May I Suggest a Suggestion Scheme?

Here is an example of a document put together by a potential member organisation after taking part in an International Ideas Week event and talking to some of our members.

May I Suggest A Suggestion Scheme? – August 2009

This paper discusses staff suggestion schemes and some of the questions and answers gleaned from some research with organisations that currently use such schemes, for example Bupa, Diageo and Boots plus talking to the national charity that helps organisations with schemes, ideasUK.

What is a suggestion scheme?

A suggestion scheme (UK) or ideas programme (Europe/USA) is a mechanism for gathering ideas from employees to improve the business.

Who does it benefit?

If put together well, everyone! It can save the organisation hard money, make its systems and processes better & more cost effective, can make the working environment better and give employees recognition (maybe even reward) for their ideas.

Are there any rules we would need to follow?

Only where money is involved! One ‘unwritten rule’ that has been identified is that whilst you can start a scheme without any financial rewards (and add them later if you want), you cannot start with rewards and then take them away (there is hard evidence that this will kill a scheme). If you do give rewards the Taxman will let you pay so much tax free subject to certain conditions.

Do we need rules for the employees?

Some schemes have very complex rules but opinion seems to support simplicity. We should aim for less than a dozen rules. We could widen the scope in time by including the existing feedback cards as, whilst items submitted as suggestions can sometimes be no more than feedback, feedback can sometimes be a valuable suggestion.

What resource would we need to start a scheme?

With only xxx employees we are unlikely to be inundated with ideas so I believe that we could operate a scheme with the involvement of two people; an existing manager, to oversee the scheme and an existing Admin member of staff to enter idea submissions and progress letters from ideas.

Do we need systems?

Standard Life was recently quoted £xk for a software system and Boots are currently looking at systems between £xk and £xk. To be realistic we should simply put together an Excel spreadsheet to log the progress of each item. Added to this we should develop some standard letters to send: acknowledgement and final closure (used or not used), together with standard emails to send ideas to evaluators. With a little expertise in Word/Excel these letters could be personalised.

What is an evaluator?

We would need to identify some subject specialists to establish idea feasibility:


The ideas would be sent in via internal letter or email: Suggestion created > Suggestion sent via email > Entered into central database > Letter created for the contributor > Suggestion sent to subject specialists > Suggestion adopted yes/no > Further letter sent to contributor if successful

How do we promote the scheme and collect ideas?

We would promote through locally created posters (ideasUK may help us share from other organisations) and paper forms in staff areas plus the facility for employees to e-mail ideas from work or home to a scheme e-mail address. To help sustain interest in the scheme we could choose certain subject areas over the year (a monthly special every quarter).

Reward and/or recognition?

Certificates or Team Awards

  • A good starting point for recognition is the presentation of for ideas that are used. This could also be extended to adopted suggestions receiving a certificate from the Chief Executive and photo put in the news letter.

Cash Reward

  • In addition we could consider rewards but these would require a budget.
  • Rewards could be a percentage of savings (eg 10% first year), a reward matrix (word description equated to cash) and these can be direct to an individual or into a collective ‘pot’ (‘gain sharing’) for all employees to share.

Prize draw

  • All qualified suggestions would go into a hat (so to speak) and each quarter there would be a draw for three high street voucher £50 – £30 – £20

Do we give the scheme a name?

Yes, a name gives it some local ownership. Have a competition to find one or borrow from another organisation: DODGI department of dam good ideas (Body Shop), GEMS (MoD), AIM All Ideas Matter (Boots), One Life (Bupa), Eureka (Various)

Another suggestion could be to initially launch a suggestion scheme by asking staff to suggest a name.

Types of suggestion

Suggestions could be categorised

  • Health and Safety improvements
  • Reducing costs and overheads
  • Improving the working environment
  • Enhancing the student experience
  • Improving customer service
  • Improving quality


Engaging with staff and encouraging them to participate would lead to increased staff morale levels and ownership, whilst giving an opportunity of enhancing staff general wellbeing.



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