Staff Suggestion Scheme – success at the UK's ECITB
"Before Vetter, there wasn’t a simple channel for ideas..."
Facts about the ECITB
What does it do? The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) is the national training provider and awarding body for the UK’s engineering construction workforce with just under 100 employees. The ECITB is a distributed organisation with a head office located just north of London, 8 regional plus 25 staff who work from home, 5 of whom are in the Middle East.
The Problem – communication/engagement with senior managers
In late 2012, the ECITB had an Investors in People assessment which revealed that “...while people felt they were listened to at a local level (by their manager), they felt less engagement with the senior team.” A working group from across the organisation was assembled to look at this issue and a staff survey was conducted. This survey revealed that 93% of staff were in favor of a staff suggestion scheme with 52% preferring some kind of anonymous idea submission method.
- Choosing a system: The working group researched several software options and two similar products were trialed. Both allow suggestions that are submitted to be voted on by staff before being submitted for consideration and it was felt that this was an inclusive way to run the scheme. Both also allow staff to see how suggestions are progressing through the system ensuring transparency. Vetter was chosen as it was easier to use and allowed ‘challenges’ to be issued to generate ideas to solve particular problems. It is a hosted service which gives users easy access via the internet and no administrative burden for IT.
- Setting up some guidelines: This was the first time the ECITB had created a suggestion scheme for staff and so it was important to develop some basic rules and objectives. After these were finalised, they were posted on Vetter’s NoticeBoard page, where all staff can easily find them.
- Launch time: To help the launch go smoothly, Vetter’s tech support team sent out the Invitations in bulk at a time chosen by the ECITB. This is standard procedure at Vetter – a major account launch will have both a support person and developer standing by monitoring the system and being ready to reply to any Support requests immediately. Heather Saunders, the implementation manager for the scheme commented: "We used the chat box down in the bottom right of the screen when we had a problem or question; we usually got an answer within a few minutes, response times are excellent".
- A low-maintenance system: Frances Wilson, the administrator for the scheme agreed that Vetter is a low-maintenance system. Initially in the first month, Frances spent 3-6 hours in total "helping people get registered and answering questions”. After that, it’s “1-2 hours per month at most – I am the Levy and Contracts Administrator so it is essential that the system is not time consuming to maintain, I just would not have the time".
- How does ECITB sort the Ideas it receives? "We decided that the Directors would review each Idea (or group of ideas if they are similar) that come through, once a month.. They decide if an idea is suitable for immediate implementation or if work needs to be done prior to implementation. In the latter case we set the Idea Status as ‘Scheduled for Implementation’). Or they might decide it needs further research (in this case we tag the idea with ‘Further Review’)" said Heather.
- Q. What about those ideas that won’t be implemented? Heather explained, "We are using the Archive feature to store ideas the Directors have decided aren’t suitable for implementation."