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More gongs?

Leigh W Sparrow, Publisher
Leigh W Sparrow, Publisher

October 20, 2013 - Over the past five years or so we have seen a proliferation in the number of industry awards, usually culminating in a gala awards dinner. The trend seems to be following a similar proliferation in the entertainment industry which now has dozens of awards programmes for music and television and different genres of television from soaps to comedy etc… all trying the mimic the granddaddy of them all – the Oscars.

In the construction and equipment industries there have been safety awards for several decades, presented at black tie evening events-very serious and well respected. Other awards, particularly those recognising new products and or innovations, were always a feature of an exhibition, where the new machines and ideas were judged at the show and the best ones given medals.  The countries behind the Iron Curtain developed a particularly fondness for this time of award.

The American based lifting and heavy transport association the SC&RA also issues an award for the best rigging and moving jobs of the year, competition among its members. Those on the final short list made presentations to a jury at the annual convention – and in front of an audience. The final choice of a winner appeared to be an open and objective process.

However more recently dozens of associations and publishers have jumped on the bandwagon and introduced award programmes of their own, so we now see numerous awards such as rental company of the year, depot of the year, safety programme of the year, heavy lift job of the year, ligt lift job of the year, safe company of the year, most innovative new product of the year etc…. etc…

Most of them culminate in an awards dinner with potential winners encouraged to ‘take a table’ and companies persuaded to ‘sponsor’ the evening. Rarely a week goes by without one award or another being announced and a gala awards event being promoted. The same is true of the publishing industry – not that we have ever entered or attended one – and most other industries.

The vast majority are of course driven by the profit opportunity for the organiser, with the revenues coming either from an entry fee, or from the sale of tables/tickets to the glittering grand gala awards ceremony. The problem with many of them is that you have to enter, with the result that if the best new products or most dynamic newcomers etc... are not entered, then the second, or third or fourth best is crowned as product/company/job/person/magazine of the year. And that assumes that the whole judging process is truly subjective, which is not always the case.

While the better programmes are completely free to enter, the fact is that the larger or more award hungry companies are able, or willing to invest the time and resources into creating an award winning entry presentation. The problem with that can be that the same three of four companies win the awards year on year, to the point where smaller companies don’t bother entering and they lose any Kudos they might have had.

On the other hand recognising exceptional achievement, innovation and dedication can be really positive for an industry, and can play a major role in encouraging good practice and pride in doing things well. This is particularly important in an industry like ours where a lack of best practice can have fatal consequences. Ideally the reason why a particular person, product or company won is clearly and tangibly spelt out with objective facts, rather than subjective pleasantries. In the case of less tangible awards, such as rental/hire company of the year etc…., solid specific and detailed examples of what persuaded the judges that the winner was better than the others on the short list, - not to mention than those who did not enter -  should be given, so that others might emulate them.

And while profit might be the driving motive behind many of these more recent award programmes, it is not the easiest of task for those who are in the industry and choose to organise and run such events. Only one thing is certain – you will offend someone – but hopefully not too many. Those who win did it purely on their own merits, while those who lose think they were cheated and that better less biased judging would have given them the award. Add to this the fact that many entrants are customers or important association members and it can be a thankless task, or at least one that deserves the profit gained.

As a result there can be a tendency to have a lot of award categories and to spread them around, or rotate them a little each year, (He has already won this award so that one…… or they won last year so ….) but then that devalues any ‘currency’ the award might have. If the proceeds of the event are sufficient, that can certainly help soften any fall out that the organiser experiences, but it hardly helps the industry. Some of the better awards are subject to a public vote, and while that can play into the hands of those good at lobbying, it does seem to be a fairer method – a least for the less objective categories.  

With more award programmes popping up each year, isn’t it time we took stock and said “Enough’ and focused on fewer, more inclusive, transparent, open and credible award programmes?  

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