#ERSAAwards22 | Guide to writing a winning award entry

The ERSA Employability Awards are open for entry until 1 October. Read more on the awards here. 

Including Dr Katy Jones, Research Fellow, Centre for Decent Work and Productivity; Naomi Phillips, Director of Policy, Research & Influencing, Learning and Work Institute, Jagdeep Soor, Head of  Strategic Partnerships, Pathways Group, Nicola Inge, Employment & Skills Director, Business in the Community and Gill Holmes, Director – Contract Management and Partner Delivery, Department for Work and Pensions 

This blog brings together feedback from the judges in previous year based on their views of what makes a good award entry, plus some common traps to avoid.

General Feedback

  • Provide a strong summary highlighting your key selling points; explaining why you should win. The full entry is where you ‘seal the deal’.
  • Ensure that your entry addresses each of the key award criteria. You can use sub-headers which signpost to the judges how you are addressing each criterion.
  • Provide appropriate evidence that can be easily comparable and understood, even by someone without technical sector experience. This is likely to include clear information on the profile of jobseekers supported; plus, clear information on outcomes, such as the number starting work and those sustaining in work in each period.
  • Make sure you are entering your award for the right category by carefully reading each award criteria – sometimes judges have felt that entries would have been better received in a different category, e.g. entries relating to solid delivery being entered in the innovation category, when there is little evidence of innovation.
  • Try not to enter submissions into multiple categories, as this tends to dilute the effect it has on the judges.
  • Some submissions strayed away from employability and whilst they were good stories, they were not particularly suited to the ERSA Employability Awards.
  • There were several submissions which were clearly exceptional, but due to the fact the delivery was in its infancy, outcomes were difficult to gauge. The judges suggested in this instance that a re-entry next year might be the best approach, as there will be a greater set of data available to share.
  • Ensure the evidence submitted is relevant to the award category and not excessive.

Employer of the Year

  • The judges particularly liked organisations that demonstrated commitment to employability at several levels, including support for jobseekers outside the labour market to boost employability skills; plus hiring practices which supported a wide range of jobseekers to take up a variety of roles.
  • Judges wanted to see that responsible hiring practices were embedded across the business, however small.
  • Judges also liked it when there was evidence that people could progress on to a higher role with more responsibility within that company.
  • Judges also appreciated the diversity of a workforce and investment in the team.
  • Entries should show that work with jobseekers was entirely embedded across different elements of the business rather than linked to a small element of a corporate responsibility strategy or to a specific part of the business.
  • Judges wanted to see evidence that employers were working with the sector for more than purely business reasons (i.e. the commitment went beyond seeing employment support as a cost-effective hiring route).
  • Judges liked to see a strong element of sustainability with people moving into long term jobs with progression.
  • Judges wanted to see evidence of non-traditional hiring methods, recognising the range of jobseeker needs. This might include guaranteed interviews for certain jobseekers, e.g. those who might struggle with written forms.
  • In addition, judges were attracted to efforts by businesses to overcome systemic barriers to employment for some groups, such as ex-offenders.

Team of the Year

  • Judges were looking for an emphasis on a team working together to achieve delivery.
  • Focus was often simply on results and not how the team worked together to achieve them.

Team of the Year – Hardest Hit

  • Entrants needed to demonstrate clear high performance with this client group.
  • Judges liked it when the entry showed how the organisation was doing something special with this particular client group, creating a bespoke method of delivery.
  • It was felt to be important that entries showed the distance travelled of the people they worked with. Did they have particularly complex needs and were there opportunities for them to progress beyond low pay roles?
  • Judges liked entries which demonstrated a transformative effect on the hardest to reach client groups and had a sustained impact on those they helped.
  • Show what you offer that is truly innovative within the sector, leading the way with new ideas.
  • Entrants need to demonstrate clear high performance with this client group.
  • Show how the organisation is doing something special with this client group, creating a bespoke method of delivery.
  • It is important that entries show the distance travelled of the people worked with. Did they have particularly complex needs and were there opportunities for them to progress beyond low pay roles?
  • Judges liked entries which demonstrated a transformative effect on the hardest to reach client groups and had a sustained impact on those they helped.
  • Show what you offer that is truly innovative within the sector, leading the way with new ideas.
  • Entries also need to be able to show that the process is effective and scalable.

Team of the Year – Disability and Health

  • Of primary importance to the judges was that the entries demonstrated that organisations delivered exceptionally high performance for jobseekers with disabilities. As such, providing information on the profile of the jobseekers supported, easily understood performance metrics and, ideally, comparative information is very helpful.
  • Judges wanted to see a clear, bespoke model for working with disabled people that ideally could be scalable.
  • Judges liked organisations that reflected their support for disabled people in their own hiring practices.
  • Judges liked the idea of the continuous involvement of families.
  • Show what you offer that is truly innovative within the sector, leading the way with new ideas.

Community Partnership of the Year

  • All entries needed to show solid levels of performance, including clearly understandable metrics and comparable information if possible.
  • Judges also wanted to see a little something extra from the winners, a unique selling point that made them stand out from the other entries.
  • Innovation was also important in this category in showing the creativity and problem-solving ability of the partner organisation.
  • Judges appreciated seeing a partner’s delivery vision reflect the needs of the local economy.

Frontline Adviser of the Year

  • The most important element was felt to be strong evidence that this was an exceptional adviser who was delivering strong performance. Being clear about who was being supported and why this support was exception was essential.
  • Judges often liked stories where the adviser had overcome their own personal difficulties which had informed their support for jobseekers. However, this was not essential.
  • They also liked entries where there was evidence that the adviser had created or developed their own programme of support, innovating whilst on the job to improve performance.
  • Evidence of endorsement from colleagues and/or jobseekers/employers was also important in this category.
  • The judges appreciated those who enabled their organisation to grow through their own commitment to going the extra mile.

Significant Achiever of the Year

This is a particularly difficult category to judge and there is often a very personal element to the judging of this category in that certain stories resonate with different people. However, entries that stood out:

  • The judges were particularly moved by those who had overcome a variety of difficulties and barriers to employment and had shown their commitment to moving into work.
  • Judges also liked a story where there was evidence that the individual had progressed from their initial role after moving into employment.
  • Judges also felt it wasn’t imperative that the nominee’s new role was within the sector.

Further information: 


#ERSAAwards22 | Why apply for an ERSA Award?

ERSA award benefits: Why apply?

– Official recognition – Team motivation – Talent attraction – PR – Networking opportunities – Funding and business development growth – Easy application –

Success in the ERSA awards – either a shortlist place or award win – is an official commendation of exceptional best practice, judged by independent industry experts.

The recognition it gives to individuals and teams working in the employability industry, in arguably its most challenging year to date, is a primary motivation for submitting an entry.

ERSA recognition adds credibility to your services and business ethics: a genuine draw for potential new employees, supply chain partners, and funders.

Success can be announced and applauded internally, on social media, in stakeholder and commissioner communications, and to the media. The PR opportunities are huge. ERSA will support you to shout about your success and will promote successful entrants through our conversations with key stakeholders, ERSA forums, social media, and PR activity.

The submission process is straightforward and not onerous. Applying for and winning an ERSA award is an achievable target for companies of all sizes. We welcome applications from anybody involved in the sector, ERSA member or not.

Submitting an entry on behalf of a partner organisation is also a great way to recognise collaborative working and a job well done. Almost half of 2020’s ERSA winners were nominated by another organisation.

Celebrate your immense efforts in supporting those that need it most: we look forward to receiving your entry.

The sector awards open on Friday 25 June 2022 and full details can be found here.