Who doesn’t like winning an award? We loved getting awards in school for academic excellence, team sports, or competitions in music or debate. After we leave school, we seek awards that highlight our team, our project, or our company. Given our love of public recognition, it is no wonder that nearly all industries have awards to recognize achievement and excellence in their fields.
Beyond the excitement of winning, industry awards serve other important purposes. First, they broadcast current thinking about what constitutes excellence within the industry. As technology advances and organizations simplify, innovate, and improve, each industry must continually set an increasingly higher bar for itself and its practitioners. Awards signal to practitioners how the bar has moved. Second, awards provide concrete examples of what excellence looks like. When an award granting institution recognizes a business practice, we see the evidence of what and how they did it and now have a model to emulate. Finally, the process of applying for the award requires organizations to inventory their current practices, reflect on their successes, and evaluate their level of excellence compared to their peers. This process, regardless of the outcome, helps each applicant determine their strengths, gaps, and opportunities for improvement.
If you’re thinking about pursuing one or more industry awards, read on to learn what you should consider and what benefits you will reap, whether you win (this application period) or not.
The Learning and Development (L&D) industry has a plethora of awards that recognize overall function effectiveness or the quality and impact of strategic programs. A few institutions recognize specific capabilities such as eLearning or measurement expertise. If you’re thinking about pursuing one or more industry awards, read on to learn what you should consider and what benefits you will reap, whether you win (this application period) or not.
Should you Apply?
The first question you should ask is not which award you should consider, but rather, should you apply at all? If you have applied in the past and won, congratulations. If you have applied and lost (or not placed), this post will provide insights into what you might do differently. If you have never applied, read on to learn if and why you should apply.
Start by honestly answering the five questions below:
Do you have a sponsor for this effort? A sponsor is essential. This person will ensure you have the right people and resources to tell a comprehensive story. If you don’t have a sponsor, reconsider if applying makes sense.
Do you have the time and/or resources to create a quality application? Awards applications take time and a diverse group of resources to pull it off. You will need a project manager to organize the work, writers, and editors, subject matter experts to provide content, and analysts to provide data and insights. You will also need to engage corporate communications and, most likely, your corporate legal department to review and approve your application. Without the right team and time allotment, you may not be able to create a high-quality application.
Do you have the skills to write the application? If you do not have the skills internally, you will need to hire them. You need skills in project management, business acumen, written communication, and measurement/evaluation —the stronger the skills, the higher the quality of your application.
Do you have a reasonable chance of winning? If you are only applying to win, then ask yourself, are you good enough to win? If you are not yet ready, be realistic, and spend the time internally to improve your processes so you can win in the future.
Are you applying for the experience? If winning is less important than the experience, go for it. You will learn a lot about your organization. If you don’t care about the experience but are focused on winning, go back to question four. If your organization isn’t likely to win, don’t apply.
The Benefits of Applying
If you answered yes to questions 1-3 and yes to question 4 or 5, move forward. The application process will be valuable to your organization, regardless of the outcome. There are four distinct benefits to applying: two internal and two external.
- Reflection and learning: The application process will require you to reflect on your organization. Are your programs innovative? Are they efficient and effective? The application process will shine a light on what is working well and where you need to improve.
- Skill building: Writing a winning application requires you to weave data and insights into a compelling and impactful story. Use the process to hone the writing, analysis, and storytelling skills of the application team. These skills will serve you well beyond the application process.
- External validation: Winning (or receiving honorable mention) recognizes your work through an impartial third-party. If you don’t win, the award granting institutions may give you feedback to pinpoint where to improve your processes, relationships, solutions, and impact.
- Showcase your organization: The award tells your peers that you strive for excellence and demonstrates that your organization invests in developing its people and improving performance.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.” First, decide if you should apply. If you do, use the process to make your organization a better version of itself, regardless of the outcome.
If you’re unsure where to start or are looking for an extra set of hands to support your award application strategy, our team of experienced consultants would love to talk with you about your goals and learn how we can help.
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