Award programs are a valuable tool leaders have to recognize individuals and teams and help tell their stories to the rest of the world. Preparing quality nomination packages – for both local and national awards – is critical to a successful program, according to Huntsville Center Deputy Commander Lt. Col. Kendall Bergmann.
“I like to think everyone is humble and doesn’t want to be nominated, but we owe it to that person or team to … recognize outstanding work,” Bergmann said during a lunch-and-learn workshop on preparing winning award packages presented by Huntsville Center’s Federal Women’s Program April 9 at the Center.
As an introduction, Gina Elliott provided an overview of the different types of awards Department of the Army civilian employees can receive – from annual performance incentive and time-off awards to honorary, national and Center-specific awards. Chief of the Facilities Division in the Installation Support and Programs Management Directorate, Elliott stressed the importance of knowing award deadlines and planning submissions well in advance to ensure each packet is as complete as possible.
Individuals making the award nomination should not only help write them, but also talk to the individual or team being nominated. It doesn’t have to be a surprise, in fact, letting the individual know you are nominating them can be just as important as the individual receiving the award, Elliott said.
“The most important thing you need to do in order to create an award-winning package is first – and this sounds really, really simple – read the evaluation criteria before selecting the nominee,” said Valerie Clinkenbeard, a civil engineer in the Engineering Directorate. Make sure the nominee has the requirements to meet the criteria and truly be competitive in all the categories before proceeding.
Having written close to 100 award packages in her career with a high rate of success, Clinkenbeard said she has heard fellow employees say, “If you want to win, get Valerie to write it for you.”
While she appreciates the confidence in her skills, she said the comment bothers her. “That takes away from the candidate.” She also discourages supervisors from having the nominated employee write and complete his or her own nomination package.
“It is very difficult for a person to brag about themselves. It is much easier for someone else to interview the person, get all the information and write it for them,” Clinkenbeard said. “If you really want the employee to win the award, you are going to have to interview the person.”
Tips from the speakers:
· Don’t embellish - ever
· If criteria or submittal requirements are unclear, ask for clarification
· Allow sufficient time to devote to a complete nomination package (one to two months for national level and/or career achievement awards)
· Get a winning example in the same or similar award category
· Answer the what (impact, results) and how (teamwork, innovation, attitude)
· Write clearly and concisely - use short sentences in active voice and make every sentence count
“Don’t waste your space on a lot of flowery adjectives that really don’t say anything – just be very direct and specific,” Clinkenbeard said. “Be clear and concise about technical examples; don’t assume [the review panel] will know our acronyms.”
One of the most important traits to demonstrate in an award package, according to Clinkenbeard, is how the employee has had an impact on others and the organization. Include examples of how the employee acts as a role model or mentor, as well as anecdotes from colleagues and customers.
Don’t tell the award committee the candidate is a really good hard-working person, Clinkenbeard said. Using the actual words from peers and customers has a lot of power. “Generalities carry no weight and they just take up space.”
The final tip: have someone – or several people – proofread the nomination.
“When we want our people and our organization recognized at higher levels, it’s not enough just to submit someone – you have to submit a quality package with the information and level of detail required to demonstrate why the individual deserves the recognition,” Bergmann said. While it might seem insignificant to some, “When a supervisor misspells words it tells me you care about the employee, but not quite enough.”
Employees can find details in the Army’s Incentive Awards Regulation (AR 672-20 dated April 1, 2014) and local guidance in Huntsville Center Regulation 690-1-4 (a new version is scheduled to be published soon). The Army Corps of Engineers headquarters posts an annual award calendar on the Intranet at https://cops.usace.army.mil/sites/hr/at/Lists/Calendar/calendar.aspx.
While the information presented focused on civilian award nomination packages, the preparation tips would also apply to award nominations for Soldiers. Military award guidance can be found in AR 600-8-22 Military Awards RAR dated June 24, 2013.
Click here to view the slides from the presentation.