What Makes for a Great Nominated Award Program?

It was yesterday when I heard about an organization that had set up a formal award program called their CEO Award. The only problem was this formal award program was being undermined by other leaders and managers. Not very helpful.

Make a nominated formal award program a success right from the get-go. Look at the following factors and see what you can control for to make your award program a great one.

Appealing and Meaningful Purpose

It is best to start off with what your purpose is for your nominated formal award program. 

  • The Oscar Awards – to recognize achievement in the film industry.
  • Recognition Professionals International Best Practice Awards – Achieve the industry standard in recognition.
  • The Emmy Awards – recognize excellence within various areas of television and emerging media. 
  • Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award – to promote improved quality of goods and services in U.S. companies and organizations.
  • American Music Awards – represents the year’s top achievements in music determined by the fans, for the fans.

Take the time to create a written purpose statement that is aspirational. Employees want to feel emotionally connected to something that is prestigious and has a high profile. Being nominated for this award is a big deal.

This also means that the name of the award and the branding of the award must correspond with this meaningful purpose and description of the award. Don’t go with anything trite or create a “just because” kind of name.

Keep The Nomination Process Simple 

One goal of your formal award is to make it accessible to everyone. A common problem with formal awards is that their criteria can make them exclusive to only certain types of employees, such as professional positions. What you can do to meet the needs of all employees is to have different categories of awards like what you see within the Oscars, for example. 

Have the nomination form set up so it is easy to complete with sufficient explanation to provide necessary details. Develop video tutorials and written examples along with step-by-step instructions for how to write a nomination. You can always accompany the nomination with attached documentation to support the review process. 

See if you can have your technology team or third-party vendor create an online nomination tool to submit award nominations through your recognition program.

Make The Award an Inclusive Experience 

As I shared earlier, your formal awards program should permit all employees to be nominated. Give opportunity to share the stories from past award recipients throughout the year. In fact, while there is always a closing date for final submissions, promote and encourage employees to send in nominations throughout the year.

Do all you can to communicate the names of all the nominees for each of the various categories of awards. This is indirect recognition of all potential winners. The criteria for the award should be fair and equitable and easily understood by everyone.

You can even have past employee award recipients become part of the adjudicating committee. Other judges will be leaders and managers and these individuals can rotate on and off the committee every two or three years.

Judging the Final Award Winners 

Always create a project flow timeline from when final nominations are submitted through to the expected date of announcing the winners. And don’t forget to plan in the awards ceremony as well. 

It is very important to provide ample time for your judges to adjudicate the nominations. They will probably squeeze this task into their regular work responsibilities. So, judges will need a timeline to complete the judging by, but without too much pressure.

They should use a scoring rubric along with giving subjective commentary from each judge. This gives the judges a quantifiable scoring for comparison between one another for each nomination. Some will be harder judges and others more lenient, and they can discuss any glaring differences using metrics. The subjective commentary should give strengths of the nominee and areas to improve upon if resubmitting next time.

You may choose to have the judges assist with notifying the winners prior to the formal announcement. Once they make the formal announcement, it is time to get ready for the formal awards ceremony.

Make sure that they also sent the feedback from the judges back to the submitters of each nomination. This helps with educating what it takes to write a successful award nomination.

The result is well-deserved award winners and an awards program people are excited about participating in. 

Exceptional Awards Ceremony 

Like the formal award, set a purpose and goals for what you want to achieve from your awards ceremony. This is about honoring and celebrating award recipients and acknowledging all the nominees.

Invite the right people that are meaningful to each award recipient to be in attendance. Have leaders mingle with employees or sit at tables with employees rather than apart from them. Draw on the five senses and work at using visual and auditory stimuli such as lights and music, banners and branded imagery. Where permissible and affordable, have special catering or food items prepared. Remember, this is a celebration. 

Do everything you can to make every award given a celebration and not just a presentation. This is a special experience for each winner. Ensure each recipient has their special moment video-recorded and captured in photograph. Memories are made at these award events that will never be forgotten. Make sure a video editing team or company condenses or segments video-recordings of each recipient. They can post these to your organization’s intranet and shared through LED display screens throughout the organization.

Have your CEO send a special, personalized letter to each award recipient after the event. They can even handwrite a little personal note at the bottom of the letter. Accompany the letter with the photograph of them presenting the award to the employee.


As you can see, there are a lot of things that go into making a great nominated award program. 

1. A great nominated award program must have positive and celebratory feelings associated with it for the award to be something people aspire for.

2. Stand out nominated award programs are something people talk about and are always easy to submit. The process is simple and straightforward, and there are typically guides to help anyone complete the nomination form.

3. They can nominate everyone for one award or another. They should never exclude any employee.

4. The judging process has clear criteria with objective scoring and subjective commentary. They give feedback to the submitters of nominations to keep the process transparent.

5. And the awards ceremony, whether in person or online, is designed to be an exceptional experience that award recipients will always remember. 

Recognition Reflection: What review process do you have in place to ensure you have great nominated award programs?

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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