NASA Workforce Map
Awards and Recognition

Making Good Award Selections

In determining who receives a formal award, the key question for a supervisor or an awards panel member is “What nomination data and award criteria are going to be used and how will they be used to select which contributions to reward?

Nomination Data: Typically, the data are based on what is submitted with an award nomination form or justification but can include other information such as performance assessment results, work products, panel interview, and site visits (for instance, the George M. Low Award). A key factor is to clearly communicate what data will be used and then not deviate from it. For example, are panel members going to be allowed to provide personal information about a nominee’s performance to supplement the nomination form and conversely, are nominees responsible for providing full and sufficient information for the award selection official or panel member’s use?

Criteria: Use strong clear criteria for determining the recipients for an award.

  • Under what conditions can a nomination be submitted? The nominee may need to be in a specified job category (for instance, a secretarial, clerical or technical administrative position for the Exceptional Administrative Achievement Honor Award) or achieve a specific activity, result or behavior (for instance, supports space flight mission or demonstrates one NASA behaviors).
  • Award selection criteria used to assess the level of the contribution should be measurable and clearly understood by all employees and award panel members. Communicating and publishing the criteria beforehand helps employees know where the organization is going, what it holds of value and how he or she can fit in.

Awards Selection Process: Not all award selection processes need to be the similar. An organization can look to its current award selection approaches where employees view the award selections as credible and helpful feedback is regularly provided to those who want it by the award selection official or panel members.

Approaches for using the nomination data and award criteria can vary – either in terms of everyone meeting a pre-determined level of contribution will receive this award, ranking nominees to identify top tier contributions, or to make a best-of-the-best determination. In most cases, these approaches include a valid method for determining how well each candidate meets award criteria. Two popular methods are detailed below.

1. Priority Selection Matrix may look like the following.

Rater Instructions: Assess the degree that a nominee’s contribution meets each criterion using the following scale: Low, Medium or High.

Criteria Nominee W Nominee X Nominee Y Nominee Z

Criteria #1





Criteria #2





Criteria #3





Criteria … n





Consider the following rules of thumb when designing your matrix:

  • Number of Criteria – Typically three to five criteria are sufficient. Having more than five may force finite distinctions in relative importances that are not realistic or meaningful.
  • Scale/PointsA simple scale of high, medium or low is easy to use and discuss when calibrating a number of nominations/contributions. A more delineated method is to assign a point value for high (5), medium (3) and low (1) or a range of points that the rater can allocate to each criterion. Also, these methods can be combined with a weighting factor for each criterion (see next).
  • WeightingSometimes weighting is an appropriate way to identify which criteria are relatively more important. Consider the number of criteria when indexing the relative weight of the lowest weighted criteria. For example, using five criteria with two weighted at 40% and three weighted at 7% each may not provide any additional calibration than having three criteria by combining the three lowest weighted factors into one weighted at 20% for ease of use.

2. Paired-Comparisons Method. This method works best with you want to sort nominations in rank order. You compare each individual nomination against every other, one-to-one. For each paired-comparison, note the top choice and tabulate the number of top choices for each nomination. To illustrate, let’s say you have seven candidates. Label each (A, B, C, D, E, F and G) and develop a table for each rater that looks like this:

     A B

     A C     B C

     A D     B D   C D

     A E     B E    C E    D E

     A F     B F    C F    D F     E F

     A G    B G    C G    D G    E G    F G

For each paired-comparison, raters circle their top choice, then add the number of times a given nomination is circled. For significant discrepancies in how a particular nomination was ranked by multiple raters, review the tables to isolate variations.