Ending Soon! Save 33% on All Access

How to Leverage Business Awards to Foster Innovation, Build Your Brand and Retain Top Talent Awards validate a company's efforts in innovation and corporate responsibility but also enhance its reputation, attract talent and open doors to new partnerships and customer segments.

By Mike Szczesny Edited by Chelsea Brown

Key Takeaways

  • Traditional business recognition is evolving to prioritize innovation, sustainability and diversity, reflecting changing societal values and consumer expectations.
  • Awards not only validate a company's achievements but also boost its reputation, attract talent and foster partnerships.
  • Embedding innovation into corporate culture, developing internal recognition programs and leveraging awards for continuous improvement can drive sustainable growth, foster a positive work environment and attract top talent.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The traditional mechanisms of business recognition are undergoing a transformative renaissance. Today, as organizations navigate through the complexities of digital transformation, environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility, the criteria and modalities of business awards have adapted to reflect these new priorities. This shift underscores the increasing significance of such honors in promoting innovation, recognizing excellence and providing companies with a competitive edge that resonates with modern consumers and investors alike.

A 2023 Pew Research Center survey revealed that a significant portion of workers see diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives as positive, with variations across demographic and partisan lines. Such statistics can underscore the growing importance of DEI initiatives as integral components of business recognition and honors, highlighting how companies are being acknowledged not just for financial performance but for fostering inclusive and equitable work environments.

Historically, business awards were often based solely on financial metrics and market share. However, the past decade has witnessed a seismic shift toward a more holistic approach. Awards now frequently incorporate criteria such as innovation, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and social impact.

A prime example is the B Corp Certification, which evaluates companies on their overall social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. This recognition has spurred a movement toward more ethical business practices, influencing companies worldwide to reassess their operations and strategies.

Related: Redefining Business In The Modern Era: The B Corp Movement And The Quest For Authentic Sustainability

Measuring the impact of awards on businesses

The evolution of business honors has had a profound impact on companies across the globe. For instance, being listed on the Fortune 500 has always been prestigious, but newer accolades like Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies list or Forbes' Just 100 ranking of America's best corporate citizens play a significant role in shaping corporate identities and consumer perceptions today. These awards validate a company's efforts in innovation and corporate responsibility but also enhance its reputation, attract talent and open doors to new partnerships and customer segments.

Take the example of Patagonia, a brand that has been consistently recognized for its commitment to sustainability and ethical practices. This recognition has bolstered its brand reputation and been a key driver in attracting a loyal customer base that values environmental stewardship.

Similarly, technology giants like Google and Apple frequently top the lists of most innovative companies, reinforcing their status as leaders in technology and design thinking. This recognition serves as a testament to their commitment to pushing the boundaries of what is possible, attracting top talent and securing their position at the forefront of technological advancement.

Related: If You Want to Build the Next Patagonia, Here's What Not to Do: 'We Realized We Were Turning Everybody Off'

Finding new ways to show gratitude for excellence

You don't have to be a big brand with a boardroom to leverage and implement innovative recognition practices across various aspects of business honors. As the owner and vice president of an awards company that creates a multitude of employee recognition products, I've seen a lot of creative ways to bring innovation into the equation. Here are a few places to start:

1. Embed innovation into corporate culture:

Encourage a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within your organization. Recognize and reward employees who contribute innovative ideas or improvements, regardless of their department or role. This can be through innovation-specific awards or acknowledgments during team meetings.

To that end, choose to participate in awards that align with your company's strategic goals and values. Winning such awards can boost your brand's reputation in specific areas, whether it's sustainability, technology, customer service or community involvement. This alignment ensures that the recognition you receive advances your overall business objectives.

Digital transformation solutions provider UST is a great example of a company that has successfully embedded innovation into its corporate culture. Recognized by the Business Culture Awards for the fourth consecutive year, UST has demonstrated excellence in fostering a culture of sustainability and inclusivity, alongside innovation. They've won accolades for being the Best Large Organization in Business Culture and for their initiatives to build a culture of innovation. Additionally, their leadership and collaborative team efforts have been recognized, further underscoring their commitment to positive societal impact and corporate success.

2. Create internal recognition programs:

Beyond external honors, develop internal recognition programs that celebrate small wins and major milestones. This could range from employee of the month awards to innovation challenges. Internal recognition programs can motivate your team and foster a positive workplace environment.

A standout company with an excellent internal recognition program is Cisco. Its "Connected Recognition" program is notable because it's funded at 1% of the company's payroll, which allows for substantial rewards as employees nominate their peers and managers for various accolades. This program showcases how peer-to-peer recognition can foster a positive work environment and contribute to a sense of community and appreciation among staff.

Make sure to involve your employees in the nomination process for both internal and external awards. This can increase engagement and give employees a sense of ownership and pride in their workplace, enhancing team spirit and collaboration.

3. Reflect and build upon your wins:

Use each award as a stepping stone for further improvement. Reflect on what contributed to the win and how you can build upon this success. This approach ensures continuous improvement while keeping your team motivated and focused on achieving more.

There are organizations like the Management and Strategy Institute which issue Continuous Improvement Awards. These awards recognize individuals and organizations that demonstrate a commitment to the principles of continuous improvement. The Organizational Continuous Improvement Award, for example, is presented to organizations that not only streamline processes but also invest in change management, long-term strategies and professional development.

Related: How to Leverage Industry Awards in Your Marketing Strategy

Remember, awards often offer networking opportunities with fellow nominees, awardees and judges. Take advantage of these opportunities to build relationships, share best practices and even explore potential partnerships. And try to stay updated on industry trends and new award opportunities that may arise. Being among the first to apply for or win a newly established award can position your company as a leader and innovator in your industry.

The continuous celebration of excellence and innovation through these honors encourages organizations to strive for a higher standard, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and sustainable growth. In this way, business honors inspire a future where innovation, responsibility and excellence remain at the forefront of the corporate agenda. By adopting these strategies, companies can effectively leverage awards and recognitions to foster innovation, build their brand and create a positive work environment that attracts and retains top talent.

Mike Szczesny

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Owner and vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties

Mike Szczesny is the owner and vice president of EDCO Awards & Specialties, a dedicated supplier of employee recognition products, a unique award plaque and recognition gifts, branded merchandise and athletic awards.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

TikTok Reportedly Laid Off a 'Large Percentage' of Employees as the App's Fate in the U.S. Remains Unclear

Laid-off TikTok employees were notified Wednesday night through Thursday morning.

Personal Finance

This Investment Bundle Includes a Trading Course and Stock Screener Tool for $150

Approach the stock market with an increased understanding.

Business News

Four Seasons Orlando Responds to Viral TikTok: 'There's Something Here For All Ages'

The video has amassed over 45.4 million views on TikTok.

Growing a Business

5 Strategies to Know As You Scale Your Business

Scaling a service-based company requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond simply increasing revenue. It requires careful planning, strategic decision-making and a deep understanding of market dynamics.

Growing a Business

The Right Way to Ask Someone for a Million Dollars, According to a Fundraiser Who Does It For a Living

No matter what you're raising money for, Wanda Urbanskia says, the same basic rules apply.