Is there a suggestion box where employees can place their ideas for improvements? Is it working for you? Are there ever any great ideas added to this box? Have you ever done anything with any of the ideas put in there?
What is sad about suggestion box programs is that they generally fail miserably, and even worse than that they can work the opposite of what they were intended to do. Instead of being a way to energize employees, these programs often turn into something that produces lack of motivation. Now, are you wondering if there is something better you can do?
There is! You can set up a Visual Improvement Idea System.
With Lean processes, visual programs are installed where employees can quickly review and follow up on the status of projects. They also have built in accountability which produces better results. This same kind of process can be incorporated into employee suggestion programs. you will generate a greater number of better ideas, and your employees are more likely to buy into those that are adopted as well as get them completed.
This involves four simple steps. The only things you need are adhesive sticky notes and a white board. Divide the white board into four sections. Those sections should be named, “New Ideas”, “Waiting To Do”, “In Process,” and “Completed.” Some people go a little farther with a fifth section called, “Late.” When your board is ready, walk your employees through the following steps.
1. Have people write their new ideas on the sticky notes and place them in the “New Ideas” section.
2. A couple of times a week go through the new ideas. When you find ideas that show promise, move them to the “Waiting To Do” section. When you find ideas that do not meet the standards for workable suggestions, put your name on the back with the reason it is being rejected and deliver it to the employee who submitted it. Spend some time with them explaining why the idea is not worth pursuing at the present time. You should try not to reject many of the suggestions that come in. some good reasons for rejecting ideas would be that they have nothing to do with the business, there are no resources with which to implement them or they are in conflict with other projects.
3. On a weekly basis or as funding or time come available, move workable ideas further on the board to “In Process” and talk with someone about completing it. Writer that persons name on the stick note and allow them time to do the work. Never exceed available resources when assigning projects.
4. Each time ideas are put to use, move that sticky note to the “Completed” section. Leave it there for a few weeks to allow employees to get a look at the way ideas are being done. Be sure to thank the employee who submitted the suggestion as well as the one that implemented it.
A rewards system can be set in place to help encourage employees to participate. One good idea might be having a company pizza party lunch when everyone has had the opportunity to implement one of the ideas. Some employees will feel so good that they were able to contribute something positive to the company that they may feel that seeing their ideas implemented will be enough reward for them. This way you will have effectively eliminated that suggestion box that sat there full of unused ideas and in turn you will get a living, breathing system that gets results.