Many great business innovations started life as a humble suggestion from an employee. It was a worker at Amazon who came up with the simple, but incredibly successful idea of offering customers free shipping. This innovation led to the creation of Amazon Prime. It was a Facebook coder who came up with the ‘Like’ idea, now used daily by millions. And a 3M employee, fed up of his bookmarks falling out of his reading book, who suggested the Post-it note.
The bottom line is employees have insights and innovations that make a difference. After all, they are the ones who interact daily with your product, services, and customers. Their unique perspective may well trigger that vital breakthrough thinking, and uncover the gold.
So now, more than ever, as businesses scramble to survive the new operating environment, it’s time to spark your employee suggestion program. Encouraging staff to come up with ways to improve business is potentially a cost-effective and efficient way to get through.
And just like Amazon Prime, it could be a defining moment for your business.
Benefits Of An Employee Suggestion Program
An employee suggestion program offers several benefits, so it’s well worth making the investment. Staff feedback schemes are a major part of today’s knowledge management culture, and contribute to business success by:
- fostering a culture of innovation and creativity in which new perspectives and fresh ideas are allowed to flourish
- empowering employees by providing avenues for anonymous feedback and giving a voice to all workers
- increasing employee engagement as workers feel they are being listened to and their opinions valued
- boosting bank balances by encouraging employees to contribute new product ideas, plus ways to increase sales and revenue streams
- identifying cuts in expenditure through more efficient company practices
- enhancing employee retention as staff have a greater stake in the organization’s future
- improving customer service as workers relay to management insights and comments received from customers about products or services.
And the good news is that technology has made it easy to introduce a digital employee suggestion program. And it won’t cost a fortune, especially if you use existing office platforms like the company intranet.
Employee Suggestion Program Best Practices
A digital employee feedback program works just like the suggestion box of old. However, employees now use always-on technology to record their bright ideas. Technology makes it easy for the employee to record that eureka moment as it happens, whenever and wherever. And in today’s marketplace where innovation and speed are critical, this could give you a vital competitive advantage.
Capturing An Idea
The first step is to set up an online form, preferably within your company intranet, to record the suggestion. Make sure you keep the form simple. Anything that takes more than a couple of minutes to complete is likely to be counter-productive.
Ensure staff can attach different media formats, such as a photo or video link, to help explain their idea. The whole point is employees can record their idea within a few moments before it’s forgotten.
Traditional employee suggestion schemes often fell over because they lacked focus and structure. Rather than having free rein, the creative energies of staff need to be channeled. Include in the form several overall themes organized around business goals. This makes it easier to evaluate and respond to the idea. It could be product improvements, cost-saving ideas, new innovations, or a change to business processes.
Sharing Ideas In The Workplace
The intranet’s online form can be automatically directed to the right staff member for action. One of the criticisms of the traditional suggestion box is that those good ideas usually come to nothing. Employees often end up wondering whether their suggestions were even read, let alone acted on.
An automated process, however, means accountability and action take center stage. Sharing ideas in the workplace is more straightforward. And it’s easier for management to keep track of suggestions, which means there’s improved transparency and accountability in the system. Automatic reminders can be sent to the responsible staff to ensure they follow-up on feedback submitted.
Similarly, automatic updates are sent to the submitter to acknowledge and thank them for their contribution. And they are also used to keep the employee updated on what’s happening with their idea.
Evaluating And Discussing Employee Suggestions
Every suggestion submitted deserves to be discussed and evaluated. Improve transparency by publishing the evaluation framework, so staff know exactly how the suggestion will be reviewed.
And when it comes to discussion and evaluation, employees from across the business will undoubtedly have a contribution. Once again, digital platforms such as the intranet have a role to play. Set up a digital project space where employees virtually brainstorm ideas, share insights, and discuss the possibilities.
The most promising suggestions can then progress to the next stage of development. Testing and piloting will determine the best of the best, which are worthy of company-wide implementation.
Creating The Right Environment
When it comes to effective employee suggestion programs, staff need reassurance that no idea is bad. Fear of failure or ridicule often hold workers back from putting forward their suggestions. Make it clear that all ideas are welcome. No matter how zany, every suggestion is equally valid and valued.
Rewarding And Incentivizing Staff To Get Involved
Rewards and incentives don’t always have to be of the monetary kind. A public acknowledgment is often just as important. Make sure those workers with the best suggestions are showcased in the staff newsletter or intranet newsfeed.
And try and introduce a fun element from time to time. Always focusing on targets, goals, and productivity can impact on participation. Introduce a light-hearted element to ensure workers remain engaged in the process. You could, for example, canvass suggestions for a team-bonding exercise, or a corporate fundraising initiative.
Feeding Back To Staff On The Employee Suggestion Program
Reporting back goes beyond the employee who submitted the bright idea. Just as important is the need to update the workforce on the overall program.
In fact, the credibility of the program and the buy-in of employees is dependent on this vital step. All staff have a vested interest in hearing about the outcomes of suggestions put forward by their colleagues. Disengagement, mistrust, and cynicism will soon set in if workers feel the program is just a sham with no backbone.
Use internal communications channels to report back on employee suggestions that have led to real change and innovation. The intranet’s newsfeed is an obvious platform along with staff newsletters, company blogs, and internal social media.
Staff Feedback: Other Ways To Capture Staff Suggestions
An online suggestion program is just one way to collect insightful staff feedback. Here are some other possibilities to consider.
These can be of the virtual or real-life variety. Either way, they are vehicles for employees to share and discuss ideas, insights, and suggestions. Forums can take on a frequency that makes sense for your business.
However, just as you did with the online suggestion form, it’s essential to provide some parameters. You could invite staff to contribute their ideas under a specific topic of improving the employee experience, for example. Or workers could be given criteria based on business or departmental goals. Setting guidelines helps to focus the contributions of staff and may provide the initial stimulus.
And don’t forget to update attendees on the outcomes of their suggestions in the weeks after the forum.
Employee Focus Groups
By definition, smaller and more targeted, employee focus groups work best on a tightly defined agenda. They involve bringing together a random cross-section of staff and allow you to dig deeper into employees’ perceptions and experiences. Workers should have free rein to contribute their views on the topic under review without fear of recrimination.
If you are after honest feedback and suggestions on an easily defined issue – perhaps an employee wellness package, or maybe the onboarding experience – then focus groups are a good option.
Employee Pulse Surveys
An employee survey can range from a snap poll for instant feedback on an issue to a detailed satisfaction survey. However, they are also useful ways to invite feedback and suggestions on a company-wide, location, team, or even role basis.
And they also provide a voice for workers who may not engage with other employee suggestion schemes. In fact, make it anonymous, and you are more likely to receive honest insights as well as increased participation.
Once again, for maximum effectiveness, keep it short and simple. Ask closed questions rather than open-ended ones. And use scales rather than straightforward yes or no questions. This will allow you to measure the strength of opinion more easily.
And don’t neglect to inform participants about the results. Be clear about what’s changed as a result of the survey so that your staff will be motivated to participate next time.
Many businesses are making use of the team chat to capture bright ideas and staff feedback. Use a #channel with a catchy name such as #ideasworthsharing or #ideas2inspire.
Readily accessible and with a reach throughout the business, instant messaging is an excellent platform for developing and collaborating on ideas. Team leaders in other departments can be alerted to interesting suggestions using the @mention. And use the same instant messaging channels to feedback to followers on progress.
Employee Suggestion Program: Main Takeaway Messages
The employee suggestion scheme still has a place in the workplace. However, review the techniques and platforms you are using to ensure they remain relevant.
- Use digital technology already in the workplace, such as the intranet.
- Keep it simple. Make it easy for staff to contribute their ideas and suggestions. If the process is too complicated or time-consuming, employees just won’t participate.
- Create the right culture. Staff need to feel empowered to contribute. They need to understand their suggestions are valid and respected. Provide anonymous channels, so workers have no fear of any backlash from management.
- Follow-through. Make sure you act on the suggestions and implement the best ones. Prioritize reporting back to all staff on the outcomes of the suggestions.
Implement these takeaways to ensure your program is a dynamic force for change rather than an outdated dinosaur from a bygone age.
Interested in finding out more? Then contact the team at MyHub. Discover how to develop a digital employee suggestion program with our easy-to-use intranet software. Get started today with a free demo or 14-day no-obligation trial.