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Do awards really matter?

Laura Johnson

Are awards worth it?

It’s always nice to be recognised for the work that you do, but with so many awards around these days, are you entering the right ones for you? Laura Johnson asks if awards are really worth it

As we enter the final month of 2013, it’s natural for companies to reminisce about the successes of the year past. But logging achievements isn’t just a private back slapping exercise – often it’s provoked by a looming deadline for an annual award submission. Regional awards, industry awards, media sponsored awards – there are too many to list. And the appetite to win these trophies is just as overwhelming. With salary rises and bonuses still not on the table for discussion in most sectors, companies are seeking other ways to motivate employees and make them feel appreciated. Getting public recognition for their brilliance at a glitzy awards bash is an appealing option.

But completing the entry forms can be time-consuming. Extracting the required information from the busy brains of your people is the first hurdle. Then there’s the laborious task of arranging this into a clear and concise submission. Finally, you’ll need to proof and polish it to perfection. Are awards worth the effort? Yes, if you win, is the instinctive response to this question. However, those in the know argue that taking part is just as beneficial. “I often hear the line, ‘I only want to enter if I’m going to win’,” says Chris Robinson, managing director of Boost Marketing, an award entry consultancy. “It’s a frustrating sentiment for me, because it’s based on the flawed assumption that the only people who benefit are the winners. At every level of award entry, from putting together your submission to winning the award, there are benefits to reap.”

It’s the taking part that counts

Research conducted with the shortlisted entrants of the recent TJ Awards revealed 70% of the 46 organisations surveyed could name benefits of simply submitting an entry. 59% of respondents go on to agree a benefit of entering awards is the positive impact it has on evaluation practices. It seems awards force companies to do something very valuable – take the time to appraise what they’re doing, benchmark this against competitors and identify opportunities for improvement.

But beyond the soul-searching rewards, awards are an effective way of boosting a company’s profile both internally and with the world at large. “The number one rule when entering awards is to maximise the opportunity,” says Jane Whitham of Cream Consultancy. It’s a mantra her clients are familiar with. When social enterprise Team Activ won a Daily Telegraph/Aviva School Sport Matters award last year, Whitham encouraged them to get the most from their moment in the spotlight.

“The social enterprise's founder, Darren Padgett, collected his award alongside Olympians and blue chip sponsors,” Whitham recalls. “He utilised every opportunity, gathering photographs with Gold medal winners, emotional endorsements, asking guests to become patrons and challenging the sponsor, Aviva, to become a corporate sponsor.” And his efforts paid off. He’s since been invited by the Shadow Sports Minister to sit on a national sports taskforce, which is raising his industry profile significantly.

Meeting new people

Winning awards continues to play an important role in Team Activ’s growth plans. “Awards are particularly useful for breaking into new sectors,” says Whitham. “This year Team Activ wanted to expand its corporate offer. Cream's strategy involved entering Team Activ into regional business awards rather than not-for-profit awards. In November Team Activ won the Community Award at the Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Awards which put the organisation in front of the very audience it was seeking to reach.”

Feeling more inspired to fill in that application form that’s been lurking at bottom of your to do list? Hold fire. There are a few tricks to writing an award-winning entry. First of all, get your head around that fact that you’re not constructing a report. Instead, treat writing your submission like a news story, putting the most interesting bits at the top to capture the attention of the judges from your first words. Then keep them hooked by prioritising facts, figures and testimonials over fluffy corporate preamble and back up any boasts with evidence. Remember the judges have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of entries to go through, so getting straight to the point and avoiding unnecessary technical jargon will definitely earn you brownie points.

Losing a judge’s favour is easily done. “We often get sent unsuccessful applications and people ask ‘why didn’t it win?’” says Robinson. “Every single time, we see the same two errors - they have not fully answered the questions and they have not backed up their assertions with strong enough evidence.” So the golden rule is don't bend the rules or take shortcuts. Not that any of you would, right?

ILM are asking for submissions for the Learner of the Year 2014 award, which celebrates those who have completed an outstanding project or made a difference to their team, organisation or community as a result of taking an ILM programme.

Entries close 20 December – get in touch with your exceptional learners.

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