Employee Suggestion Scheme – Works?

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when you have only one idea.” – Emile Chartier

From personal, we know that when we are faced with a problem, we always turn to those who know us the best and those who would give us unbiased suggestions. Similarly, while running a business, the people ‘closest’ to your company would be your employees. Introducing and sustaining an employee suggestion scheme / program is a great way to leverage the skills and knowledge of your employees and increasing productivity by the implementation of the suggestions they make. An employee suggestion scheme encourages employees to be part of the decision making process, feel valued and important and at the same time the company also benefits from getting highly useful suggestions and views. There are many companies that have been able to benefit from an employee suggestion scheme – they have seen improved work quality and output, reduced costs, enhanced customer service, raised levels of employee morale and better product and service quality.

Does your company believe in making its employees ‘partners’? Do you know of any company that has implemented an employee suggestion scheme and not benefited? In order to insure the success of your employee suggestion scheme, make sure that you implement it right. Understanding of the benefits, first and foremost, is essential. When you ask the employees for suggestions they are bound to – feel motivated, have increased desire to do their job well, be more cooperative with their co-workers, work harder to produce more output and quality, better serve the customers and other such positives. When all these factors are put together the result for the company is a steady growth in revenue, reduced costs, better employee and customer satisfaction and an enhanced market reputation – a formidable combination for success.

Such a scheme would require a significant change in the company’s thought process and hence it must start at the top. The people responsible for putting together the ‘features’ of the employee suggestion scheme, would need to prepare a robust business case that clearly outlines the benefits to the company, the employees, customers and other partners and also the amount of resources required for its implementation, maintenance and success. An employee suggestion scheme cannot be a one-off – it must be consistent, just like any other business process, for it to be successful. Leadership buy-in and concurrence is therefore extremely crucial since if this group of people do not lead and encourage it, it will be destined to fail. The team that is put together to work on the employee suggestion scheme, must definitely comprise of at least a couple of people from the leadership in order to show the company’s commitment to the scheme. Plus the presence of leadership will ensure that the employees too are committed to the scheme and will confident that at least some of the suggestions will be implemented. The leaders must also provide suggestions to further encourage and motivate the employees.

Given that the employee suggestion scheme is dependent on a steady flow of suggestions and employee involvement, ensure that its launch is given due importance. An all company meeting is a great forum to ‘launch’ this scheme. Putting up posters in the office, sending out mailers asking employees to ‘suggest’ a catchy name for the scheme, putting in place a reward if the suggested name is selected, asking employees to be part of the core team with reasons as to why they should be selected and other such momentum keeping ideas. Once everything has been put together, the top person of the company must announce the scheme – its name, the core team and also talk about the perceivable benefits of the employee suggestion scheme. Creating a hype shows commitment and passion and these will pass on to your employees.

The core team, as mentioned, must have top leadership as part of it, but also the team must have employees from different departments. This allows for the whole company to be represented and also the scheme will benefit from ideas from across departments. Each department would have its own experiences and knowledge and hence the suggestions will be balanced. The people chosen for this core team must have the commitment and willingness to spend time in reviewing and evaluating the many suggestions received and they should be able to provide suitable reasons for why a suggestion is accepted or rejected.

To sustain motivation and elicit great suggestions, ensure that the most helpful suggestion is rewarded. The kind of reward is also something that the core team and other senior leadership must decide. Also the top ten suggestions could receive some kind of recognition – a mention on the mailers that go out, a personal note from the senior leadership and other such tokens of appreciation. The rewards do not need to be very costly or huge – this would smother the intrinsic desire of employees to make genuine suggestions. The suggestions must remain those that are beneficial to the company, the employees and other partners.

An employee suggestion scheme is not a forum for venting one’s frustrations. This must be made amply clear in the guidelines and procedures for suggestion making. They must be able to support their suggestions with possible benefits for both the company and the employees – suggestions that are aimed at a single individual or even a few individuals must not be accepted. This may reduce the number of suggestions received, but what you do receive will be helpful and implementable.

As with all business processes that are large and complex, the employee suggestion scheme too would need to be streamlined and be accessible to all in the core team. This would mean that appropriate technological tools are used to centralize the data, analyse it and then use it for the purpose they are meant. It must be the responsibility of the core team to enter the suggestions received, into the system. The team must work closely and in collaboration in order to make the scheme a success.

The responsibility of making the scheme a success must, however, not lie only with the core team. Each employee must understand that suggestions emanating from amongst them, if implemented, would be in their favour and hence each one should come forth with suggestions and also do whatever it takes to help the chosen suggestion to succeed. If a suggestion is rejected, the core team must be able to provide a proper explanation – without proper reason, the employees might feel de-motivated and stop providing suggestions. A balanced and thoughtful approach is required for the success of any such scheme. For suggestions to continue, the employee whose suggestion is selected must be made part of the core team for the implementation of that suggestion. This boosts the morale of the employee, makes them feel valued beyond just providing suggestions and also lends added support to the success of the suggestion.

Just like there are no stupid questions, there are also no foolish suggestions. If an employee has taken the time to think about something and come forward with an idea, it would be highly imprudent on the part of the core team to ridicule it or dismiss it as being useless. Such behaviour will only lead to distrust and employees would start withholding their ideas and suggestions for fear of being treated the same way. This would have other far-reaching effects too – a general feeling of unhappiness and frustration would permeate the organization and all such future endeavours would be looked at with suspicion.

An employee suggestion scheme, just like any other organizational venture, would require consistent support and feedback. Also small and big successes must be celebrated if your company expects employees to contribute effectively now and in the future too.

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