Where meritocracy ends and connections begin.

Great brand experiences start with great people.  Are you casting the net far and wide to find that talent?


Imagine a workplace where all the plum assignments, all the rich monetary awards, and all the promotions were steered to relatives, friends and other members of an executive’s inner circle.  In any self-respecting organization, such a practice wouldn’t be tolerated.

To create a positive workplace experience, most every business aims to be a meritocracy, rewarding employees based on their accomplishments, not their connections.  But there is one place in the business arena where companies still focus a lot on who you know rather than what you’ve done.  And that’s recruiting.

Despite renouncing nepotism, favoritism and other sources of preferential employee treatment, companies still place a lot of emphasis on their personal networks when finding and vetting candidates for job opportunities.  The dichotomy is striking – while companies tout meritocracy for employee advancement, they implicitly reject it for employee recruitment, far preferring to source candidates from in-network referrals.

That “who you know” could be so publicly rejected as a criterion for employee recognition, yet openly embraced as a cornerstone of talent acquisition, is both fascinating and unsettling.

Read more about this topic, and the resulting risks to organizations, in Jon Picoult’s New York Times article, “Networks Too Big For Their Own Good.”