Re-thinking awards and possibly recruitment too

I know, who writes a blog on a Saturday, right?

Anyway I was thinking about industry awards today. Yep that’s right, my Saturday has been full of excitement.

I was thinking about how industry awards are a funny old mix of stuff. A body, group or organisation decides they’re going to hold an awards ceremony to celebrate and recognise achievements of varying sorts. Sure, that sounds like a good thing to do, and is a great way to build enthusiasm and drive ambition and possibly innovation in those industries too.

I’ve been lucky enough to have been both a judge and an entrant in awards. On the judging side, you get to see how people interpret the category they’re entering, different styles of presentation, and a real range of content to help them sell their story. On the entrant side, you’re really challenged to initially submit a proposal that sparks interest, from there decide on how your presentation will take place, and in the end wait for a decision.

It strikes me that the decision making side of judging awards has a lot of potential for bias to unwittingly take over, and what is meant to be a fair and objective process, may not actually be as such.  Think about it for a moment, if a group is homogenous in some way, then how can they truly be objective? Even if they’re not homogenous and they have diversity, how do you mitigate for strong personalities, potential discrimination and other negative influences over the outcome?

If you’re not familiar with me, my approach to stuff, or my thinking, I’m all about openness, fairness and transparency. I believe when we design inclusion into what we do, we are giving people the space to act as adults, permission to have a shared voice and for our best selves to be at the forefront of what we do.

So back to the judging of awards, what about if the judging of awards was made an open, fair and transparent process? How? Read on.

Essentially, the judging happens by the panel observing a full range of shortlisted entrants, comparing them to one another and deciding on who meets the criteria the best.

How about if that decision making process involved the shortlisted entrants themselves as well as the judging panel? You do this by being explicit at the outset that part of the deal for being shortlisted is that you offer a professional opinion and scoring to the other shortlisted entrants, as well as your own. With modern technology, this is quite easily doable. Video the entrants and share it via a private forum or some other easy option.

In scoring your own, the maximum you could award yourself is two thirds of the total score. The rest is dependent on the scores from the other entrants as well as the judging panel. So, even if you wanted to award yourself the maximum possible, that wouldn’t be enough to guarantee a top position as it fundamentally hinges on the scores awarded from the other entrants and the judging panel. 

Also, what this process allows for is an open feedback about what the winning entrant did. One of the hardest things to understand about why you didn’t win the category is in having real clarity about what other entrants did that you didn’t do. If you can see that for yourself, then you have the evidence already available to you, without receiving comments through a third or even fourth party.

It also strikes me that if this could be done for awards, then you could theoretically apply the same thinking to the recruitment process. 

You could really push the boat of how transparent you wanted to be in these situations, from the shortlisting of candidates, to how they are interviewed, to how decisions on hiring are made, and even on what kind of hiring package to offer. It’s a bit fraught with nuance and potential legal issues, but you could really shake up that whole process and actually be radical about how recruitment happens in the modern day.

If the above sounds interesting to you and you want to have fun with it, I’ve given the outline of my thinking and there should be enough for you to have your own fun with it. All I ask is that I get attributed with the idea that made it happen. In truth this is probably a set of thoughts which need much more thinking and planning for how it’s made successful. The awards scenario probably lends itself to experiment and innovate a bit more than the recruitment scenario.

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