COVID-19 Response Award: what makes a winner?


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22 October 2020


Ahead of next Wednesday’s ‘Navigating turbulent times’ webinar on the amazing winners of our four COVID-19 Response Awards, we asked Julie Kortens, IWFM Impact Awards Chair of Judges, to share her thoughts on what makes a winning entry. You will be able to register for the webinar from Friday 23 October, so please keep an eye on your inbox and our events page to join Julie and the panel for the discussion and to send in your questions.

‘FMs pivot. It’s what we do’. Spotted in the online comments feed at last week’s amazing virtual IWFM Impact Awards 2020 ceremony, this pithy observation summed up for me the action of an entire community of professionals this year. As our nation was gripped by a virus pandemic, workplace and facilities professionals stepped forward and spun round to support organisations and wider communities in so many different ways.

The COVID-19 Response Award came about as a way to acknowledge such extraordinary acts in extraordinary times. When we launched it in June, we were clear that we wanted everybody to see the range of contributions made by our profession to this extraordinary challenge. We thought the best way to do that was to involve the wider community in choosing the eventual winner. We expected some amazing entries to come through, but we were bowled over by the response; with almost seventy stories submitted, the shortlisting team had its work cut out.

So what makes a winner? When every project has gone above and beyond, how can a single project convey the range and scale of initiatives we were seeing? And how can one rise above the others to become the defining winner? We had intended to put no more than eight to the public vote, but the team’s feedback suggested we would have to think again.

As the shortlisting panel worked through the entries, four distinct groups began to emerge. ‘Keeping good work going’ seemed to sum up the examples concerned with maintaining productive and connected working environments safely and mindfully when so many are working remotely and in diverse circumstances. ‘Supporting the wider community’ showed us teams demonstrating impact by leading, supporting or repurposing through projects large and small. ‘On the COVID frontline’ demonstrated critical acts of creation or keeping a building, asset or people safe, secure and operational during the lockdown. ‘Adapting to new realities’ projects demonstrated excellence in managing and maintaining key relationships or commitments.

The eventual winners fitted those types, and they had other defining characteristics, too.

  • A structured response to the issue they were addressing, plus an element of scale, pace or even jeopardy.
  • Key for our profession today, they all showed us FM leading or enabling other areas of the business, which was clear in the Lloyds Banking and Mitie examples, as well as the University of Greenwich.
  • All four winners have also shown eternal impact beyond the organisation itself, perfectly demonstrated in the Edmonton Green story where the FM function pivoted to a wider purpose to help the community.
  • There was also a sense in both this, and the NHS property services win, of a breakthrough beyond the workaday, for the profile and impact of the workplace and facilities function.
  • Finally, the University of Greenwich example comes back to the pivot. Where a nimble adaptation of an initiative or major contact led to a great outcome for all parties.   

Understanding the winning characteristics and celebrating the winners can really help us to understand and learn from what makes them stand apart. We can use their examples as an inspiration to others in the sector to build back stronger and better; to inspire young people to choose workplace and facilities management as a career; and encourage everyone involved to move our profession forward, which is really what our awards is all about: definitely beyond the quotidian.