Fostering Excellence
Bringing out the best in each of us

Four Principles for Outstanding
Award Justifications

Writing award justifications can be a challenge, even for seasoned drafters. Your employees do fantastic work, and you want to submit them for company, civic or industry awards to recognize their contributions. Framing those accomplishments appropriately and placing them in a narrative that is compelling is critical for their nomination to be accepted and the award received.

Heuristics can be helpful when drafting or reviewing an award justification in order to ensure the justification is as compelling as possible. In particular, award justifications should be concise, relative, robust and impactful:
Concise – Your award justification should avoid unnecessary adjectives-this is the time to show, not tell. The rater of the award justification can already assume that you believe the candidate to be “outstanding,” “exceptional,” or “extraordinary.” Let the accomplishments of your award candidate do the talking. If the candidate truly is exceptional, the accomplishments will speak for themselves without the aid of superfluous adjectives.

Relative – Your award candidate’s contributions can only be meaningful in a larger comparative context. Did your candidate make more sales, larger sales or complete a larger project in reference to a team, company or regional average? To what extent did your candidate’s accomplishment exceed an industry standard? The rater of the award justification should be able to easily see, based on the justification, to what extent your candidate went above and beyond averages or standards. If the candidate did not exceed averages or standards, what made the candidate special enough to reward?

Robust – The contributions of your award candidate should be robust. Exceeding a standard, important though that can be for a successful award justification, must be done at levels that are compelling to the raters in question. Exceeding an industry standard only nominally will likely go unawarded in any recognition venue you select. Additionally, be careful to not fall in the trap of equating numerous small contributions with a single large one. Unless those numerous small contributions in aggregate make a larger difference, they are unlikely to clinch the award.

Impactful – Lastly, you will need to highlight what impact those accomplishments had in the bigger picture. Did those accomplishments help your company achieve a significant milestone? Did they further your organization’s vision in a considerable way? Don’t assume that the rater of the award justification will know the “so what” of your candidate’s accomplishments-spell that out in the award justification. If there are no noteworthy impacts from the accomplishments, it would be appropriate to reconsider the nomination.

Saturate Your organization with Positivity

Elements of a Good Recognition Program

Principles for Outstanding
Award Justifications

Your efforts to recognize your best are laudable and will have tangible and positive impacts in your organization’s atmosphere. Drafting that award justification is the right thing to do, and shows you are an earnest leader. Ensuring that the nomination is concise, relative, robust and impactful will go a long way to ensure your nomination is accepted and your employee awarded!

Do you need help with a review of your recognition program? Do you need assistance drafting an award justification? I would love to assist you! I can be contacted at [email protected]

Michael Farr, PMP, is a Chief Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and founder of He is passionate about recognition and enabling professionals to motivate their organizations through recognizing their member’s excellence. When he is not slaying dragons with his kids, he can be found at @fosterxcellence on Twitter and @fosteringexcellence on Facebook.

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