How To Make An Effective Formal Awards Program

I was recently in a meeting with an organization who wanted to design a formal awards program and I think they were surprised with the additional insights I brought to the table that they hadn’t considered before.

I will outline a few of the critical elements needed for creating an effective formal awards program. These areas will be covered under five broad steps that entail quite a bit of work for each one.

Each of these steps will help you whether a manually administered awards program or one simplified through technology.

Step 1: Planning

Identification Phase: It is important to identify the purpose and objectives of the award, the types of nominees or audience you are targeting, and the specific measurable criteria needed for judges to evaluate submitted nominations. You also want to consider what you want award winners to receive and experience at an awards presentation. How does the award program align with your organizational culture and business strategy?

Planning Phase: Setting up a formal awards program requires a detailed plan of action. There’s the purpose, criteria and business rules for the program, and the whole administration package. The other steps, below, demonstrate the multiple areas to be addressed, and all have to be accounted for. These include areas such as marketing and communications, technology, launching, and even the celebration event.

Step 2: Designing

Design and Development, Budgeting and Reporting Phase: These elements typically address online awards programs, but should certainly be considered in offline-administered programs too. Having a website landing page would be a minimum expectation in today’s tech-savvy world. Lay out the program objectives, who can be nominated, the detailed evaluation criteria, how to nominate yourself or someone, and the submission deadline.

Depending on how much money is allocated for the program budget, will determine the size and scope of what you can or cannot do. The money will bring a reality check for how your awards program will look like.

Online programs provide automated reporting capabilities to know measure volume of awards nominations, the timing of submissions, categories if multiple awards, and capabilities for completed nominations forms to be evaluated by the judges, and status updates.

Branding and Communications Phase: Most organizations do a great job of making the collateral marketing materials and website landing page look pretty. Where the breakdown can occur is not creating a marketing and communication’s calendar to ensure specific communications go out throughout the time leading up to and after the submission deadline.

Step 3: Developing

Information Technology and Security Phase: Naturally, these elements are critical for all online managed formal awards programs. The coding and set up takes time and should go through rigorous project management to guarantee on-time delivery. Once fully tested you’ll need to follow careful implementation steps and procedures to ensure everything integrates with your online systems.

Administration, Program Management, and Customer Service Phase: You need someone assigned to administer the program because there are a lot of moving parts. Program management of all the various steps required along the way will greatly help you stay on track. And you will need your own or third party customer service support available to deal with the challenges and questions beyond the FAQ’s.

Step 4: Launching

Technology Testing and Implementation Phase: Especially for online awards programs you will need to have user acceptant testing (UAT) to test the application of the awards program before you launch it to the intended audience.

Campaign Launching Phase: Your offline or online awards program will never succeed without a marketing and communications launch strategy. This is a big deal and requires many hands on deck to prepare your target audience, inform all leaders and managers, create excitement, and finally launch the program. Your campaign messaging should also be prepared for the celebration awards event before and after. You can share the details regarding the winners and the specifics of their nominations.

Step 5: Maximizing

Analysis and Insights Phase: Having an awards program developed and launched does not mean things are done and you can wipe your hands clean. It’s important to analyze the data and information you gained after each award cycle. You may be surprised by the insights learned such as which categories receive more or fewer nominations, the source of nominations, quality of the writing of nominations, etc. Apply these observations and insights into future award launches.

Program Improvement Phase: Always be open to feedback and analyze the data from an award cycle for what can be improved. Solicit ideas and suggestions from both individuals who were nominated, the judges and people within the target audience.

The key is never to fall in love with your awards program such that you won’t entertain ways to improve. I recommend you be in a state of wanting to make your awards program the best that it can be. Evaluate as an internal team or committee and provide a report back to your leadership sponsor.

These are the bare essentials to consider when developing an effective awards program.

Reflective Question: What has your experience shown you to be essential in developing an effective awards program?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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