· Features

Win yourself an Excellence Award

Stepping on the podium to pick up your HR magazine Excellence Award is what beckons if you follow our judges' simple advice on how to cut the mustard with your entry form.

It's one thing completing a successful HR project, but quite another telling the world about it. One of the best ways to gain national recognition for your endeavours is by entering this year's HR Excellence Awards. Each winning entry has been cogitated and digested by a panel of leading HR directors. Affirmation by them is praise indeed. Before you can tell the world though, you need to have told us, and getting your entry form to cut the mustard is one of the most important hurdles you need to jump.

The good news is that making your entry form sing off the page does not have to be difficult - you just need to know what our judges are looking for.

"Every year we're amazed at the high number of entries," says HR magazine editor Sian Harrington "but although we can see a lot of time and effort has been spent on them, many do not contain the information we need."

Simplicity is the best tip. Judges can spot overdressed entries that are high in word count, but scant in detail.

Remember, we do not know what your project is. You will have been intimately involved with it, but you have to imagine you are explaining what you have done simply. This includes structuring it in an orderly, sensible way. Judges like to think in terms of 'what was your problem?'; 'how did you go about solving it?' and 'what results did you get?' If your entry is only structured like this, you will still be doing a lot better than some in explaining the clarity of what you have achieved.

Entries should be no longer than 2,000 words. Further information with appendices can be supplied if you want to include visuals, campaign material and other details. Remember, judges will be pleased to see as much supporting material, but only if it is relevant.

The best way to structure your entry is by ensuring you ask yourself:

- Have you clearly explained/defined your vision and goals?

- What was different/creative about your approach?

- Have you made sure you have made a strong case for showing how the programme is aligned to your organisation's business goals?

- Have you explained strong senior-level commitment?

- Have you included strong evidence of the financial impact of the project?

One of last year's judges was Richard Smelt, formerly HR director, Carphone Warehouse, now HR director at Northern Rock. He says lack of clear, demonstrable results was what often let many otherwise good entries down. "Excellence in HR is all about linking HR projects to business strategy, and having a clear understanding of the way it has contributed to business objectives," he says. "Sound ROI results, however they are measured, count for a massive part of the judges' votes."

According to Smelt, seeing evidence that HR departments "have a realistic sense of what has and hasn't happened" also scores brownie points. He adds: "This involves understanding the costs and benefits of what you have done. If things didn't work out, we'd rather people mention this, and say what they have learned rather than treat everything as a huge success."

Many companies often enter the same project across different award categories. It is fine to do this, although we recommend you tailor each entry to the specific requirements of that category. See full list of the guidelines for each category.

Entries also need to be timely. We realise some projects are multi-year endeavours, and start/end dates are difficult to pin down. But, if possible, we ask for entered projects to have predominantly taken place in the last year - from January 2008 up to and including the deadline date for entries. Even if full results are not yet available, we expect to see some preliminary results.

Finally, don't let the entry process put you off shouting about your achievements. This is your chance to say why you and your departments should be singled out for special praise. As Smelt says: "Who's been the best, who's been innovative, who's really pushed the boundaries and tried new stuff. This is exactly what the awards are all about."