Perhaps you remember the old fashioned and antiquated business approach to employee engagement formerly known as the “suggestion box”. This was the method used by many organizations to allow employees to share ideas and thoughts about what to do differently in the workplace. Instead of finding a way to directly engage the workforce a box would be stationed in the workplace for employees to drop in their thoughts. This old method has a plethora of flaws, the first and most important is a lack of direct engagement with the employees. A second flaw is the failure in management to communicate and train the employees on how to develop their ideas into a business case that can be reviewed for a decision based on the needs of the business.
Employees often feel that their ideas enter a black hole, and perhaps they can relate to the image here where the suggestion box is also the shred box. This is not a productive engagement tool, and from the management side you may wonder if you will ever receive a good idea.
Change all of that by teaching the workforce how to make the most of their ideas, and if you master this you will add a competitive advantage to your business through the power of your workforce. First, educate the workforce on how leadership makes decisions, and what factors are considered when evaluating process improvements or business recommendations. Next, develop a set of criteria that force the employee to own their recommendation, and to include facts and data necessary to effectively analyze the proposed change(s). Creating a form that the employee must sign, and that includes a statement of the business problem, the suggested solution, the financial information, logistics, resource needs, operational benefits, consequences, and whatever else you need to make an informed decision. I recommend the employee sign the form so that they both own the idea, and can be recognized for the idea. I also recommend the form require an alternative solution to the problem they have identified.
An effective strategy for this approach to process improvements and organic ideas is to allow the individual to present a selected idea to the management team, which teaches additional skills to the employee, and allows for the management team to not only hear the idea, but observe the passion behind the idea. Finally, all properly submitted ideas should receive a formal response from management indicating the suggestion was received, reviewed, and next steps.
Not only will your program encourage more engagement and ideas, working together with those who look for ways to improve your business with you is an excellent way to foster even more thought leadership and process improvements for your business. Go from just a suggestion box to a growing, living process of creativity and innovation.