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Employee Suggestion Systems

The term "employee suggestion systems" refers to a variety of efforts businesses make to solicit and utilize input from their employees in hopes of achieving cost savings or improving product quality, workplace efficiency, customer service, or working conditions. These efforts range from simply placing suggestion boxes in common areas to implementing formal programs with committees to review ideas and rewards for those that are adopted. The ideas generated can range from simple quality of work life improvements, like putting a refrigerator in the coffee room, to larger streamlining issues that can save the company thousands of dollars per year, like switching all salespeople's cellular phones from individual contracts to a group contract with a discount vendor. "Suggestion programs create a win-win situation," Kate Walter wrote in HR Magazine. "More involvement and input for employees and improved efficiency and cost-savings for employers."

"Companies that set up effective suggestion systems are finding that employees have great ideas that can lower costs, increase revenues, improve efficiency, or produce greater quality," said Charles Martin, author of Employee Suggestion Systems: Boosting Productivity and Profits. "Employees work together better as a team and often submit ideas as a team. And they begin to think more like managers, looking beyond the scope of their own jobs."

Some companies assume that since they cultivate an open relationship between employees and management, ideas for improvements will surface informally, without explicit prompting. But experts note that formal suggestion systems encourage employees to really think about their jobs and want to participate in the operation of the company. Formal suggestion systems let employees know that their ideas are valued. Such systems may even increase motivation and foster loyalty and teamwork among employees. And these benefits come in addition to the positive impact employee suggestion systems can have on a company's bottom line. "There's no denying that the real expert is the person who does the job; therefore, that's the best place to go when improvements are sought," consultant Tomas Jensen, president of the Center for Suggestion System Development, told Susan Wells as published in HR Magazine. "Millions of dollars are being saved by listening to the company's greatest asset—its human resource." Wells went on to discuss a study by Employee Involvement Association (EIA) which uncovered savings of more than $624 million in 2003 in 47 companies in which 450,000 people participated in programs.

ELEMENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL SUGGESTION SYSTEM

"The goal of a successful suggestion system is to tap the reservoir of ideas and creative thinking of all employees for the improvement of the working process and products," Robert F. Bell wrote in IIE Solutions. "To do so requires proper understanding by everyone of the process, management support of the system, encouragement and meaningful rewards, and a structure to make sure nothing falls through the cracks." The elements of a successful employee suggestion system can be divided into four main areas: management support, program structure, program visibility and promotion, and recognition and rewards.

Management Support

Program Structure

Program Visibility

Recognition and Rewards

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