No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Training awards: Why they matter – and how to win!


AwardThere are plenty of awards open to training professionals and these could present you with the opportunity to benchmark against the best whilst boosting employee relations and external business at the same time. Stephanie Sparrow examines the power of training awards - and shares some secrets on how to produce award-winning applications.

Denise Hudson Lawson is used to meeting vote winners — her job as Parliamentary ICT training manager includes coaching MPs and Lords - but she was delighted to top the polls herself when she won an Institute of IT Training 'Manager of the Year' award this February.

"I was absolutely overwhelmed at the recognition from my peers," she says, "and by an award which reflects my passion for education."

Hudson Lawson's award was for her work in creating a training team that could work with members and staff in the Houses of Lords and Commons, and offer scheduled training in Microsoft for support staff.

She was also thrilled that her eight-strong team could share the glory when they picked up a separate bronze award in the 'training team of the year' category for the public sector. Hudson Lawson believes that the two awards have done much to raise the profile of the team and the Parliamentary ICT department as a whole.

She is not alone in believing in the power of awards: the way they can boost employee relations and external business is appreciated around the training community. And there are plenty of gongs, at least 13, to target.

What are awards really worth?
Awards are either run by industry magazines, professional institutes or government schemes. Admittedly effort is required to enter them but it is usually worth it, say participants.

Some organisations, such as performance improvement consultants Blue Sky seem compelled to notch up as many wins as possible. "We have won 22 awards in three years," says Blue Sky's brand marketing director Briege Kearney. "But we don't enter from a Blue Sky perspective, but in partnership with our clients."

More than just celebration
So Blue Sky sees awards as a way of motivating and celebrating their clients, but as Ed Griffin, interim learning training and development adviser at the CIPD points out, there are many other benefits from being involved with, or winning, awards.

"They can encourage employees to look at different ways of doing things. They can be a contributor to engagement," he says. Entering for an award revitalises the internal workings of an organisation, and can sustain positive thinking during times of recession.

"They are good examples of people doing creative work rather than just cutting back," says Griffin. "Particularly when people have broadened their skills set or invested in their leadership."

For National Training Award winner Paul Sealey, the outward-looking benefits of a rigorous evaluation programme were advantageous. "The NTA process is a great chance to benchmark yourself not just against your competitors but across UK industry," says Healey, who as head of group training and development at construction giant Kier, led his team to success in 2008 for Kier's leadership development programme.

And while he admits to being "elated" at NTA success he is similarly thrilled that the programme continues to prove its worth. "Now 75% of people who went through the programme are appointed to the board. Its created a culture of learning and the people who have been through it are mentoring further down the organisation," he says.

learndirect achievement awards
This year is lending its support to the learndirect Achievement awards. There are 11 categories in the awards including those for individuals, business and learner support. They are designed to celebrate the success of learndirect across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Director of operations at Ufi - the organisation behind learndirect - is Dereth Wood. She explained the purpose of the awards:

“The annual learndirect Achievement Awards recognise the achievements of the individuals and businesses who champion learning and the people and learndirect centres that support them.”

Regional winners and highly commended finalists will be announced in June 2009 at 11 regional awards ceremonies across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Regional winners will then be invited to a national finals ceremony in October - and TrainingZone will be helping to judge the overall winners!

Last year, County Durham learndirect centre Communicators Training Associates won the national learndirect Working with Employers Achievement Award, which recognises learndirect centres who work with local businesses and organisations to support learners.

Communicators Training Associates was recognised for the innovative ways in which it has introduced, developed and grown provision for employers both large and small in the County Durham area. The centre works closely with Durham Police: it has introduced and embedded learning assessments for new police officers as well as a range of other measures. Clients say the centre does a ‘tremendous job’ and has helped their staff to gain a level of confidence to do their job more effectively and efficiently.

On receiving the award, Kate McLean, from Communicators Training Associates commented: “It’s great to build up a relationship with an employer and see their staff develop, from doing Skills for Life qualifications right up to NVQs. You have to invest in people and being able to provide for employees’ futures as well as employer’s futures is one of the great benefits of learndirect.”

What are the judges looking for?
So, once an organisation has agreed on the benefits of competing for awards, how can it be sure that the effort involved in completing the entry form will yield worthwhile results? Chief executive of UK Skills Simon Bartley, who is responsible for the National Training Awards, explains what attracts his attention.

"To have a chance at winning this prestigious award, applications must clearly demonstrate a problem or a need, an explanation of how this was addressed through learning, training or development, and most importantly, illustrate how such changes have had a positive impact or outcome," he says.

Award novices, or applicants with little time on their hands can even call in an expert to help prepare their application. At Boost Marketing, managing director Chris Robinson helps organisations compile their entries for HR and training awards. He offers some more straightforward advice.

"Award-winning training is something which delivers quantifiable impact," he says, adding that "judges want to see training that is the first of its kind".

No PR puffery required
But organisations are warned to stick to the point. "Entry forms have to be: punchy, singular and free from PR waffle," he says and advises that they include the "killer statistic" which he defines as powerful and specific and which cannot be argued with.

Of course there is more to entering awards than a well-prepared entry form. A savvy organisation will harness the momentum to build sustainable benefits for the future.

This is the advice from Becky Woodward, learning and development adviser within the retail learning and development team at B&Q. Woodward's team won the 2008 Personnel Today award for 'Excellence in Training', for a programme which boosted product and home improvement knowledge on the shopfloor. She says that the preparatory work involved in entering the award sharpened their thinking.

"The programme has given us a strong platform to launch City & Guilds qualifications and, later in the year, a retail apprenticeship. Entering for the award focused our minds and helped us to refine our offering and our purpose," she says.

Five top tips on wooing judges

Top tips from a training award judge on getting your entry noticed:

  1. Read the entry criteria and stick to them. You'd be surprised at how many people don't.
  2. Be strong on details and short on waffle.
  3. Don't send in giant packs with CDs and DVDs. Keep to the relevant forms and testimonials. Paper is still best.
  4. Tell a story which demonstrates the link between the training intervention and the problem you were trying to solve. "We want to see relevant and effective interventions."
  5. Stick to the word count. "Judges are usually volunteers who are doing this in their precious free time, and they appreciate succinct entries".
  6. With thanks to Hugh Murray, a director of Scott Bradbury, who has judged several awards.

Stephanie Sparrow has 20 years' experience in writing about HR and training issues and is passionately interested in people development. She contributes to various publications and covers education topics for The Guardian. She was highly commended in the Watson Wyatt 'Excellence in HR journalism' awards


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!