What benefits does having a suggestion scheme bring, to both employers and employees?
The benefits to the employee are that it gives them a voice in the business and allows them to have an outlet for their creativity and to make a change to their working environment. For the employer it encourages a culture of innovation that can lead to sharing of best practice and a reduction in costs to the business therefore more efficient working and increased employee satisfaction.
It is well documented that organisations who listen to employees and act on suggestions developed become an employer of choice with a more motivated and happy workforce.
What is the best way to incentivise staff to take part in a scheme?
There are two schools of thought around incentivising staff to take part in the programme. Old school thinking was that you had to reward or ‘bribe’ people to take part in the scheme; however, this encouraged wrong behaviours within the organisation. In a well managed ideas programme, employees feel proud of the fact that they are taking part in something which can benefit both themselves and the organisation.
Most modern ideas schemes focus highly on the recognition angle and when an idea is implemented, a personal acknowledgement of the participation given by the senior management team is frequently sufficient.
How can scheme managers ensure that good ideas are actually implemented?
Imagine an ideas programme as a big sausage maker, if you put rubbish in at the start of the process you will get a poor output. The key to success and to ensure you implement good ideas is to ensure that the ideas coming in to the scheme are of the best quality. If the process developed for dealing with ideas is clogged up with poor ideas, then the chances are good ideas are going to remain blocked in the system.
One way of dealing with this issue is for the Ideas Manager to be a ‘gatekeeper’ of the process. If an idea comes through that does not fulfil the criteria, then a discussion can be held with the submitter to develop the idea further. Of course you do not want to stifle innovation or creativity that’s why it is of vital importance that ideas are not just rejected out of hand, but a discussion is held with the person submitting the idea.
Who is best placed to judge the ideas that come in?
This is totally dependent on the type of process that is developed at the start together with the organisation’s structure. Currently, the trend is to have a two pronged process, one to take account of the ‘fast track’ or simple local ideas which go directly to the line manager for approval and implementation. The second part of the process deals with the more complicated ideas that may need investigation or resources allocated for development. We would recommend these ideas are sent to the department head or process owner as they would be best placed to decide on viability.
Whichever ‘track’ the idea takes, it is important to give the submitter feedback every step of the way to ensure they are not given the impression that the idea has disappeared into a black hole.
What are the latest trends in scheme design?
Over the past two years more and more organisations are starting to use Social Media in the harvesting and evaluation of ideas. A simple way of doing this is to have an electronic solution that allows other employees to collaborate and comment on the idea before it goes for evaluation. This has several benefits as it develops a culture of creativity and team working within an organisation as well as providing ‘workarounds’ if the idea cannot be implemented. Organisations that implement this type of system are already seeing improved implementation rates and higher cost savings.
How can employers keep their schemes fresh?
Best practice is to ensure there is a marketing plan in place which is constantly reviewed, thus ensuring the key to success of an ideas scheme. An ideas scheme generally has a shelf-life of around two years before it needs a re-launch or refresh, the key is finding when that point has arrived. Using a good quality publicity campaign for your programme will ensure it is kept in the forefront of people’s minds.
As technology moves on, we see that ideas schemes move with them, most organisations now have an internal intranet site to publicise the programme which is constantly updated with pictures and stories of submitters who have ideas submitted and implemented.
What mistakes should employers avoid when designing and running a scheme?
A lot of employers make the scheme far too complicated, the best programmes are the simplest programmes, all you need is a system to capture the ideas, evaluate the ideas, implement the ideas, recognise the ideas and feedback about the ideas.
The scheme should be about innovation and creativity and putting too many blockers in place will quash the creative spark in any organisation.
Another key to success is to deliver what you promise, anyone can collect ideas, but doing something with them and getting them implemented can be the difference between success and failure of any scheme.