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How to Get Employees to Make Great Suggestions

Posted on April 21, 2015

The research is in and it’s clear that getting serious about employee suggestions can help your business in multiple ways - from increasing employee engagement, improving business efficiency, encouraging innovation and creativity, making safer workplaces, and improving financial performance.

But are all employee suggestions created equal? Anyone who has sifted through hundreds (possibly thousands) of employee suggestions in the traditional wooden box system will tell you “No.”

One need look no further than a traditional work meeting where some participants use the opportunity to go on useless tangents to witness this in action. Give people a forum and a flood of suggestions will be generated, some much more worthwhile than others.

How does one create a good environment for employee suggestions? First off, it’s important for managers to let employees know they don’t necessarily have all the answers. Good leaders are focused on achieving a goal but not overly attached to their own idea of how to do it. They are more fixated on answering the “why” rather than answering the “how.”

Good digital employee suggestion software can help managers with the process. These software packages give managers tools for offering challenges, collecting suggestions, highlighting the better ideas, tracking implementation, and distributing rewards.

But there are several things managers can do to improve the overall quality of suggestions submit. These include:

1. Put in Limits

The message should not be that all suggestions are good ones. Make it clear the program is not a dumping ground for half-baked nonsense and assorted dream world fantasies.

The best way to do this is by regularly offering challenges to keep people focused. When GM implemented some of Toyota’s Kaizen principles in car production, it wasn’t “Tell us what you think.” It was “Tell us how we can make the assembly line run better.”

Get specific and stay focused on the problem at hand. Keeping goals specific will make your employees more creative and drive innovation.

2. Be Available

Make it clear to employees you take their input seriously. If a promising suggestion appears that is not entirely clear, set up an offline meeting with the suggestion proposer for clarification. The person may have a good idea but didn’t write it well. Doing so sends the message that you are listening and receptive.

3. Help Others See Their Biases

Employees see the work world through a lens clouded with their own biases and preferences. Employee suggestion software allows managers to comment on the feasibility of suggestions based on an understanding of the bigger picture. With thoughtful commenting, bad ideas can be pruned away and kept out of the discussion going forward.

4. Give Feedback

Employees taking the time to offer suggestions deserve to hear back and get constructive feedback from management. Doing so in an open forum encourages other employees to submit their ideas.

By following these guidelines, you can prevent opening the floodgates to anyone and everyone and being drowned in the resulting deluge. A good employee suggestion program can open up a world of value for your organization but only if carefully (and gently) guided and directed.

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Vocoli is the digital suggestion box and innovation platform. Your team has great ideas. Make sure to capture them!