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Best Professional Development Initiative – staff focused

For the most part, organizational success is underpinned by capable, committed, loyal, and appropriately skilled staff.

Staff satisfaction does not rely solely on remuneration. Providing a sense of work-life balance, supporting wellbeing, and offering opportunities for professional development are also key factors in maintaining a happy, healthy, and effective team. By providing access to professional development, businesses can foster greater workplace positivity and enhance staff achievement.

Excellent Professional Development Initiatives (PDI) will provide specific learning outcomes and objectives that improve the knowledge base and develop and strengthen the skill sets, of those that participate in them. Excellent PDI initiatives will fit well into typical work schedules, and maintain a sense of workplace balance and wellbeing. An excellent PDI will also provide pathways for staff to broaden their experiences by encouraging participants to share their learnings, and implement new skills acquired in relevant areas of their workplace.

Successful Professional Development Initiatives will also contribute positive returns for any business via improved workplace effectiveness and support of strategic outcomes. Strategically focused businesses will prepare and plan for staff PD in their annual planning processes and budgets, and can often incorporate delivery partnerships with external providers.

Desirable components of an effective Professional Development Initiative:

  • Accessible, equitable, and inclusive, creating a respectful and trusting environment
  • Offers a shared vision of attainable goals via clear learning guidelines
  • Is aligned with the strategic plan and budget of the businesses
  • Models best practice resources with coherent standards, and inbuilt adaptability to different learning styles and the marketplace
  • Is presented by educators that have the knowledge and skillsets to instruct, collaborate, mentor, coach and improve the participants’ achievements
  • Provides opportunities for collaborative, reflective group work and individual active learning
  • Builds knowledge and positive changes to daily practices by acquiring new skillsets with conceptual understandings of them
  • Aligns with opportunities for gaining expertise by sharing practical wisdom learnt with colleagues and peers
  • Improves team planning, mentoring skills, or participation in a network
  • Offers ongoing integration of learning via access to post-program reference content
  • Delivers measurable outcomes supported by post-program evaluation reviews

This award recognises member organisations that have provided excellent professional development initiatives and/or training opportunities for their staff during 2022/23.

Initiatives can include training and education in any of the following but are not limited to these examples: conflict resolution, grant writing, improving interpersonal relationships, job re-assignments or secondment programs, leadership, organisation skills, productivity programs, professional mentoring programs, project management, skill-based training, strategic planning, stress management, team management, time management, written communication etc.

The Jury will be looking for entries that demonstrate excellence in the following:

  • Astute recognition of the need for the initiative and the outcomes it will provide for both staff and the organisation
  • Adaptability to the changing environment of the workplace and sector
  • Tangible and measurable goals and objectives
  • Evidence of strong planning
  • Creative techniques used to deliver desired outcomes
  • Effective use of resources (teams, funds, assets, tools)
  • Inclusivity, diversity, compliance with accessibility standards, and environmental considerations
  • The quality of the initiative
  • Staff engagement and experience factors
  • Evidence of success and positive impacts with measurable results
  • Innovation, leadership, and recognition*  (applies to ‘Best of the Year’ submissions only).
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Award Submission Criteria

Submissions need to address each of the following criteria:

    • Name of organisation
    • Organisation logo
    • Name & contact details of the person completing the submission
    • Full-Time Student Load (Total Student Enrolments)
    • Name of initiative

This category of the SEN Awards has two levels of recognition – ‘Award of Distinction’ and ‘Best of the Year’.

For your submission to be considered for an ‘Award of Distinction’ you will be required to complete the first 3 sets of criteria PLUS provide supporting evidence.

For your submission to be considered for the ‘Best of the Year’ Award you will be required to complete all of the ‘Award of Distinction’ requirements, PLUS the additional Innovation and Leadership criteria.

Tell us the WHY of your Initiative.

    • What was the reason for the initiative?
    • What were you aiming for and why?
    • What were the goals and objectives you were hoping to achieve?

Tell us the HOW of your initiative.

    • What key strategies were identified and used to deliver on the goals and objectives of your initiative?
    • What creative techniques and effective use of resources were applied?
    • Did you engage with any staff or external partnerships in the design or delivery of the initiative and if so, what was their input?
    • What communications and marketing strategies did you use to promote your initiative?
    • How did you ensure your initiative was inclusive, compliant with accessibility standards, and responsible?  You can reference details such as: diversity, inclusivity, accessibility to content/WGAC guidelines used, use of social/local partners, ethical/environmental or sustainable materials used etc.


    • What was the outcome of your initiative?
    • Which of your goals and objectives did you achieve?
    • What were the overall engagement and experience outcomes for the participants?
    • How have you determined the initiative’s success? What were the tangible and measurable positive impacts for your staff and organisation?
    • Funding overview

This section may be used to support your submission by providing evidence of your claims, it is not a substitute or an additional opportunity for answering the criteria in your submission.

The quality of your supporting documents will be measured against the rubric.

Relevant examples will include documentation that adds value and validation to your submission which could include links to:

  • Before and after comparative data (quantitative & qualitative)
  • Hero photos that capture the success of the initiative
  • Initiative website page or platform
  • Initiative social media campaigns
  • Initiative video files
  • Initiative PR or media
  • Storyboards
  • Feedback forms
  • Written articles
  • Evidence of innovation, leadership, and formal recognition* (applies to ‘Best of the Year’ submissions only).

You can collate supporting documents into a word doc to minimise the number of your uploads.

To progress your submission for consideration at the ‘Best of the Year’ level, you will be required to complete the following criteria. 

  • What was innovative about your initiative?
  • What stands out about this initiative from other PD initiatives you have offered or seen before?
  • What did you incorporate, and how was it coordinated or promoted that was innovative and completely different from any other PD initiatives you have offered or seen before?
  • How does this initiative provide meaningful and significant leadership outcomes for your organisation, and the staff experience at your campus, and/or within the sector?
  • How has this initiative gone over and above in addressing and delivering on an identified need within your organisation?
  • How is it positively influencing other organisations in the sector?
  • How is the initiative replicable and are you offering support for its development at other organisations?
  • Have you received official recognition for your initiative within your own organisation, within the sector, or broader industry fields?

Please ensure that you have uploaded adequate supporting documentation to support your claims including any reference to formal industry and/or organisation recognition. 

Each category has a rubric that will be used as a scoring guide by the Awards Jury Panel against criteria responses in your submission.

Please note:

  • Criteria Responses that are a direct copy and paste from previous criteria fields in the same category submission will be marked as Basic.
  • Submissions that do not provide supporting evidence of the stated claims will be marked as Basic.
  • In the event of multiple applications achieving equal scores, the award decision is at the discretion of the Awards Jury Panel.
  • In order to be eligible to win ‘Best of the Year’, your application will need to achieve a score of at least 13 out of 15.
  • Applications submitting for ‘Best of the Year’ that do not meet the higher score ranking required to win can also be considered for an ‘Award of Distinction’ at the judge’s discretion.

Category-specific rubrics will be available to download on the submission page of each category. 

Click HERE to see an example.