Implementing a Successful Employee Suggestion Program

by Guest Poster

Before launching a new employee suggestion program... you may want to consider your corporate culture. Are you receiving any fresh and innovative ideas? Are the suggestions already circulating at staff meetings or amongst staff members themselves? If so, maybe an informal method of cultivating any new ideas may be warranted rather than a full-blown program.

Maybe scheduling a departmental brainstorming session, to discuss particular topics during portions of your weekly staff meetings. You can set aside one morning for a breakfast meeting, where every employee is asked to submit at least one of their own ideas.

Employee suggestion programs (check out our government suggestion program guide here, if you work in local or state govt.) can be difficult to keep up with, time consuming and can cause hard feelings rather than the positive outcome you desire and must be strictly managed to be a success.

Can a Employee Suggestion Scheme work?

Employee suggestion programs can and do succeed. The ones that do succeed share common elements to their success. There are a number of factors to be considered significant in the overall success of any  program. These factors are common to any successful process that will take the employees’ time, as well as offering the possibility for significant rewards. If you do decide to implement an employee sug. program, the following must be considered for it to become a success:

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1. Appoint a Cross-functional Suggestion Review Team

A cross-functional team must review any suggestions and be acknowledged within 48 hours. If this team is made up of all directors or management, it can be seen as being out of touch with the rest of the workforce. However, it will have power to implement the suggestions. If it involves other employees, the process can be time-consuming and perceived to serve self-interests. Senior management’s agreement and ownership become a second step in the approval process.

2. Establish Guidelines for Your Employee Suggestion Program

Set out guidelines as to which topics are on the table to suggest. Some that are likely to be included are ideas that produce savings, increased productivity, revenue and morale. Employee suggestions need to be more than just any old suggestion. Primarily it must offer some detail about how the proposer would implement their suggestion. It’s easy to get carried away with an idea. Additional detail would be required but not a detailed action plan – some meat on the bones of the idea is sufficient.

3. Keep the channel open and flowing

Designate an administrator for employee suggestions, who will ensure the process moves at a steady pace. A firm that finds itself with over a hundred suggestions will get bogged down very quickly. What a morale buster for people who had turned in those suggestions!

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4. Rewards and Recognition in Your Employee Suggestion Program

The reward for suggestions must be clearly outlined upfront. If a suggestion form comes in with a suggestion for cost savings, the employee receives a percentage of the savings. This reward can be between 5-25% of the proven cost savings. Rewards can also include company merchandise sporting company logos, gift certificates or an awards dinner.

5. Feedback in Your Employee Suggestion Program

Pass on any feedback to people in a private setting, especially if the idea was rejected. Otherwise, people will not stick their necks out by offering any more suggestions that could be implemented. However, when a suggestion is implemented, publicly acknowledge the contribution at a staff meeting, with permission of the employee. You can also post the employee suggestion and names of the employees on the implementation team the reward given, on notice boards or via company e-mail.

Keep the employee suggestion program participants informed of the progress of their suggestions in the program. Employees just want to know what is happening with their ideas. In many organizations, suggestions disappear into a vortex from which they may never emerge.

A Job Well Done

Consideration of all the elements outlined here will manage the successful flow of suggestions into the proper channels for implementation. Those willing to put themselves out there for the benefit of the company will feel empowered now they have a voice, and can see their ideas being manifested. A happy workforce is a productive workforce, ultimately enhancing the office environment, becoming more efficient while all the time promoting your company into a different league.

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Heather Saunders; ECITB Product Dev. Platform Manager

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