Is there anyone who hasn't worked for a company that has tried the "Suggestion Box" method of soliciting ideas? When it comes down to it, besides the owner, company employees know a company best and can offer the most worthwhile ideas for improvement. For one reason or another, however, employees may be reluctant to offer ideas or suggestions: Maybe they are too busy, perhaps they're afraid of getting their ideas shot down or being embarrassed, or maybe they're discouraged by the dust on the suggestion box.
Getting employees to participate in offering suggestions for improvement doesn't have to be an exercise in futility. Below are a few tips on how to get good feedback from workers and how to make suggestions work for your company.
- Concentrate on one area of the business at a time when asking for suggestions. This will allow your employees to focus on just one area or topic. Have a theme week or month. Themes can include cost savings ideas, recruiting ideas, customer satisfaction, and employee morale issues. Have your staff begin in their own area of expertise. Employees can make the greatest impact in the area they know best. Suggest that they look for ways to save money, improve services, or streamline processes in their areas, and experiment as necessary to test those ideas.
- Be sure to provide detailed information to your staff. Make sure employees have the information they need in order to make good choices and suggestions. Educate them on the day-to-day operations of your business and both short-term and long-term goals of the company.
- Ask for their help. Go directly to your staff and ask for their assistance. This is a very important part of management. This opens the doors to your staff and gives them the green light to make recommendations.
- Hold employees accountable. Have your employees do the math when making their suggestions. As part of the suggestion process, have employees document their suggestions with hard facts. How will this help operations, how can their idea improve the bottom line, how much money can be saved, and so on. By incorporating this process, staff may be less likely to suggest a new soda machine, or exercise equipment if they are required to prove the idea can and will save the company money, time, or benefit the company in some way.
- Ask your staff to help with the implementation of suggestions. Your employees may have wonderful ideas and suggestions, but if you don’t follow through, the suggestions are not benefiting the company. Ask your staff members to offer ideas about how to implement the suggestions they have made. Empower your staff to solve the problems that may result from implementing their suggestions. Think through the costs and benefits of ideas and how you can make - or initiate - the desired change.
- As one who is offering suggestions, document your suggestions and share them with others during meetings. Consider who else would need to be involved to implement a suggestion, and seek the input, involvement, and approval of those individuals as soon as possible. Own your ideas - to see them to fruition, volunteer to do those aspects of the suggestion that you’re able to implement. Learn how to sell your ideas to others.
- Conduct round table discussions throughout the year. This will help the company keep control of the suggestions and will also allow the company to implement ideas from past discussions. By holding several round table discussions a year, instead of an ongoing suggestion forum, employees are less likely to get burned out and fatigued. Round table discussions will enable the group to share those ideas that worked and those ideas that did not work and to discuss the successes and failures with an eye toward improvement.
- Reward, Reward, Reward! If it is in your budget, reward your staff for suggestions that have been implemented. You will find that your staff will be more open to making suggestions and thinking through their suggestions if rewards are entered into the equation. The idea here is to make the process fun. Be creative!
- Use a team approach. A team approach makes idea building a more cooperative endeavor and can help enhance and bring an idea to fruition. Pull together teams of staff that share common job descriptions, department responsibilities, and office locations.
When implementing these ideas for soliciting and implementing suggestions, use your imagination, be creative, and most of all open the doors of communication to your staff in order to keep your business growing in the years to come.