We have a national obsession with lists. Maybe it’s our short attention span or the information overload we’re faced with every day: we’re much more likely to click on a “top 10” list than an in-depth article. Perhaps that’s why businesses are clamoring to show up on lists like “Best Places to Work” and “Most Innovative Companies.”

The value is clear: it instantly bolsters your credibility and raises brand awareness among customers and candidates. And if that’s not enough, winning business awards also galvanizes your current customer and employee base. Everyone loves to be on a winning team!

Whether you’ve already made Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” or you’re not sure how to qualify, we’ve assembled a few helpful lists to guide you if earning a company award or ranking is among your goals for 2017.

Top Five Reasons to Apply for an Award or Ranking:

  1. Validity and credibility Anyone can claim their company is the best at something, or one of the best places to work, but being recognized by an external organization validates those claims.
  2. Recruiting Awards that position your company as a great place to work or a high performing organization attract high performing candidates.
  3. Boosts internal morale and company loyalty and validates your employees’ hard work.
  4. Gives the press a reason to write about you (also doesn’t hurt when your company’s name pops up on search terms like “best” and “top”).
  5. Award criteria serve as a benchmark for best practices in operations or culture, so even if you don’t earn the recognition this time, you’ll have a path to improvement.

Five Questions to Consider When Applying for an Award:

  1. What are you most proud of about your organization? Do you have extraordinary customer loyalty? Are you a community favorite? Do you have a “rock star” department or employee? Capitalize on your distinction by seeking an award that recognizes your unique assets.
  2. What values are most important to your industry or brand? Go for an award that solidifies customer perception of that value. For instance, customers would probably rather fly an airline touting “#1 in Safety” than “Best Place to Work for Millennials.”
  3. What do you want to accomplish by earning an award or recognition? If your primary objective is to support recruiting efforts, a “Best Place to Work” ranking makes sense, whereas an innovation award might be more attractive if you’re trying to set yourself apart from competitors. Remember that top talent might be looking for a business with a reputation for excellent results rather than an enjoyable corporate culture.
  4. Will a local or national audience have more impact for your business? Consider where your customers, operations, and talent pool are located. You may also want to target your efforts to a specific audience or industry; for instance, going for a university campus recruiting award if graduates are an important source of talent.
  5. How will you leverage the award or recognition, if achieved? Have a specific plan. This may include press releases, adding the distinction to existing sales collateral, and repositioning your story to focus on recognized excellence. If customer surveys or reviews helped, thank them! And don’t forget to have an internal communication plan–perhaps even an employee celebration—to fully leverage the feel-good factor.

10 Types of Awards You Might Qualify For:

  1. Best Companies Group puts out “Best Places to Work” lists in many states
  2. Great Place to Work is behind Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” in the U.S., with subcategories for business size, industry, and type of culture
  3. Operational excellence, management, or quality – these include everything from Lean Six Sigma to industry-specific quality metrics
  4. Innovation or product design
  5. Sales growth, often based on 3-year or 5-year revenue growth (check with your local Chamber of Commerce or business journal)
  6. Community contribution, whether through corporate giving, employee volunteer activities, or a business purpose that elevates the community
  7. Sustainable, earth-friendly business practices
  8. People’s Choice, based on online reviews or voting for companies with a cult-like following
  9. Function-specific excellence, such as a superior web interface for customers or a highly effective recruiting program (look for award opportunities in the relevant professional organization)
  10. Individual awards for employees within their professional organization or business community (e.g. nursing, project management, or “Rising Star” awards)

What to Expect When You’re Applying

Earning an award or recognition is not exactly free advertising. Criteria and application processes vary greatly, with some requiring simple disclosures and others, extensive data collection. The process may include:

  • Employee surveys (often conducted by a third party, which means turning over employee contact information)
  • Detailed questionnaires about employer practices, benefits, and impact
  • Customer or employee online reviews
  • Essays or videos
  • Testimonials
  • Online voting
  • Application fee, and in some cases, additional fees for full benchmark reports, licensed use of logos, consultants, etc.

Seeking awards and recognitions for your organization can have a big payoff, but it’s a strategy that still needs to be approached thoughtfully. Remember to consider the effort it will take to maintain your good status over time, and to truly become one of the best places to work. Be sure your claims are always backed by authenticity!


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