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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

4 Ways to Improve Your Idea System

The pitfalls of an ill-conceived employee suggestion program are multiple, legendary and most frequently - avoidable. With organizational commitment, clarity and ongoing communication employee engagement can positively impact your bottom line and your employee motivation and enthusiasm.

Many organizations want to harness the ideas for improvement that naturally exist in their employees. Suggestion boxes are a common, but ineffective, way to engage employees in continuous improvement. They’re usually implemented with the best of intentions by managers who genuinely want to hear their employees’ improvement ideas, but the boxes fail to produce the desired engagement.

If you want to improve your idea contributions, here are some tips I’ve used and found success with over the years for creating an effective suggestion idea system:

1.     Make it easy to contribute ideas
Employees won’t be enthusiastic about contributing their best ideas if it is cumbersome or time consuming to do so. Develop a simple form that includes the problem, the idea and if the employee can implement it on their own. A simple bulletin board can be used to indicate idea status including columns for Submitted, In Process, and Complete ideas. Encourage employees to submit small ideas that can be implemented quickly by them versus large changes that require external resources such as engineering, IT, and facilities.

2.     Make ideas visible.
Make your idea system public so participation (or lack thereof) is visible to all. And so the ideas themselves are visible to all. Things that are visible are easier to manage. Employees want their ideas to be seriously considered and further implemented. If you’re like most people, you won’t go out of your way to submit ideas that likely won’t be followed up on anyway.

3.     Reward and recognize participation
A great way to increase employee engagement in continuous improvement is to recognize people for their involvement. Employee recognition doesn’t need to be anything big or fancy - a pat on the back or a high five is enough to encourage the participating employee and promote the engagement of others. Announcing the impact and recognizing the person who made the improvement encourages others to get involved, and sharing new best practices expands the reach of each idea.

4.     Measure the process, not the results
Measure process effectiveness not individual ideas. Don’t waste time evaluating the impact of individual ideas. The compounding impact of ideas will generate far greater results then an individual idea. Consider measures like 100% participation, ideas per person, days to implement, and number of submitted, in process and completed ideas.

To truly realize improvement, you need both creativity (idea generation) and action (follow through). Whether they speak up or not, you can be sure that your employees are thinking about ways that business processes could be improved every day. The best way to spread continuous improvement in an organization is to broadcast improvements. A idea system is a great way to capture those ideas.

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