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Tap into employee brainstorms via suggestion program

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Issue: Employees have great ideas every day. Is your organization tapping into them?

Benefits: A properly managed suggestion program can improve morale, increase productivity, cut costs and raise retention rates.

Action: Use the five tips outlined below to squeeze the most benefit from your program.

If your employee suggestion program has become stale (or you never had one), it's time to revisit the issue.

Sell it to top brass by pointing to this stat: Employers with formal suggestion programs report that the programs save them $28,000 to $48,000 per 100 employees every year, according to the Employee Involvement Association (www.eianet.org). Other benefits: improved morale and increased productivity.

A profitable program requires more than just dropping a suggestion box in a lonely corner. Instead, develop a method for consistently reminding employees that their suggestions are valued and taken seriously by management. Here's how:

1. Keep the process simple. Make it easy for employees to submit ideas via paper and electronically. Use a standard form that asks a few basic questions about the idea. Make the name line optional.

2. Avoid the "black hole" syndrome. One problem with suggestion programs is that ideas gather dust before anyone gets around to opening "the box." Best bet: Have someone in top management send a "Thanks for your idea" response within a day or two after the idea arrives.

3. Work with management to set goals for the program. If this year's corporate plan focuses on improving productivity, tie suggestion program rewards to ideas for boosting department efficiency.

It's best to have a cross-functional team evaluate individual suggestions.

4. Create an atmosphere that fosters verbal suggestions. For example, buy lunch for employees once a month, and let them offer suggestions, ask questions or shoot the breeze with a different department head each month.

5. Share the rewards. Rewards can take many forms: gift certificates, extra vacation time or even a small percentage of any profits or cost savings resulting from the idea. Whatever the reward is, make it in a public format to encourage other suggestions.

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