There are lies people tell for selfish or malicious reasons. They come up in business from time to time, but far more common are fairytales that are told out of a desire for the fiction to be true. Sometimes folks think if they repeat something often enough, it will become fact. We believe that’s the reason for so many of the myths we hear about the electronic suggestion box. Lots of people (and vendors) sing their praises, but we’ve yet to find an organization that was transformed after implementing a way to collect anonymous employee ideas. Here are a few reality checks.
Electronic Suggestion Boxes Increase Employee Morale (Unfortunately, not.)
It might stand to reason that it would make employees feel happier to know that the organization has provided an easy way for them to share ideas for change. Everyone wants to be heard.
Not really, what people want is to see positive change actually happen. Asking them for their best ideas without a structure for evaluating and implementing them can harm employee morale. Imagine saying something to someone in person and getting only silence in response. That doesn’t feel good. That’s why so many companies get a ton of suggestions when the solution is first introduced, only to see the number dwindle rapidly over time. The concept becomes an inside joke for frontline staff and just more evidence that the organization is not interested in what workers have to say. Yikes!
People Will Make More Suggestions if they Can Do it Anonymously (Is this a good thing?)
If you believe that people in your organization will make more suggestions if they can do it anonymously, it might be a good idea to explore why. In organizations that value employee input and empower people to enact positive change, there’s no reason to keep your identity secret. People are proud of the ideas they contribute and appreciate being recognized for their efforts. People working for organizations that punish failure, exercise entirely top-down management and resist change are probably wise to speak up only when they can do it anonymously. The desire to remain nameless is a symptom of a bigger problem, not an advantage.
He Who Gets the Most Suggestions Wins (Don’t forget to measure what matters.)
Regardless of whether you use a digital suggestion solution, a paper box, or continuous improvement software, getting more employee ideas is great! But, that’s not the most important thing to measure. What matters more is how the suggestions that are implemented impact the organization. We’re not opposed to tracking the number of suggestions, but it is also essential to monitor how the changes that result affect key performance indicators for your business. Are you saving money, selling more, improving safety, and making customers happier?
Employees Should Suggest Whatever Comes to Mind (Sure, but aligned thinking gets superior results.)
When employees are left to their own devices about what to suggest, the ideas organizations get are all over the board. Everything from Friday afternoon luaus to rearranging the conference room. That’s fine to a certain degree; some of these random ideas might be great. However, this laissez-faire approach might be a wasted opportunity. What if, instead, employees had goals that were cascaded down from the core objectives of the organization. They could then form an army of people on the front lines thinking about how to move the needle on the most critical metrics. Ideas for improvement would be relevant and timely. This means that more suggestions would be implemented, improving both results and morale. When continuous improvement software is used instead of a digital suggestion box, companies see implementation rates as high as 75%!
Digital Suggestion Boxes are Better than Paper Ones (Yep. They sure are.)
Anytime you can make something available to people 24x7 from anywhere in the cloud, that beats a physical artifact that requires you to be present to participate. People get smart ideas after work, while they are at lunch, or even when (gasp) they are in a meeting. Anything you can do to make it as easy as possible for those ideas to be captured is awesome. But why stop with the suggestion? Why not extend that thinking to the entire process of evaluating, implementing, and measuring the success of every great idea. Cloud-based improvement software is like a digital suggestion box leveled up to the max.
If you are trying to figure out how to get more employee input, our hats are off to you. Employee-led positive change can mean the difference between a serious competitive advantage and stagnation. A digital suggestion box might be an appealing idea, but there’s a better alternative that will help you achieve all of its promise and far more.