What’s it like to be an awards judge?

Thomas FairbairnMay 21, 20199min0
I followed in the footsteps of our judges at the UK Employee Experience Awards: here's what I learned.

judging at employee experience awards


For Awards International, Wednesday 15th May was the 5th UK Employee Experience Awards. For me, it was the first.

As a relatively new member of the team, we thought it would be a good idea for me to see the judging process up close by going through it myself. My scores wouldn’t count towards the final score or affect the outcome of the awards. But I still walked in the shoes of a judge for a day – and it was a fascinating experience.

Application Process

The journey to become a judge starts long before the awards themselves. Those who fulfil at least one of the following criteria are eligible to send in their application:

  • Knowledge, skills and/or experience in a relevant business discipline
  • Business education from a relevant academic establishment
  • Passion for the delivery of exceptional business performance

Once candidates have submitted their CV and outlined their suitability for the role, our judging team will assess their credentials and determine whether they will sit on the panel.

We are proud of the high quality of applications we receive – it means we can populate our judging panels with independent business experts.


Written Entries

The judging process begins in earnest a few weeks before the awards ceremony, with the scoring of written entries.

Accessing the judging portal was seamless: I simply received an email in my inbox with all my login details and clear instructions on how to view the written entries.

I was judging in two categories – Contact Centre of the Year and Internal Communication Strategy – meaning I had six written entries to assess.

When I got to the judging portal, I started by getting familiar with the scoring of entries – the standard by which everyone is assessed. All this information is publicly available, meaning that organisations know precisely what the judges will be rewarding.

The 10 criteria encapsulate the variety of skills a company needs for success in an initiative, going all the way from planning through to lessons learned. Each criterion is worth 100 points, making 1000 the maximum possible score.

Having gone through the criteria, I was ready to start scoring the entries.

The standard was very high: each entry displayed a coherent, compelling strategy for improving employee experience in their contact centres or communications strategy. And it was genuinely inspiring to see how improving the satisfaction and engagement of staff can lead to better business results – a virtuous circle!



A few weeks later, on the day at the awards, I arrived at the Park Plaza Riverbank to hear the presentations. These concise pitches comprise the second half of finalists’ overall scores, in addition to their written entries. As someone with a background in copywriting, I was a little nervous about sitting on a panel with experienced HR professionals – but the other judges were so friendly that my concerns melted faster than a digestive in a hot cup of tea!

To guarantee fairness, timings were kept very strict on the day: each team had 15 minutes to present their initiative, then took questions from the judges for an additional 15 minutes.

Most presentations are open to other finalists, with many companies taking advantage of this opportunity at the awards. Open presentations work well for two reasons:

  • You can find companies in a similar sector to your own and see how they approach employee experience
  • You can visit the presentation of a somewhat different company and broaden your EX perspective, acquiring useful insights that might not occur to you in your industry

It was also impressive to see how independent the judges were. In the 10 minutes allocated for scoring in between each presentation, there was no conferring about the entries or discussions about what was good. Each judge gave scores for each of the 10 criteria, then the scores were collected and taken off to be tallied independently.


Awards Finals

We invite all our judges to stay after the presentations to watch the awards ceremony. With the presentations over,  the pressure was off: judges congratulated the winners, networked with business professionals and enjoyed the show.

They sat on tables with other judges and finalists, enjoying a three-course meal. There was also the pleasant musical surprise of entertainment from the Three Waiters.

The Chair of Judges had the privilege of announcing the Gold, Silver and Bronze winners on stage. Because of our impartial and independent process, the Chair did not know the name of the winner until they opened the envelop to read out their name.

Once we heard who the Overall Winner was – The Holly Private Hospital – the event drew to a close. Winners headed out to celebrate, presumably late into the night, and the judges could feel proud of bringing a smile to people’s faces.


All in all, it was a very memorable experience. It showed me the integrity and transparency of how we judge at Awards International, as well as opening my eyes to some outstanding examples of employee experience.


If you are interested in judging at any of our awards, please contact Lisa Bailey at judging@awardsinternational.eu or call 020 7193 1764



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