How To Set Up a Committee for Judging Formal Awards

Formal recognition programs are often the most common type of programs present in organizations. You find that many organizations invest the most amount of time, money, and resources in their formal recognition programs. 

These more formal programs often have a prestigious name associated with them, such as Excellence Awards, Pinnacle, President’s Awards, or other branded names. These awards are where employees or managers can nominate an individual or a team for a specific award category. 

Awards will vary depending on the industry sector your organization fits under, such as, 

  • Trades and services.
  • Information and Communication Technology.
  • Healthcare and medical.
  • Mining, resources, and energy.
  • Hospitality and Tourism.

The award categories of awards might include going above in beyond in such areas as: 

  • Innovation
  • Leadership
  • Customer Service
  • Quality Improvement
  • Patient Care
  • Health and Safety
  • Sales
  • Organizational Values
  • Teamwork 

The one thing in common with all organizational formal awards, no matter what sector they are from, is the need to have a judging committee. 

And that’s what we are going to talk about today, how to set up a formal judging committee so you can recognize and celebrate the outstanding performers where you work. 

Reverse Engineer from the Award Ceremony 

You more than likely have a specific month in which you hold your organization’s formal awards ceremony. This is the date that you are not only targeting with the names of the award recipients but to have those names approved and forwarded on for inscription on any formal trophy, plaque, or crystal award for presentation. 

Working backwards, you obviously will have a list that looks something like this: 

  • Awards presentation and celebration event.
  • Receiving the inscribed awards.
  • Ordering the inscribed awards.
  • Submission of award winners for executive or board approval.
  • Submission of award winners for HR approval (if deemed necessary).
  • Final Judging Committee review meeting.
  • Email a reminder to all judges to complete the judging process.
  • Individual judges adjudicate each award nomination.
  • Communicate and meet to review the judging process with all judges.
  • Award nomination entry deadline date.
  • Call for award nomination entrants with communication plan.
  • Finalize your judging committee selection. 
  • Seek recommendations and invite potential judges.
  • Select a judging committee chairperson.

Selecting a Judging Committee Chair 

It’s important to select a judging chair who has experience.  

If you have been running awards for a while, then you could call upon a previous judge to take on the role of judging committee chair. Or perhaps they have led other committees that would help to know how to lead a group of people. 

Naturally, they have to be organized and detailed oriented to keep all the ducks in a row to meet the required deadlines. They must show good leadership and communication skills and have a positive attitude in advocating for the various formal awards you celebrate. 

They must become fully award of award nomination process and of the criteria and scoring rubric used to adjudicate the various award nominations. They will probably have a say or at least some decision ability on selecting the members of the judging committee. This is important since they have to be comfortable working with the judges.

Essentially, the judging committee chair has to know the award judging process inside out to anticipate and answer all potential questions the judges might have. 

Selecting the Judges on a Judging Committee 

Pulling together the right team of judges makes all the difference in scoring and selecting each award winner. That’s why you must start early, because the right people are often busy with other responsibilities and their calendars get booked up quickly. 

Look for experience by finding people who have previously acted as judges on internal award selection committees or even externally on community organizations. In putting out the request, you might have them seek endorsements for the role. 

Seek out a diverse representation of people from unique positions and length of experience from across the organization. You might even consider a former award recipient as a potential judge rotated annually.  

Spell out the date timelines they must operate in, the typical number of award nominations from previous years, accessibility of nomination forms and supportive documentation and video content, scoring rubric, and how to submit their scoring results and commentary. Hold a judging committee orientation meeting to review the process and answer questions. 

I am often asked what the right number of judges is to have on a judging committee. The ideal number seems to be five because of a good number base and for the odd number to tip the scale on scoring the winning award. However, never go fewer than three judges and never go higher than seven. Higher numbers become so unwieldy to manage and get together for review meetings. Five is so much more easily workable 

A judge’s role in carefully scoring each submitted nomination against the scoring rubric and adding commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of that they wrote, takes a lot of care and time. Committee chairs and organizational leaders should express their unfailing gratitude for the time and effort given by judges. Acknowledge the contributions of judges in your printed event program and publicly by whoever is leading the awards ceremony.

The more time you take in selecting the right makeup of a formal awards judging committee, the more rewarding the whole award experience will be.

Recognition Reflection: How effective are your judging committees in giving valuable feedback back to the nominators of formal awards?

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