The concept of asking employees to share their ideas to drive business innovation is an excellent one. Unfortunately, the traditional suggestion scheme is not.
The original suggestion box is a non-starter. You’re asking employees to put their ideas into a box. You’re basically shutting their ideas away in the dark, storing them away indefinitely. It’s no wonder that the suggestion box has become a bit of a joke in the workplace, standing as the perfect example of hands-off management. It’s often known as the equivalent of a paper shredder. Because, of course, storing away good ideas is the exact opposite of what you should be doing. You need to act on them.
Even when you take the suggestion scheme outside the box, it needs to be handled correctly. Too often a scheme is launched with enthusiasm, only to become a black hole for employee suggestions that are never acknowledged or acted upon. Employee engagement levels drop like a stone when people feel their efforts are unappreciated.
Successful businesses use suggestion schemes tap into the experience, skills and expertise of employees. Employees are at the sharp end of your business, so are ideally placed to suggest new ideas, assess them, develop them, and then help implement them.
In this blog, we’ll explore how your business can improve employee engagement and manage the flow of ideas from submission to implementation in five stages with an Ideas Management App.
The Five Stages of Successful Suggestion Schemes
Stage 1: Give Employees a Voice
Your overall aim is to foster a company culture of innovation. You will get maximum employee buy-in when your employees feel part of the change driving the business, rather than being subject to its effects.
Empower your employees by asking them to address the real challenges your business faces now and in the future. In order to get the most beneficial responses, make those challenges:
With an Ideas Management App, each Challenge has its own virtual space. You can open the Challenge up to all, or to a selected group with specialist skills or knowledge. In this way, you can acknowledge your employees’ unique skill sets and encourage them to employ them to your benefit.
Make it Personal
Don’t make your employee’s contribution anonymous. People need to feel encouraged and rewarded for contributing ideas, not hidden away. Recognition is always attributed a higher value when it is made public.
Stage 2: Collate and Manage Ideas
This is the point where many suggestion schemes fall over. Traditionally, there is a big gap between the number of suggestions made by employees and the rate at which they are picked up. The ideas pour in, the person responsible is swamped, and great ideas get lost in the process.
A transparent, open system for managing ideas is essential for boosting employee engagement and improving workplace satisfaction. With an Ideas Management App, an effective feedback loop keeps everyone aware of incoming ideas and their progress within the system. Alerts and notifications are a great way to acknowledge receipt of suggestions, rather than allowing them to fall into the dreaded black hole.
Any Time, Any Place, Any Where
Inspiration doesn’t always strike between 9am and 5pm. The beauty of an App is that employees can send in their suggestions direct from any device, anywhere, and most importantly, any time.
Stage 3: Rate and Review Ideas
An App takes the pain out of ideas management by enabling employees to read, review and rate ideas submitted by their peers. Even with just a simple 1-5 star rating system, quality ideas will naturally rise to the top. In addition, it provides employees with the certainty that their ideas and suggestions are being listened to, by both peers and management.
Each Challenge owner can easily assess what ideas merit more investigation in terms of scoping, costing and planning. They can also see who has been active in driving the ideas, making it easier to put together an enthusiastic team to take the idea to the next stage. In this way, you are giving people the confidence in their own ability to contribute to change and success.
When people contribute ideas that create improvement, it’s important to show their efforts are recognised and rewarded. This is how improvement culture spreads throughout a company.
Stage 4: Take Action
Many Idea Management Apps stop just when you need help most - taking the best ideas through planning to implementation. They’re excellent at collating and managing suggestions, but you still need to take the final step.
That’s where a fully-fledged innovation management process comes into its own. Rather than waiting for senior management to find the time to implement plans, the App will provide automatic prompts to follow up:
- Create specific groups to take the idea forward
- Enable co-creation and cooperation between employees
- Build a virtual ‘paper trail’ of activity to avoid duplication of effort
- Access reliable, accurate costings and reporting
This means employees will spend less time waiting for something happen and actually take part in implementing the change themselves.
With an App that automatically tracks company actions, it becomes easier to visualise progress. Change can often be an invisible process that leaches morale from the team. Making the steps open and transparent will ensure buy-in across all levels.
Stage 5: Implement and Celebrate
You’ve done it! The idea made it right from the initial suggestion by one enlightened employee all the way through to implementation across the company. With an App in place, this suggestion will have travelled smoothly from one stage to another, with no loss of data, connections or enthusiasm.
By the time an idea is ready to be implemented, it has built up considerable momentum and support along its entire lifespan. It has been talked about, discussed, viewed, rated, and will have its own champions as a result. It will be a company-wide achievement and celebrating its success will have a powerful impact on engagement levels.
You’ll find employees will want to celebrate the realisation of ‘their’ idea too! This is the time to openly praise the champions of the idea and everyone who was involved in its execution.
Ditch the Suggestion Box!
Ultimately, nothing makes people feel more engaged and enthused about their work than feeling listened to. If employees feel that the management care about their opinions and listen to their suggestions, you’ll have a highly engaged, productive workforce. An effective Ideas Management App will assist you in ensuring that employee ideas are taken seriously and addressed on an ongoing basis.