How to establish and maintain integrity in your awards program

When running an awards program, it’s vital that your audience trusts you, your team, your processes and - of course - the outcome.

Without this trust, your program can fail to gain traction - or worse - be the subject of discussion and potential derision on social media.

Maintaining the integrity of your program doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few tips to help you along the way.

Be transparent

Providing entrants with a summary of what you expect from them, along with details on how their entry will be judged, will allow them to trust both you and the process.

Make sure you clearly state:

  • any eligibility requirements

  • how your judges will assess the entries (include criteria and weighting, if used)

  • the extent of input from any sponsors

  • how the final decision will be made

Your judging process may contain a particular ‘special sauce’ you don’t want to advertise - perhaps it comes down to the personal opinion of the manager, or something else entirely. Consider how you can convey this to your entrant to set their expectations and ensure they trust the process.

Of course, it’s important to clearly inform entrants if you will be using their details for any manner other than for the awards - this includes sending them marketing emails later (or passing on their details to one of your sponsors).

Anticipate conflicts of interest

You’ve chosen your judges because they are outstanding in their field, and this often means they are an active participant in the industry. It’s not uncommon for a judge to have a conflict of interest with the entry or entrant. Perhaps they were once a mentor of the entrant, or know them personally.

Encourage your judges to declare any conflicts of interest before and during the judging process. Some platforms make it easy by providing this as an option on each entry - if the judge does not feel they can fairly assess the entry, they can recuse themselves entirely. Or perhaps they feel they can be fair, but want to flag the conflict with you so you can review their scores against the average and make a decision either way.

It’s also a good idea to consider any internal conflicts of interest. Will you be allowing your staff members, or associates of your staff members to enter? How will you handle any questions on this if they were to become a finalist?

Encouraging openness and honesty from the outset will save you many headaches and potential surprises further down the line.

Maintain strict security protocols

Entrants often provide detailed information about themselves or their business when entering an award. Some awards even ask for information that may include intellectual property! It’s important you treat your entrants' data with respect.

  • When choosing an awards platform, ensure they take data security seriously. Check if they’re certified with any international standards, such as ISO/IEC 27001. And, if you or your entrants are within the EU, it’s important the platform is GDPR compliant.

  • Never share the login to your awards platform with anyone. If other staff need to have access, ensure they are set up with their own login. You may trust your staff implicitly, but accidents can (and do!) happen.

  • Use, and encourage your staff members to use, multi-factor authentication. This means when you log in you will be asked to provide a second level password - such as a token sent to your phone via SMS, or a code generated by an app such as Google Authenticator - to identify yourself.

  • If using an online judging process, allow your judges to set their own passwords. Setting passwords for judges or providing a generic password to all may seem like an easier option, but creates a real security risk.

Be aware of unintended bias

If your application process requires a written submission in a document, you will no doubt receive a broad range of looks and designs. While not intentional, an entrant with a design background (or the budget for a designer) may stand out compared to the entrant that has provided a lot of thought to their submission but added no design elements.

Remove opportunities for unintended bias by ensuring that the application process keeps all entrants at the same level. Instead of uploading a submission document, you could have the entrant provide answers to questions or prompts within the award platform.

A great way to identify unintended bias is to ask, “Is this fair for the entrant? Will it allow one entrant to have an advantage over any others?”

Respond to questions

If an entrant has a question about the awards, be sure to give them an avenue to raise this question. Perhaps provide an email address or phone number - or invite discussion on social media.

However, it’s important that if you provide these options; you ensure you reply to everyone! This doesn’t mean you have to please everyone, but being open and honest when answering their questions will go a long way in building trust.

In conclusion, integrity is everything

Keeping integrity at the forefront of your program and processes is paramount to your program’s success and longevity. Whether you're running an awards program, grant program or similar, your outcomes must be trustworthy.

Need help building integrity into your program? Learn how Award Force can help and schedule a demo today.