Why have a suggestion box in the workplace?
For businesses that want to improve employee engagement, a suggestion box can be invaluable, especially if employees can retain anonymity. Employees can give their input regarding working conditions, processes, HR and benefits, colleagues or managers. They can also make suggestions to improve their organization’s profitability.
A suggestion box makes employees feel more involved with the company. Some potential benefits of employee suggestion boxes include:
- Employee morale boost: Suggestion boxes boost employee morale, especially when suggestions are implemented or concerns are addressed.
- Better communication: A suggestion box can improve communication between management and employees by giving them a formal way to share their ideas.
- Increased innovation and problem-solving: The suggestion box encourages employees to not only identify problems but also suggest solutions.
- Improved employee engagement: When employees see that you want their feedback, they’re more likely to feel engaged at work.
- Outlet for quiet employees: While some of your employees might share feedback all the time, others may be hesitant to share in front of others. A suggestion box offers a less intimidating way for shy employees to give their feedback.
Drawbacks of employee suggestion boxes
You might get some great suggestion box ideas from your employees, but this method of feedback collection has some potential drawbacks. Consider these factors:
- Negativity: The employee suggestion box can quickly become a place for employees to complain without offering any real solutions. It becomes less effective when this happens. To help combat this, require employees to offer actionable solutions instead of just complaining about an issue.
- Time-consuming: It takes time to sort through and read all of the suggestions. You also have to set aside time to meet and discuss the potential of each idea.
- Lack of participation: Not all employees are interested in offering suggestions. Sometimes people will share ideas at first, but then the excitement wears off and the suggestions slow down.
- No action: It’s also common for the people in charge to slack on the suggestion box over time. If you don’t take action on any of the ideas, you send the message that you don’t really care about your employees’ opinions, and they’ll likely stop sharing. Commit to reviewing the suggestions regularly and taking action on the good ideas.
- Loss of ownership: A suggestion box can take ownership away from employees. When an employee has good ideas for suggestion box submissions and you take over the execution, they might feel like you stole their idea and took credit for it. If you use a suggestion box, have the employee who gave the suggestion take the lead if they want to.
- Employees who don’t take it seriously: There’s a good chance you’ll eventually come across a suggestion that’s a joke or one with inappropriate language. This is a time-waster.
Who should use suggestion boxes?
Since suggestion boxes aren’t always effective, it’s important to decide if one is right for your business. Suggestion boxes might work for the following situations:
- Meetings become overrun with suggestions that don’t relate to the topic
- Employees are too shy to share their ideas in group settings
- You want to hear employee opinions and are committed to taking action on them
- You have time to review the ideas
Best practices for implementing a suggestion box
A great suggestion box helps employees feel engaged and encourages innovation. Here are some of the best practices and ideas for suggestion box implementation:
1. Sell the idea to management
Ensure management and HR are on board. Explain why you think a suggestion box would positively impact your workplace. Have a plan ready on how you’ll manage the suggestion box to reduce objections to the idea.
2. Make a plan
Make a list of things you intend to achieve with the suggestion box. Some ways you can focus your plan are to:
- Involve key members from other departments including HR
- Research and see how other organizations implement suggestion boxes
- Determine if a virtual or physical suggestion box is most practical for the size of your employee population and available resources
- Assess and outline resources needed for the project
- Decide how you’ll inform employees
3. Create guidelines for handling suggestions
To make the suggestion box effective, you need a plan for managing it. Otherwise, ideas might fall through the cracks. Determine the following:
- How often suggestions will be reviewed
- Who will review and approve suggestions
- Steps for implementing approved suggestions
4. Write the suggestion form
Decide what your suggestion form will include. For example, you can give employees the option of indicating:
- Different departments or areas of the business
- If comments are feedback or suggestions
- Their information (department, job role)
- Problem or concern
- Solution suggestions
This can help with sorting comments and suggestions later. Ensure you allow for anonymous feedback, which can encourage candid and often very helpful suggestions.
5. Set up the box
How you collect feedback will depend on the size of your company and available resources:
- Physical: If you’re using a physical location, ensure it’s accessible to all employees. To protect their privacy, put a lock on the box. Only those in charge of reviewing suggestions should have access to the key.
- Virtual: You can find digital suggestion box software that makes this option simple to implement. Ask your IT specialist to ensure protocols for anonymous feedback. Have a few people test the suggestion box and give feedback before going live.
6. Announce and promote the box
Announce the new suggestion box to your employees. If appropriate, include the following in your communication:
- Why you value employee feedback
- How often suggestions will be reviewed
- Incentives for winning suggestions
It’s also important to include some guidelines. While you don’t want employees to feel you’re not open to negative comments, feedback that isn’t constructive doesn’t help anyone. Ask employees to avoid it and instead make suggestions for improvement.
7. Implement and say thank you
Implementing great ideas can not only improve your company but make employees feel valued and happy. Encourage employees to make suggestions with incentives for winning suggestions, such as small cash prizes or gift cards.
Most importantly, ensure you give credit when great ideas have improved a process or saved the company money. This will encourage more innovation from your employees and make the suggestion box even more effective.
Key tips for an effective suggestion box
Here are some high-level tips to make your suggestion box effective and successful:
- Ensure privacy for anonymous comments
- Tailor your suggestion form to make sorting feedback easier
- Provide tips to employees to make their suggestions more effective and useful
- Let employees know the review schedule so they’re aware their feedback is being heard
- Incentivize by awarding prizes for winning ideas
Alternatives to suggestion boxes
If a traditional suggestion box seems outdated, consider alternative ideas for suggestion boxes to gather employee input. Here are some options:
Using a suggestion box means only the person who wrote it and the people who review it see the ideas. Some might become public knowledge if you decide to implement them. The rest often don’t get shared with the staff as a whole.
An ideas board lets employees put a sticky note on a board with their ideas on it. Employees can look at the other suggestions to see what their peers want. This might spark more ideas or help employees build off of other ideas to come up with better solutions. It can also spark discussion and help you find out how much support a particular idea has from other employees.
Regular brainstorming sessions
If your employees are comfortable sharing their ideas in front of their coworkers, set aside scheduled brainstorming time weekly or monthly to get feedback and suggestions. You might choose topics or problems ahead of time to focus each section or allow employees to offer up any topics they want to discuss. Just like the idea board option, this allows employees to build off of each other’s ideas and expand on the solutions.
Suggestion box FAQs
A suggestion box is great for learning how your employees feel about your company, inviting new ideas and making employees feel heard. Here are some commonly asked questions about suggestion boxes:
Where should a suggestion box be located?
Employee suggestion boxes should be placed in a convenient part of the office where it’s accessible to all staff. You also want it in a secure area so no one can take it or break into it and mess with the suggestions. Placing it in the lobby or near the door makes it a target. Try placing it in the breakroom, near the copier or in a shared office area.
Should a suggestion box be locked?
For the sake of protecting anonymity, it’s important to have a suggestion box with a lock. Only those in charge of reviewing suggestions should have access to the key.
Should you use a physical or virtual suggestion box?
The type of box you use depends on your employees, the type of business and the tools people use to do their jobs. If you have a population that works in a physical location and is less dependent on computers for their jobs, a physical box may be useful. If your staff is partly virtual, spread out over several locations or very computer- and mobile-dependent, then a virtual box could be more practical.
How often should a suggestion box be emptied?
It depends on your population and the number of contributions. Keep track of submissions when you first implement the box, and schedule reviews based on volume. The most important thing is to let employees know that their suggestions are being reviewed and considered.