A Suggestion Program

Best Practices for Establishing a Suggestion Program within Your Organization:

1. Top Management Support
Top management must clearly make the employees know his/her stance on the value of a suggestion program. For example, the CEO could record a personal video message communicating his commitment. The CEO of Southwest Airlines sent a personal letter to each employee to their home encouraging their participation in the company’s suggestion program. (Nelson, 2002). Within six weeks Southwest had millions of dollars’ worth of money saving suggestions.

According to a March 2001 article reported in USA Today, a survey developed by OfficeTeam found, “Only 38% of working men and women feel their managers are very willing to listen to new ideas and suggestions for improvement.”

2. Program Administrator
Designate an individual to administer the program - not to accept or reject suggestions but to act as a liaison between employees and management. Develop a process that includes responding promptly to each suggestion, whether it is adopted or not. For the employee involvement program to work, there needs to be someone senior responsible for the program. A poorly run system will demoralize employees. The program should acknowledge employee contributions via rewards, debriefings, etc. This administrator’s performance should be evaluated on the number of employee involvements submitted and accepted. If few suggestions come in, then someone is not stimulating interest in the program.

3. Publicize
Publish all ideas accepted to stimulate thought and additional ideas. Establish a need for improvement. Ensure employees realize the competitive reasons to improve and the value of their suggestions. Open up the program for ways to improve processes, eliminate waste or to be more competitive in the global market place. Some organizations include this employment involvement message in new hire orientation and the recruiting process. Some invite employees who have accepted suggestions to tell of the impact of their contribution either personally or on video.

4. Eliminate Threatened Manager Syndrome
Historically, there have been managers who fear subordinates looking too good, and employee ideas have been suppressed and even stolen. Keep employee involvement programs on the front burner to reap competitive opportunities. Encourage and reward managers who actively solicit employee involvements. Managers may feel threatened when subordinates receive recognition. Eliminate fear and reward managers who create a learning environment of better ideas/suggestions.

5. Open Program to Vendors/Customers/Employees/Anyone

(Here is where Suggestion MailBox App comes in)

Open the suggestion program to every employee, vendor/customer by making the Suggestion MailBox App work for your program. For example, a customer of a barbershop suggested moving hair care products in the barbershop to a wall opposite the barber chair. As the customer’s hair was being cut, they would be facing the products. Retail sales increased 200%.

The Suggestion MailBox App is simple and easy to use. Make sure it is monitored and replied to. Provide rewards for successful suggestions to the author of the suggestion if the suggestor has provided an email address.

Advertise your participation in the use of the Suggestion MailBox App, so customers and employees alike can use ito make their suggestions.

6. Rotate Suggestion Advisory Committee Members
If your organization is large, it may be necessary to set up a cross-functional advisory committee that represents corporate departments to evaluate the merit of submitted suggestions. For small organizations, one or two people will likely have the knowledge to evaluate the merit of submitted suggestions.

7. Rewards
Reward people who make useful suggestions. Imagination as to what to reward is needed but, for an employee 10-20% of the first year’s savings that their suggestion reaps is one idea; while a check to a customer for some appropriate amount would be worthy of getting even more participation. Additionally, people value recognition, so publishing the customer’s name on an ‘honor wall’ or ‘wall of fame’ that acknowledges the contributions and keeps the message exposed to other customers and employees.

8. Timely Feedback
Contributors need to know that their suggestions are taken seriously. By quickly reviewing and replying to each contributor, the organization sends a strong positive message.

9. Keep the Submission Process Simple, but Ask for Amplification
In configuring the organizations App page it is reasonable to ask for a business case for implementing the suggestion. For example, the organization might ask, as an option, that the contributor include its value/ benefit, who it will impact or affect, and implementation and cost estimation guesses.

10. Submission Anonymity Option
Upon submission of a suggestion, the suggestor can have the option of not being identified.

11. Review Suggestion Program Annually
Review the suggestion program annually to monitor its effectiveness. The administrators of the program can post “FAQ” lists to help employees and customers to better understand the process. This annual review should be a line item in the corporate culture survey.