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Employee suggestions can be worth tens, even hundreds of thousands of pounds to some organisations, while at the other end of the scale, some suggestion schemes fail to engage staff and are ultimately abolished.
Ideas UK, which provides support and inspiration to businesses looking to create formal suggestion schemes, estimates that in 2002-03, its members delivered some £300m in savings as a result of staff suggestions. But simply having a suggestion scheme in place is not necessarily enough. Fostering an environment where ideas are recognised, incentivised and followed through, and communicating that effectively, means a greater chance of success.
Why have a suggestion scheme?
Employers see improvements in staff morale and motivation as the most important benefit to their own organisation, but the positives don’t stop there. Organisations can also reap financial benefits from cost savings, higher sales and improved profits if a suggestion proves fruitful.
Although most suggestion schemes offer cash or a gift as a reward for good ideas, employers believe that staff actually place more value on the recognition they receive for their efforts.
Employers usually have a number of objectives in mind for suggestion schemes, some dealing with improvements in processes or employee relations, and others related to hard-measure outcomes. A common aim is to achieve greater employee involvement.
The most significant problems arise when staff simply fail to put forward ideas, or come up with suggestions that cannot be implemented – a problem many organisations try to address with more and better communications.
Brand your scheme
According to research by Personnel Today’s sister publication IRS Employment Review, a number of companies have chosen to enhance the way they communicate their suggestion schemes by branding them. Sainsbury’s, for example, runs a ‘Tell Justin’ scheme, where staff can e-mail the supermarket chain’s chief executive Justin King. This has received some 7,000 responses to date.
Publicity is essential if a suggestion scheme is to thrive. Without constant promotion, any initiative of this sort can soon be forgotten.
Having won the attention of staff, and encouraged them to come forward with ideas, organisations need to provide some means by which suggestions can be made.
Although some people have a negative view of the old-style suggestion box, IRS’