How to set up an employee suggestion scheme

More than anyone else, your employees have ideas on how to improve your services, processes, and products, and the way your organisation is run. The trick is to get them to speak up and to accept that management cares and is prepared to listen to, and indeed reward, good ideas that might increase productivity, cut costs, or improve working conditions. If you want to install a workable employee suggestion program, consider the following advice...

1. Consider the value of a suggestion scheme.

A well-implemented staff suggestion scheme can not only encourage staff involvement, leading to improved motivation and morale, but also result in greater efficiency and cost savings throughout the organisation. The scheme can create a workplace in which innovation and creativity flourish. It can allow staff at all levels, who often see problems and solutions that management does not, to feel valued in helping to improve the way the organisation is run.

2. Review the merits of proven schemes.

Larger organisations should identify and consider the merits of successful schemes elsewhere before deciding on a workable approach to adopt or adapt. For example:

  • Com-Corp Industries has installed 'Screw-up Boxes' to encourage staff to tell management when something's wrong. Comments, complaints, and questions are posted on bulletin boards together with management's responses.
  • On its annual Ideas Day, staff at the US Department of Energy in Washington examine ways to improve customer service, streamline work processes, and enhance the working environment. Recently, 2,134 ideas were gathered - and 68 per cent of them were implemented.
  • A few years ago, Rosenbluth International sought ideas as part of 'Operation Brainstorm'. Over 400 cost-saving ideas were received - and they saved the company from laying off staff.
  • Freightliner Corp supplies staff with yellow and blue preprinted Post-it note pads. Any employee with a workplace problem fills out a yellow note describing the issue and posts it on one of the special boards throughout the plant. Anyone with a suggestion for solving the problem fills out a blue note and places it on a board in response.
  • Valeo Autoparts expects each employee to make 10 suggestions each year, guaranteeing that each will be responded to within 10 days. Annually, 250,000 suggestions are received!

3. Decide on a few basics.

In setting up a scheme, give some thought to the following:

  • Give the scheme a name - it will help in publicising the initiative.
  • Decide whether this is to be an ongoing activity, or limited to certain periods.
  • Determine the format of the scheme - suggestion boxes, formal face-to-face meetings, noticeboard strategies, etc.
  • Devise a strategy for assessing ideas and rewarding staff appropriately.
  • Consider testing the procedures by using a small pilot scheme.

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