And the award goes to...

August 2, 2012

Here at Brilliant Ink, we’re in the midst of awards season. No, we’re not indulging in the Teen Choice awards or the MTV Video Music Awards (okay, maybe some of us are). 

For the past several months, we’ve been working with our clients to pursue a number of workplace awards, from Working Mother magazine’s “100 Best Companies" to more specialized awards like Training magazine’s “Top 125 Companies.” Just last week, we wrapped up our work on behalf of one of our clients on the “mother of all workplace awards” – Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to work for" list.

Applying for these awards is a huge undertaking, and requires the involvement and support of teams across an organization, and many companies seek additional outside support from agencies like Brilliant Ink. But the pay-off is typically well worth the investment. Receiving one of these awards brings significant public recognition that can be useful in recruiting efforts. After all, who wouldn’t want to work for one of the best companies to work for? 

What’s more, these awards also offer external validation of a company’s internal efforts – building pride among employees while helping leadership understand what’s working well. Many workplace awards – including Fortune’s and Working Mother’s – are based largely on raw data in the form of feedback from employees or basic metrics like the number of women in management positions and benefits details. 

However, most applications also offer the opportunity to provide open-ended responses to questions on topics ranging from diversity to learning and development. Over the years, we’ve worked on dozens of award entries, and offer the following tips and best practices to develop an award-winning application:

Having a senior leader standing behind the application can help to gather the necessary support from across the organization. While the leader doesn’t necessarily need to be involved in the nitty gritty of information gathering, if he or she demonstrates that its an important effort for the company, others will likely be more willing to provide support.

Build a core team

Typically with representatives from HR who are aligned to the topics of the award application. A well-connected administrative assistant can be a critical member of this team – ideally someone who knows where to go to get information and isn’t afraid to knock on many doors to get what’s needed.

Recruit subject-matter experts

Beyond the core team, recruit an expanded team of subject-matter experts (SMEs) for each topic area of the application. Be sure to give these SMEs plenty of notice that the award is coming and what’s expected from them – a note from the aforementioned senior leader can be a great way to do this.

Keep your application concise and interesting.

This seems obvious, but remember that the people reviewing your application are also reviewing hundreds of others. Including every minute detail of your company’s policies won’t be nearly as memorable as an entry that is tight and well-written.

humanize your entry

This will also make it more readable for the judges, and help to bring your company’s policies and programs to life. Include letters and quotes from employees, or stories of individual employees who have benefitted from specific programs and policies highlighted in the entry.

Plan ahead

Developing an award application is a very time-consuming process, and the people who will be contributing to the content all have demanding “day jobs.” So, it’s critical to plan ahead – build a project timeline working back from the deadline and give your core team and SMEs ample time to provide content. And don’t forget to build in plenty of time at the end of the process for last-minute legal reviews and edits.

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Alison Harrison

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