I recently spoke at the annual conference of the membership association Ideas UK. It was a meeting of people who run ideas schemes and employee engagement programs. Delegates came from many countries including the USA, Germany and the Middle East. There was a wealth of stories, experiences, suggestions and shared best practices. If you run a suggestion scheme of any kind then there is much to learn from this kind of conference. Let me share some of the best ideas I heard. Some of the organizations at the conference were doing the following:
Including training in the suggestions scheme in their new employee induction day.
Setting an expectation that everyone has two jobs – the one they were hired for and suggesting improvements anywhere in the business.
Having campaigns where there is a different theme each month.
Turning winners (people who had had their ideas approved) into evangelists who spoke about the scheme at department meetings.
Telling people exactly what kinds of ideas were needed and in what areas.
Encouraging submitters to add photos (e.g. of prototypes) to their suggestions.
Publicising success in all sorts of ways.
Encouraging team submissions (they prove better thought out and more likely to be approved)
Allowing anyone to comment on or add a star rating to an idea (just like tripadvisor or amazon).
Refreshing the scheme with new promotions, posters or ideas in order to keep it in people’s attention.
Allowing anonymous suggestions
Allowing suggestions to bypass the line manager.
Giving a small reward (e.g. $2!) for any suggestion made.
Giving a larger reward for ideas implemented – sometimes a proportion of the savings up to a limit. It was generally agreed that big rewards were not needed and that recognition was more important than money.
Setting a target (e.g. 4 suggestions per year) for all employees and including the results in the annual appraisal.
Publishing competitive league tables for running totals of suggestions for different regions.
Establishing an annual ‘Club of Thinkers’ for the people who made the most suggestions. The members of this club received extra training in creativity and met the senior executive team for lunch.
Incentivising submissions with prize draws.
In December rewarding recently implemented ideas with Christmas trees.
Rewarding heads of department for any approved ideas that originated in their department.
Incentivising idea evaluators with points (and rewards) for ideas reviewed on time and ideas implemented.
Encouraging evaluators to contact suggestors to discuss the suggestion.
Setting targets for evaluators to evaluate ideas (e.g. 10 days or less)
Allowing evaluators to store an idea in an ‘icebox’ if there are reasons why it is not a good idea now but might be later.
It is clear that there are many different approaches to ideas schemes and you need to find one that suits your corporate culture and objectives. There are also many different software packages available to run the schemes. If you are thinking of implementing or improving your suggestions system then it is wise to speak to a number of other organisations and to borrow their best ideas.