Can Winning an Award Really Help Your Business Succeed?

ISL director Alan Furley talks about the company's 'Great Place to Work' award and how he plans to use it as a marketing tool...

Cue the fanfare! It’s time to show off about one of my proudest moments in ISL Recruitment’s 10 year history – I can officially say my business is a Great Place to Work, one of only 27 in our category across the whole of the UK, and a winner at the first time of asking.

The PR value of winning an award like this is clear. There’s a feel-good success story that you can share in your marketing to raise your profile and strengthen your reputation. However I believe the process of getting your business ‘award ready’ is valuable too. If you get that right, the business value of winning an award will last far longer than the smiley award pictures.

So I’m writing this post to explain how and why we did it at ISL, so you can see if similar recognition might help you achieve the goals for your business. Whether that’s attracting the right clients, partners or talent, winning the right award can really help. Here a few things we’ve learned in the process.

Why do you want an award?

As with any business decision, the first thing to do is to get clear on your objectives. What’s your reason for putting your business up for an award?

With the Great Places to Work award our objectives were:

  1. To understand how good (or bad!) a place to work we are and how to get better.
  2. For someone external and credible to recognise we’re a good place to work, so that we can promote this to people who might not otherwise know of ISL Recruitment.

For us, the award process was a brilliant learning opportunity for the whole team, and that combined with the marketing and PR value of becoming a Great Place to Work made it a good investment.

You might believe that you’re already a brilliant employer and that you just need something to help you shout about it. Winning an award would give you a platform to help you tell the story of your business.

Or it might be that getting an award feels a very long way off. You’d like to be a great employer but know you’ve got a lot of work to be done, and aren’t sure where to start. For you, winning a business award would give you a framework to measure how you’re doing against industry benchmarks.

So before starting the awards process, ask what are your objectives? Sounds obvious but unless you take a step back and think about what you’re looking to achieve by winning an award, you’ll struggle to get lucky enough to focus on the right award for your business.

It takes a lot of time and effort along with a few thousand pounds to go through the process. It has to be worth it for you, so define what the value is first before you dive in.

Which award is right for you?

Do you want a development tool or a badge?

  • If it’s a development tool, what bits of your business could do with some serious attention?
  • If it’s a badge, who is it that you want to impress?
  • If respect from potential clients is really important to you then talk to the companies you work with about the awards they respect.
  • If you want to showcase the work you do with the local community then talk to local media and organisations about initiatives that give you this recognition.
  • Do you want to be seen as a fast growing beast, or international trailblazer?

Whatever your goal, there will be accolades out there that will really help you highlight that message. Think what you want the award to do for your business, and choose the award to fit.

Why did we choose Great Places to Work?

We wanted something that would benchmark our employee engagement across industries, give us feedback on what to improve, and be a credible badge to our target employees. We wanted recognition, and a process that would help us improve.

The Great Places to Work award met these goals, and allowed us to get the initial result before spending additional time (and money) analysing the key areas for development.

We also really liked the fact that the Great Places to Work wasn’t just based on what me or my business partner, Henry, said about the company. Two thirds of our score was based on what our employees said about life at ISL and this was gathered through an anonymous survey. This felt more genuine. (Of course you’ll have to trust I didn’t stand over their shoulders forcing them to answer positively to each question. Although I’m happy you could ask them directly and they’d say the same!)

If you decide to go for it on the award front, here are a few tips to help you get the most out it.

Five tips for getting the ultimate business value out of the awards process

1. Listen to your employees

We’ve always valued the opinion of our staff, for example regularly asking them for honest feedback on what we do well and what we can improve across all areas of the business. Although ISL isn’t a democracy, we’ve been clear with everyone who considers joining us about the values of the business, so if they’re loving or hating the things we do day to day then we need to know.

2. Don’t hide the bad stuff

Asking people for honest feedback is a bold step; you might not like what people say. It might be that your workplace is a really good place but maybe just not for the people that work for you currently. If you’re not living and communicating your values then a bad score on an award could help you realise that you’re hiring the wrong people or promoting the wrong behaviours. Credible feedback on what to do differently might cause you short term pain but if you’re confident your business has the right narrative then don’t be scared of entering rather than winning is the limit of what you can achieve in the short term.

3. Do something with what you learn

The process has turned up some insights that have surprised us, and that’s something that you need to be ready for too.

For example we didn’t score as well as I’d hope on Listening (Upward Communication). This was something I thought we were pretty good at, but from talking through this score with our staff we realised that we probably didn’t consult with them as much as we could on key changes and initiatives in the business. So for our annual conference at the start of this year we asked everyone their opinion on two important areas – flexible working and what autonomy meant to ISL – and discussed this before making any changes. This really helped make sure that we had a good plan in place and the score helped prompt us to make this change,

More specifically I believe you need to be honest about the feedback and be prepared to communicate it freely with your staff, even if that means telling people that you are sticking to your guns.

4. Be open with your team

It’s been important us that we haven’t hidden the results of our staff engagement work. Some companies might choose to cover up bad news like low numbers of staff rating them a good place to work. But it would be equally bad to get that feedback and do nothing with it.

Don’t bury bad news. And the same goes for good news. Don’t keep that to yourself either. Take the key points and use them to reinforce what you want your business to be known for. We’ve just started this process by making sure our values are clear in our infographics, videos and web copy. The award process has shown us that we’ve got some really strong positive things to talk about.

5. Alignment is key

Pick an award that rewards the things that you believe matter to the world. The award will become part of your business story, so make sure it fits your values and goals. Share the story with your people. Be clear on your vision, talk to your employees about their objectives, and understand how to use the award to work towards these aims together.

And finally

You probably realise that entering an award doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it, and partly that’s because the work you have to do to showcase your company for the first time might not come naturally. I think we look after and develop our staff well but I definitely struggled to articulate that well initially. My main advice here would be give examples, show don’t tell, and quantify the impact of what you do.

Hopefully this has helped you work out if an award will help you achieve your business goals, and if so which type of recognition is right for you. It might not be an easy task but I hope that sharing ISL’s experience helps you consider if going for an award is right for you.

If you want to know more then email me or connect on LinkedIn, otherwise I look forward to hearing about your award success in the future!

Read more our Alan's blog posts here.

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