Spotlight On Employee Awards

In our latest spotlight feature, we shine a light on employee awards. We will explore what are the benefits and what makes for a successful employee award programme. Plus we showcase Birmingham City Council’s successful Chamberlain Award’s programme.

Annual awards programmes play an important role in an organisation’s staff recognition strategy. More often than not HR is the champion of these awards, responsible for shaping and implementing these events. But it also needs to think strategically about what it’s trying to achieve. HR must ask themselves what is the business problem it is trying to overcome. Once that question has been answered the benefits become clear.

Clearly acknowledging and celebrating success is an important strategic driver for annual awards events. However, the benefits of annual awards extend far beyond the celebration of one night. According to an article in People Management, (“How to run an internal awards programme – Dec 2017”), they play an important role in:

  • Embedding values and culture
  • Inspiring desired behaviours
  • Rewarding specific achievement such as long service
  • Meeting an employees love for recognition
  • Providing advantages over traditional monetary incentives

So what makes a good annual awards programme and event

Easy – Make the criteria simple and easy to understand, so people know exactly what they have to demonstrate to win an award.

Post event comms plan – Have a clear and engaging internal comms plan after the event, to keep the story alive and encourage similar behaviours and importantly make it measurable.

Suitable symbolic prize – As a CIPD report suggests, symbolic rewards of notional value have a different and more beneficial effect to monetary ones.

Senior leadership buy-in – Is vital to the success of any awards scheme. Leaders must champion awards strategic benefits, as one of the most visible articulations of what the organisation values and is willing to reward.”

Integration with everyday recognition –Big annual awards schemes often need to be reinforced by everyday recognition, programmes and organisations who get the most out of their recognition programmes use a mixture of tools. They have the big event but support those with everyday recognition, backed by an active staff communication programme and provide management with the tools and training to celebrate and reward success 365 days a year.

Birmingham City Council Chamberlain Awards

In a snapshot interview with Blaine Steede, Reward and Recognition Officer, he shares Birmingham’s practical experience on running these awards and how to make them a resounding success.

Why did you introduce them?

“Birmingham City Council wanted to recognise and reward excellence in the workplace, acknowledging outstanding achievements and saying a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to council employees who have been seen to continuously ‘go that extra mile’ for the organisation and the citizens of Birmingham.”

What have been the benefits so far?

“The Chamberlain Awards provide a fantastic platform to reward both individuals as well as teams, through a number of different categories, which gives us the opportunity to showcase their hard work to the rest of the organisation. When colleagues can see that great work is rewarded, it inspires them to go that extra mile too. A kind of ripple effect encouraging others to live and breath the values of Birmingham City Council, to make a positive difference every day to people’s lives.”

What has been the feedback from colleagues?

“Feedback has always been great. But don’t just take our word for it below are some heart felt comments from people who have participated:

“Could you pass on our thanks to the organisers of the Chamberlain awards and to our category sponsors, we had a very lovely time, it felt very special to be part of the whole event and we were very grateful to be there”

“Our team loved being there, the whole night was seamless and it was great to be around some of the council senior officers and the chief executive”

“Of all the employees in the council, to be a finalist for employee of the year was a great honour. The sponsors on our table were great, the food and entertainment was amazing too”

What barriers did you have to overcome and how did you achieve this?

“As the Chamberlain Awards has been undertaken for a considerable number of years now, the organisation has become a little like a well-oiled machine.  There are the usual unanticipated issues that arise but having excellent colleagues within HR and OD working as a team, results in the delivery of a successful event.  When running the awards, we’re always mindful of the internal resources that we use, this is to ensure we maximise the return on investment. We always have opportunities to reflect, learn and improve, and this is key to year-on-year success.”

What would you advise another organisation are the top 3 things to make an awards programme a resounding success?

  1. Firstly, consulting with employees to ensure that this is something that they would value and engage with is of paramount importance.
  2. Secondly, buy-in from Senior Officers and Members of the council is very important. Their support sends a message to all colleagues what behaviours are truly valued and will be rewarded.
  3. Thirdly there are some practical considerations, particularly financial. Knowing your budget and what is affordable is key before embarking; being prepared to haggle with venues and/or caterers to get the best value (not always the cheapest option) and being prepared with a brand to sell to sponsors, if this is a chosen way to finance the event.