged exclusively by their efforts, skills, abilities, and performance, paying little to literally no heed to sex, race, class, or nationality. By focusing on what someone brings to the team, meritocracy creates more opportunities for people to succeed, no matter their background.

At Roadzen, a strong team based on the culture of meritocracy has been built upon. It is a culture of respect and kindness, where everyone has a voice is part of the company’s DNA. Backing the best ideas with committed action has been the key to building world-class insurance products. It has resulted in a place that allows one to be authentic, express themselves fully, and bring purpose to the building of innovative products. “Our culture encourages collaboration and open discussions, where organizational hierarchy does not limit approachability. In here, the best ideas actually win,” says Sonia Samal VP Product.

The key to building of a successful meritocracy at Roadzen has been its commitment to well-defined core values, development of empowered leadership, and nurturing of talent based on a culture of listening.

Ascribe to your Core Values

Defining and evaluating candidates and employees based on a set of organizational core values helps to eliminate any inherent bias. By placing value on collaboration, transparency and work ethic, at Roadzen high performance, ownership and impact of a largely flat structure has been achieved. It results in high standards and ownership of work, and raising of the bar for everyone around.

Empower your leaders

Establishing clear processes and criteria for the hiring and evaluation of employees is the job half done. What matters is monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of such company processes, by giving the responsibility to an individual or group within the organization with the ability, and authority to ensure that those formal processes are fair.

Foster passion across the organization

By identifying what motivates an individual and then empowering them to set their own direction makes all the difference. Instead of requiring that a candidate has specific skills to fit a role, hiring for their potential, and helping them build upon it is what is needed. To do this, systems that provide training, mentorship and internal opportunities for employees who have not had access to them have to be created.

Encourage a culture of listening

In a meritocracy, great leadership is not about having great ideas — it is about ensuring that the best ideas emerge. It is up to the executives and managers to set the tone of the workplace and encourage an environment that promotes listening and sharing. It is impossible to have a meritocracy if ideas are not allowed to surface and flow freely.

While a meritocracy involves lots of voices, opinions, and data to dissect, it does help companies stay on the cutting edge, by bringing to light the best ideas. But an innovative employee-led true meritocracy does not happen overnight. It takes time and a consistent track record to develop, and earn respect and influence in a meritocracy. Stating the core values of a meritocracy, and putting in place the policies and systems are important first steps in creating a meritocracy, but sustaining it requires accountability and transparency, which can remove biases caused by a lack of vigilance. Only when provided with the right tools and transparency for communication and encouragement, can natural thought leaders emerge.

And no matter how long a meritocratic workplace has been cultivated, it is important to keep asking questions. The answers to which, are best found when the employees are always kept at the heart of the solutions.