Each company or organization sets up a Vocoli "instance" to generate surveys, to build a suggestion box, and to connect with the team.
Which one of these is you?
Does your company have an employee ideas program? Are you getting any?
(Ideas, that is)
And more importantly, are you getting ideas that are showing a return on time and investment?
Unfortunately, too often organizations start ideas programs with good intentions, only to see participation and idea volumes fall off a cliff. This results in resentment and frustration. In reality, there are two kinds of companies that have employee suggestion programs in place:
If you fall into Category B, unless your leadership team is committed to a drastic change in approach, your best bet may be to simply cancel the program as quietly as possible and walk away. By failing to operate the program in good faith, you could be doing more harm than good (essentially saying, “we really don’t want input from our employees”).
Believe it or not, there are still organizational cultures like this. But in today’s competitive business and labor markets many of them may be asking the last person out the door to lock up permanently if they don’t experience a change of heart.
That said, many organizations soliciting employee suggestions do so in good faith. So, let’s take a look at some of the key challenges faced by an underperforming ideas program and what you can do to address them.
As we see in many suggestion programs, ideas submitted by employees simply vanish, never to be seen again. It’s known as the black-hole syndrome. There are a variety of reasons this happens (which we’ll get to), but the fact that it happens at all is incredibly destructive, mainly because participants have taken the time (sometimes personal time) and emotional investment to create an idea only to hit a stone wall.
Any process you deploy to track ideas must have built-in notifications so participants know where their idea is in process and what it’s eventual status turns out to be. Even giving them an answer of why their idea won’t be pursued is an internal communications win. Integrated technology (with email notifications and visual tracking) is the way to go here.
If you are still doing it manually, you’re wasting valuable time.
Many manually operated programs (and some that are supported with technology) fail because after the idea generation phase, there are no structured steps to move ideas from inception through to decision and (if accepted) to implementation and documentation. Lack of process simply creates a pile of ideas with no clear way to pick winners and implement them.
This is another contributing factor to why ideas can simply disappear into the mist.
There are numerous idea generation technologies available on the market. Be sure to support your suggestion program with a technology platform that goes to the next level and builds in both tangible steps and notifications as ideas move through your workflow. An exceptional program will have defined steps and should include, at a minimum, the following:
As your team is bombarded with shiny objects, garnering adoption in any initiative is often the biggest challenge. If you are using a web link to an online form or a drab SharePoint site to support your program, your IT department may have you convinced that you’re saving money. Yet you’re most likely not, because these uninspiring technologies are boring, hard to promote and are probably sending a message that’s unlikely to spur ideation. Lost ideas ideas (never submitted) are really what’s costing you money.
Take time to look at purpose-built technology platforms designed to support ideation and employee feedback in general, and do this research with a variety of perspectives. Make sure platforms support your team structure, your innovation process and your company culture. Look for built-in notifications and rules engines that save your team valuable time. Also, look for additional features that meet requirements you’re currently paying other technologies to accomplish. For example, Vocoli pairs a tremendous polling and survey engine with an idea management platform. You can kill two birds with one stone.
To be successful, an employee suggestion program must have boots on the ground with the right team members supporting the process and making sure key players are held accountable. If this sounds daunting, it doesn’t have to be with the right technology in place. Vocoli’s client case study demonstrates this perfectly. One of the reasons the suggestion program this organization was trying to replace was failing was because it was too time consuming for staff to effectively administer. When the right technology supports were put in place, they were able to run a program that had taken 1.5 FTEs to support and turn it over to one person who was able to support it in roughly 4--10 hours per week.
Select moderators who are trusted team members who know the organization well and will conscientiously support your program. Make sure these moderators have the full support of your senior leadership and be sure to empower them and thank them for their contribution. Make sure the technology you select has fantastic tools to help make the moderator role easy like built in communications, point and click assignments, automated tracking and to-do lists.
Even with a process of structured workflows, if ideas don’t get assigned to evaluators or teams (or if the evaluators just sit on the ideas) your suggestion program will fail.
While systems can provide reminders for ideas that are lingering at one stage, it’s imperative employees who provide the moderation, evaluation and approval functions in your employee feedback program understand their roles and take them seriously. To be sure this happens, your program must have the support of senior leadership and they must reinforce the importance of the program with mid-level managers. Hence, the middle manager’s role it is to be sure evaluations and decisions are made and communicated in a timely manner.
Some organizations take the view that they pay you to bring your best work every day, so when you come up with a really great idea, there’s the temptation to simply say, “Gee, that’s great. Isn’t that what we pay you for? Let’s get back to work.”
(That's not how this works. That's not how ANY of this works)
While there is a certain amount of truth to their belief, when you consider basic human nature it only makes sense to recognize, celebrate and reward for an exceptional idea contribution. And in today's competitive labor market factored with changes in how millenials approach work, you best adjust your way of thinking.
Organizations wanting to motivate team members to bring their best ideas forward have a variety of tools available. The actual rewards used in your program should reflect your organizational culture, values and (of course) budget, but whatever you choose in the way of rewards, here are some tips to motivate employees to participate:
Any ideas program will have ebbs and flows of activity. As with any initiative, people lead busy lives and after the initial launch, many people may need the occasional reminder that their ideas are valuable and that there is a program in place for their submission.
There are a variety of ways to promote your ideas program. Fundamental to promoting the program is the realization that – like a good ad campaign – it requires repetition and creativity to get and keep the word out. If your program is not being run by your internal communications team, enlist their help to promote the heck out of it. Beyond internal promotions, there are other strategies to keep your program in front of your people, and most revolve around selecting a technology partner that understands how to build engaging technology.
Some examples include:
Okay, okay, so we saved the hardest one for last! Many organizations claim to value their employees’ ideas as vital to the organization, but when it comes to investing in a bleeding edge technology engine to promote and drive their program, there are often subversive voices in the room saying, “but don’t we already own XYZ technology? Why don’t we just use that? Can't we just build a Sharepoint employee suggestion form?”
We’ve already written extensively on why you shouldn’t “just use that,” but the basics are, because it’s often boring, uninspiring technology that won’t meet all of your needs, your people won’t enjoy using and it will not make your program go viral.
So adoption fails.
Any savings will likely spend in IT time and expenses to modify and maintain the platform, as well as administrative expense spent doing processes that are already automated in good software.
In choosing technology that supports your program, talk with a few vendors and look at their platform features, workflows and options. Once you find a vendor you like, be sure to write up a list of tech requirements for your program. In any discussions with IT, be specific about features and processes that you must have supported and be firm.
If they insist on building a platform for you (or modifying an existing software) make sure they consider the time and effort that will go into the build and maintenance. You may also want to ask for a service level requirement (SLA), since any vendor you hire is going to be responsible for service and they will be motivated to get things done for you promptly.
But ask yourself this: If your tech department is heavily devoted to supporting your organization's core products and services, is building software solutions that already exist truly a good use of their time? These are conversations you should be having.
Another consideration is that some of the companies that do employee suggestion technology well, many have other technology on their platforms that you are currently getting from another vendor. Perhaps it’s an employee contact system, or technology for making company announcements or sharing key documents.
Vocoli, for instance, looks at employee feedback holistically and has paired a very capable suggestion platform with a powerful employee survey and polling creation and analytics tool. This brings most kinds of employee feedback onto one, easy to use platform, gives participants multiple reasons to use the platform, and saves you money on other software you no longer need. So, look at ways the technology you want can meet multiple needs as a way of justifying it in the budget.
We’ve given you a good deal to think about in considering ways to make your employee suggestion program a success (and maybe you thought of a few more ideas on your own). If you want to discuss employee suggestion programs and technology, we encourage you to get some perspectives outside your own company and include them in your decision process.
If you’d like to have a chat with a member of the Vocoli team as part of that process, we’d be very pleased to share our perspectives with you.
To learn more about how to give your employees a voice contact the Vocoli team at 888-919-5300 or email us at email@example.com.
Join us for Vocoli's monthly live demo. Vocoli's monthly demo is your chance to get a real-time view of our product, discover more about the platform and see what the Vocoli system can do for your team!LEARN MORE