Here’s how to collect the best ideas and what to do with feedback when it arrives
When we think of the employee suggestion program, some of us immediately go to that dusty wooden box on the TV sitcom “The Office.” We may see the suggestion process as an opportunity for comedy and criticism, but not genuine improvements to office culture or company offerings.
However, thanks to digital tools the employee feedback and suggestion process has come a long way. In fact, several well-known companies credit employee feedback programs for huge successes. Amazon Prime came by way of an employee suggestion, for example.
But employee suggestions are just that: ideas and feedback. In order to make the program work, there are two important elements to consider. The first is how to collect the best ideas, and the second is what to do with them once they arrive.
One of the big Catch-22’s of upper management or executive-level job titles is that you often have increased power to make change, but decreased connections to the layers of employees with the most information about how that change would be effective. According to a piece in the Harvard Business Review, companies have come to rely on digital feedback options, but if not implemented properly, they’re “exercises in futility.”
Here are some suggestions for ensuring you’re getting the best feedback from your employees on both corporate culture and your company offerings:
Spell out what kind of feedback you want. The more specific you are, the more likely people are to participate and provide you with useful information.
While you may be collecting feedback digitally or anonymously, studies have shown that asking for the information face-to-face and being very specific about what you’re seeking can help employees feel that they can speak freely and honestly in the digital suggestion/idea box.
Anytime an employee suggestion box shows up on TV or in a movie, the perennial joke about Y2K is made, indicating employee feedback is never reviewed. And if you’re not responsive to the feedback you get, your employees will feel the same way. In fact, a successful employee feedback program for IBM, which started with the premise that any of their employees could have the next great idea, has led to the recognition of hundreds of employees. This makes employees feel that the information they’re providing is being processed and evaluated – it’s not a waste of time.
Consider Your Evaluation Process
How will you judge or evaluate the ideas that come through? This can be just as important as collecting the ideas, which is the part of the process most companies focus on. If you’re collecting thousands of ideas but only implementing a few dozen, what’s going wrong? Are you asking for the wrong information, or are the suggestions off-topic?
Here, too, you may want to consider how transparent you’ll be with the process. Research has shown that a public voting process can be very powerful in engaging people and promoting the perceived value of an item or idea.
Don’t get caught in the trap of “analysis versus action”
With all the data a good employee suggestion or feedback program can provide, it can be easy to get caught in the analysis trap. Don’t. In fact, research has shown that analysis of issues isn’t associated with success. Instead, what’s effective is fixing the problems you know about first. Focus on the incremental changes you can make quickly and build up to larger changes over time. The more actions you take, the more feedback you’ll get as employees see the program working, and it will build over time.