The Suggestion Box Goes Digital
By Mike Raia Posted March 13, 2017
The suggestion box hasn't died, it's transformed into a digital workflow for advancing innovative ideas.
Dawn of the Virtual Suggestion Box
As most human resources personnel will tell you, communications matter, and the lines of communication should run in both directions. Regardless of industry, sector, or specific job title, employees want to feel like their voices are being heard and that their opinions are valued. A worker who believes that someone is listening and incorporating feedback is more likely to be more engaged and loyal to the organization than those who feel they have no meaningful opportunity to provide input.
While plenty of employees are speaking up, many employers simply aren't listening. A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) article reported that 93 percent of workers surveyed by Right Management said they make suggestions to their bosses at work. However, an SHRM poll of employers found that just 39 percent of the companies surveyed had formal processes in place for workers to submit their ideas or suggestions for improvement. So what's happening to all those suggestions?
Of those organizations with a process in place, some are still using a paper-and-pencil suggestion box hung on the wall of the break room or another common area; others may have a centralized email address monitored haphazardly by someone in HR. These antiquated feedback mechanisms make it all-too-obvious in some companies that, although the company may give lip service to wanting to hear from staff members, no one is actually listening.
The Problem with Paper-Based and Email-Based Solutions
Having a process for employee feedback, but failing to follow through by actually reading and addressing that feedback, can leave an employee feeling demoralized and wondering why they bothered to share their thoughts in the first place.
Using paper suggestion boxes may have been a good option in the 20th Century, but there are much better ways of handling employee feedback in today's digital age.
While an email-based system is a step up from the box-on-the-wall approach, it still requires a great degree of work. First, someone has to actually check the email box on a regular basis; it doesn't take employees long to come to the conclusion that their suggestions are just winding up in a black hole somewhere in the ranks of HR or upper management when they never hear anything more after making a suggestion, or when they receive an acknowledgement weeks or months after taking the time to provide their insights. Then, even if a suggestion is deemed worthy of being forwarded to someone else in the organization, it may become buried in that person's inbox, never to see the light of day. While marginally better than a paper-and-pencil system, email feedback systems are inefficient at best.
The Case for Automation
When companies automate their employee feedback processes, many of the problems inherent in paper-based or email-based tools are solved. There's no longer a worry about a suggestion becoming lost or being completely disregarded, and there's a clear trail of who reviewed and acted on employees' feedback.
By using a web-based suggestion process that incorporates workflows defined and designed by the company implementing them, the solution can actually do what the whole thing was intended to do in the first place: be useful to the organization. This, in turn, creates more engaged employees.
Here's an example of how a web-based automated system might work:
- Initial Form Completion. Employee logs on to the suggestion system by using a link embedded on the employee intranet or HR site. The suggestion or ideas form is user-friendly and intuitive, including information that management has deemed important to help them review and act on the feedback. Required fields might include the employee's name, department, their role in the organization, the area or function the suggestion pertains to, and enough free-form space for the employee to clearly express their ideas and opinions.
- Routing and Review. Because the workflow was designed ahead of time, the information the employee selected from drop-down menus while filling out the form will help route the form to the correct department and person designated to review relevant feedback. That person will receive a notification that they have a pending suggestion to review on the system.
- Action. After reviewing the suggestion form, the person reviewing it could either request additional information from the submitter by routing the form back to him/her or forward the suggestion to others in the organization using pre-defined workflows in the system.
- Reminders, Reporting, and Recordkeeping. Because people get busy, workflows can be designed to remind first- or second-level reviewers that they need to take action on a suggestion. Generating periodic reports for management is also a breeze when suggestions are submitted, organized and maintained through a web-based tool.
Of course, even a web-based, automated suggestion system won't help improve employee morale or engagement if an employee who took the time to submit their ideas doesn't know what happened to those ideas after clicking "submit." Transparency is a key element to success.
Automated solutions should be designed so that employees can easily see where suggestions they've submitted are currently in the process. Not only can the system kick out an acknowledgment email, it can also be designed to notify employees when their suggestion has been reviewed. In many companies, IT "help desk" functions already do this well. The concept is the same for employee suggestion workflows: let employees know they've been heard.
Implementing an automated system will only work if employees know how to use it, so make communications and training clear. Employees will need to understand what the suggestion tool is designed to accomplish, and what types of things don't belong in the suggestion queue (i.e. allegations of workplace misconduct, time off requests and other matters that are better handled through alternate means.)
Integrify Can Help
At Integrify, we offer automated solutions that can improve and streamline your employee suggestion process, as well as tools to help with other human resources, IT, legal/compliance, marketing and sales, employee development and more.
To learn more, explore our website. Then, contact us to arrange a product demonstration to see first-hand how we can help your organization realize efficiencies and demonstrate to your workforce that you're listening to them, loud and clear.