Seniority vs. performance based promotion

By AIM Team
June 16, 2017

When it come to promoting employees, you may be weighing seniority vs performance-based promotion. There are many ways to measure if an employee is qualified for a position. Both performance and seniority, as a means of measurement, have their own merits.

“Promoting based solely on seniority is not just an imperfect solution – it’s a terrible solution,” says Jeff Haden of

Let’s look at why performance-based promotions are a better bet for most companies.

Pros of Performance-Based Promotion

Superstars Wanted

Perhaps the biggest perk of hiring based on performance is that you’ll have a better understanding of where your employee stands in terms of quality. You already know they can perform well and see that they have great potential. It only makes sense that they’ll stand a better chance at “delivering the goods” going forward.

Plus, superstars don’t want to work in an environment where their talents aren’t rewarded. So, you may be harming your recruiting efforts by creating a culture where “floating by” is valued over “standing out.”

Push for Innovation

Newcomers can bring a fresh perspective to the table. Because they have only been with the company for a short time, they may have a keener eye when it comes to improving products and finding efficiencies. Encouraging everyone to do their best every day is the surest way to drive innovation.

Culture of Achievement

With performance-based promotions, employees can’t fall back on their seniority for promotions. When the best performers are the ones who get ahead, employees may be motivated to put forth extra effort. Focusing on achievement can increase overall productivity.

Cons of Performance-Based Promotion

Lack of Loyalty

Though not always the case, those who have been with you the least amount of time may not end up being the most loyal. As a result, the amount of time and effort you spent choosing and training these employees for their new position may end up being for nothing (should they decide to leave).

Perceived as Unfair

Unfortunately, long-standing employees may find performance-based promotions as a slap in the face to their commitment to the company. In turn, you may end up with some employee dissatisfaction among the ranks, and possibly a rift between the newcomers and seasoned veterans.

Promoting from within isn’t just about filling a position; it has greater implications. Different promotion strategies affect your company culture in different ways. The question is: What kind of company culture do you want to create?