Can awards devalue awards?

Cheese awards

We all like winning the odd shiny trophy or two, don’t we? They’re great for recognising all the good work and effort of companies and agencies. Brilliant for encouraging innovation. Terrible for creating the envy of ‘I wish I’d done that’. And long may they continue in that respect.

However, in recruitment, there seems to have been an explosion of schemes in recent years, fueled in no small part by the rise in popularity of social media, the importance of candidate experience and, what feels like, some bandwagon jumping. Every month it seems like there’s an award ceremony happening. (Almost rivaling the prevalence of social recruiting conferences… but that could be another post in the making.) But are too many awards devaluing the achievements they’re rewarding?

There are the long shortlists a la yesterday’s Onrec Awards. These never-ending lists appear to contain most, if not all of the entries. In this case, with over 170 shortlisted entries, some categories with over 12 shortlisted, does that mean they’ve not really been culled by the judges? It’s a growing trend (if you’ll pardon the pun). As times have got harder, less entries seems to have created longer shortlists. When I judged the RADs in 2001, there were almost 100 entries alone in the Campaign category. These were whittled down to three final nominations, yes that’s nominated not shortlisted, for the final night.

Having judged many a scheme, including multiple RAD awards, CIPDs, etc, I’ve never ever seen how 12 entries can be found to be of equal measure. More often than not, there is one, maybe two, that are worthy of an award. You can often find that means 3-4 are good enough for a shortlist. But 12? Awards are to reward the best, not the ‘it’s quite nice but it’s not a winner’.

Then there’s the Creativity vs ROI argument. More often than not, the honours are going in favour of the latter, even if the former is somewhat lacking. Maybe, like this year’s RAD Awards – and it’s a first in their prestigious history – there’s a lack of a ‘Creative’ judge(s) on the panels. Creatives can (and do) appreciate all aspects of an entry and aren’t just swayed by a pretty picture or nice layout or two. And creativity still has a vital part to play. Surely, it’s the perfect blend of Creativity, ROI, Effectiveness and Candidate Experience is what should be doing the victory lap.


  1. I was just about to post something similar with regards to the Onrec awards. Spookily there a healthy dose of Onrec sponsors and advertisers in those meaningless shortlists. And of course each shortlisted company is ‘encouraged’ to buy a table at £1800 a time.
    Genuine awards or just a revenue stream?

  2. Interesting conclusion that ROI weighs more than creativity; I’ve found that creativity (or at least a pretty picture) is overestimated in too many awards, in the sense that technical creativity, actual effect or even some form of cost vs benefit is too often ignored. Although I must admit this was more the case two years ago in NL, and Ive seen some deserved awards handed out lately.

  3. […] this year we asked ’Can Awards devalue Awards?’ In short, are there too many for the Recruitment industry and are they worth the win? Since then, […]

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