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The Learning Awards: A judge's perspective

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9th Feb 2015
Freelance writer Freelance
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With the Learning Awards wrapped up for another year, Jon Kennard has a word with a few of this year's judges.

Being a judge for this kind of things is no cakewalk, especially when the quality of entries is so high. It requires ruthlessness, concentration, diplomacy and no small amount of coffee. Having previously been a judge of the Learning Awards I have a fair idea of what it's all about, and since I had a year off I thought I'd get the opinion of some of the people who sit behind that desk and give you the beady eye.

  • What do judges look for in a successful entry?
  • Why should you and your business enter?
  • What's so good about the event?

Denise Hudson Lawson, enterprise learning architect, Pluralsight

[The Learning Awards] is the highlight of the year for me. It's when all the hard work that each and everyone of the nominees has accomplished is honoured. The recognition from not only your peers but the industry as a whole opens doors. As a previous winner it certainly raised my profile and nothing but good has come from it. I would encourage everyone to submit an entry.

Charles Jennings, associate, Internet Time Alliance

It’s always great to have good work recognised. Most organisations have their own internal recognition programmes. External recognition is just as important, if not more so. By entering for an award you’re benchmarking your organisation against the best. Whether you win gold or just manage to make the short-list, it is evidence that your team, or your initiative, has been externally adjudicated and found to be in the top tier. 

When judging the LPI awards I always look for several key attributes. Vision and focus are at the top of my list. Without a clear vision and the determination to get there – often by running up some blind alleys on the way – excellence rarely shines through. Smart execution is up there, too. Helping to build high performing people and organisations requires the use of as many ‘levers’ as possible. Learning is not something that starts and ends in a classroom or by opening an eLearning package. It is a continuous process, and whether I’m judging 'CLO of the Year, ‘Learning Team of the Year’ or any other category, I’m always looking for evidence of integrating learning and development into the workflow.

Clare Smith, national learning design and innovation manager, British Gas

For me The Learning Awards is one of the highlights in my business calendar. Judging is becoming more and more challenging due to the increased number of entries and  the high calibre of submissions. It can be difficult to choose between the finalists, so the judges work really hard to draw out their achievements in quality, innovation and excellence and we hear some fantastic stories about the efforts, commitment and progress that is being made in this area, which is wonderful and one of the reasons why I love my role as an LPI judge.

Those who make it to the finalist stage along with overall category winners are our industries 'shining lights' and should be incredibly proud of their achievements. I would recommend the rest of the learning community to look at their work, take inspiration and use them as case studies for their own development, strategy and innovation.

Bill Walker, technical and commercial director, QA

We look for real passion, a solution that has made a demonstrable difference to an organisation and an implementation that's sound from a pedagogical point of view. Sometimes it can be the most simple intervention that has made a difference and the all singing, all dancing programme hasn't actually delivered such stunning results. Training is about making people better at their jobs so they can in turn make their business more efficient. That is what we fundamentally look for. 

Alex Keay, general manager, Insights L&D

I have been a judge for the LPI awards for a number of years and I am always struck by the diversity of approaches to learning. The successful entries I have seen have identified a genuine business need and been able to make learning critical to addressing that need. They are all able to demonstrate how the sponsors of their program measure success and impact of the learning. It is surprising to me how often the companies that are constrained by budget & resources are able to strip back to the bare essentials & offer an elegant/simple solution. 

If a company provides an entry to the LPI awards it gives them a chance to benchmark themselves against industry best practice. Most organisations will already have the documentation and evidence that describes their learning program, the submissions and judging process is straightforward and can be even carried out virtually. Successful winners have told me that it helps them articulate the value of learning to both their clients and their own organisation. I would recommend anyone aspiring to excel in learning to enter the LPI awards in 2015.

Sukh Pabial, learning and OD professional, One Housing Group

The Learning Awards are a great opportunity for people in the L&D industry to showcase the range of learning solutions people are designing everyday. The entries were impressive and the finalists all displayed passion for the role and for achievements they'd made. Overall, I'm pleased to have been invited to be a judge. It's not easy telling your story and knowing you're going to be judged on the strength of that. Well done to all the finalists and big kudos to LPI for the organisation of the awards.

Jim Darling, global business development, Prometric

I enjoyed the experience of working with my fellow judges on the panel for the award of the Learning Provider of The Year. The entries and the presentations were of the highest calibre - it was great to hear of their success stories as learning providers and to learn of their hard work and determination to stand out from their competitors. 

It was clear from the time and effort that each of the finalists invested in the award submissions and presentations, that it meant a lot to them to be nominated. I believe that participating in the awards are an important way for providers to make a strong statement about their commitment to their clients and their contribution to the sector, which will be invaluable to them in winning and retaining business. Each entrant and each nominee can be rightly proud of their achievements.

To succeed I believe entrants for the awards have to define what it is that makes the difference in their approach, in their business model, or in their client service – how they stand apart from their competitors and peers in the marketplace. Whether that is in demonstrating an innovative approach, outstanding customer service, sustainable growth over the long-term, or in their courage to tackle new markets or new sectors., and to be able to articulate clearly how and why they deserve the award. Tell your company story and always relate it to your achievements and to real-life examples or case studies in order to demonstrate to the panel that you do what you say.

Julian Stodd, founder, SeaSalt Learning

The Learning Awards are a chance to share our stories: not just those of success, but those stories of reflection. The things we learnt along the way, the things we did wrong, the things we want to share to help others do better. In the Social Age, we learn within our communities and the chance to come together, to learn, to celebrate and recognise, to write a new story, that's truly valuable.

Judging the awards is difficult for me: sure, we can select and agree on a winner, but the true value comes from understanding all the stories and understanding how they change our own professional practice. It's a privilege to read them.

For the news report and a full list of winners have a look here

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