Learning and Development News: Steps to creating an employee suggestion programme

Developing an employee suggestion program can have a positive impact on employee morale, overall corporate culture and an organisation’s bottom line.

Organisations can create positive changes that come straight from their employees, naturally increasing engagement and performance.

Your employees are in the trenches so they probably have all kinds of positive ideas.

In 2011-2012, for example, British Airways launched a staff suggestion program in response to a challenging economic environment.

One employee’s suggestion was able to save them roughly $750,000 a year in fuel costs.

If you are going to ask employees for their opinions, you must follow the proper steps in building the program.

If you create a program that lacks sophistication, tact or follow through, you can hurt your organisation’s reputation and receive hostility from employees.

The point of the suggestion program is to actually take the suggestions to heart and make sure that employees feel they are a valuable part of the organisation.

Here are some steps to building your program:

Determine if a formal employee suggestion program is actually needed:

If you feel that suggestions are flowing naturally, an informal process may be the most beneficial.

Instead of creating, for example, an employee suggestion box, try scheduling some brainstorming meetings or setting aside time for employees to verbalise their ideas.

Informal process can be best

If employees are already cultivating new ideas in meetings, dealing with them directly will be the most beneficial.

If an informal program doesn’t seem right it is time to develop a formal program: When developing a formal program, it is important to determine exactly what is blocking ideas in your organisation.

This way you can create a program that breaks down these barriers.

Obtain leadership buy-in:

Simply put, if employees don’t see senior leadership participating or advocating for the suggestion program, it is more likely to fail.

If you need to obtain buy-in, share articles with your team on the benefits of employee suggestion programs.

Develop your formal plan:

Do some research and create a plan that you think will work best for your organisation.

It might help to look at other companies and see what they are doing in their programs.

Have some type of formal guidelines for employees to fill out with their suggestions:

This can help prevent employees from venting their frustrations in unconstructive ways.

Develop a rewards program:

This doesn’t necessarily mean giving cash to each employee that has a suggestion.

A small thank you card or note can go a long way. If you create small rewards, you create incentive and you receive more ideas.

Promote, promote, promote:

Once you have come up with your formal plan, make sure all employees have access to it and are inspired to participate.

It is not only your job to create the program, you are also responsible for inspiring employees to share their ideas.

When you are promoting your program, try to include its employee and organisational benefits and specify why you are implementing it.

Make sure you launch the program in a creative way that creates buzz across the office.

Get your senior leadership to help launch the program by promoting it in meetings, and have the chief executive create a small personal video about it.

Suggestions can be anonymous

Review the suggestions regularly:

Set up a cross-functional team to go over all the suggestions.

It is important that employees at all levels are part of this group. This way, you can make sure all the ideas are evaluated correctly.

Follow through and create urgency: If you take the time to develop this program and then don’t review and respond to the suggestions, you only make things worse.

The faster you can respond to them, the better. You need to be proactive.

If you don’t follow through, you will stop receiving suggestions and you risk negative impact on employee engagement.

In summary, simplicity is the key.

Make sure it’s easy to submit ideas.

If the process is overly complicated, employees probably won’t participate.

Something else that will keep them from participating is backlash or perceived repercussions for being honest.

Be sure to create a positive atmosphere around the program, and ensure the opportunity to remain anonymous is available.

Lastly, the most important part of developing any program or initiative that relies on employee feedback is that you must follow through.

Think of your employees as customers.

If a customer has a suggestion or complaint, you would most likely do everything you can to make sure that customer feels heard and that any needed changes are made.

Do the same with your employees.

Respond to suggestions in a timely manner and provide feedback as to why something was or wasn’t implemented.


The author: Catherine Mattice is a professional consultant and trainer who assists organisations in developing systemic action plans to build positive corporate cultures. This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.

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