In today’s corporate landscape, decisions are often made over the course of several meetings. Often in these meetings, attendees won’t express their thoughts or concerns because that would require them to speak in front of their coworkers and risk others having an undesirable response to their ideas. Even outside of meetings, employees may not feel comfortable expressing their ideas about the operations or the culture of the company because of the aforementioned risk. Countless well thought out, innovative ideas are squandered each year because employees are afraid to let their voices be heard.
A simple solution to this problem was discovered a long time ago, and is as effective now as it was back then. The simple suggestion box can alleviate the stress and fear that goes along with expressing opinions in the workplace. It allows employees to provide feedback on any aspect of the company as well as offer their ideas for consideration. It’s a win-win for the company as well–it allows employees to feel as though they have a valued voice in all aspects of the company, and the company can also gain valuable feedback and creative ideas from employees who experience specific issues in their own day-to-day tasks. One key to the effectiveness of the suggestion box is that the company must follow through and analyze the suggestions and act on ideas that appear productive or advantageous. Having a suggestion box that serves only as an outlet for employees without action can cause trust and engagement issues among employees who may already feel that they have no say.
Allowing employees to freely express their ideas also allows them to challenge standard ways of thinking and deliver creative, outside-the-box solutions to challenges the company faces. There is no way to know what kinds of ideas employees at all levels are conceptualizing if they have no outlet for expression. People inherently have a yearning to be a part of something greater than themselves and to influence change, and the company-employee situation is no different. Employees want to make their mark on the practices or culture of the company and the suggestion box allows them to do just that.
Another perspective on giving employees the opportunity to submit their ideas revolves around the magnitude of ideas. Many companies have a department that focuses on innovation and generating ideas, but this department only makes up a small percentage of the company. Allowing the entire company to individually submit ideas can only lead to one possibility–a larger pool of ideas to pull from when trying to innovate. Not to mention that when people are able to generate ideas independent of a group, it results in better overall ideas because there is no influence from other people and no negative feedback from others to deter creativity. There is no downside to receiving a plethora of ideas, especially when a portion of them are inevitably going to be actionable.
All of these points bring up the most important point of them all–being able to determine which ideas make the cut and which ideas are thrown out. Creating a set of questions that filter the results allows you to create the criteria that determines which ideas are viable. If the suggestion box is assigned to the department responsible for innovation, the ideas should be judged independently by the innovators so that they can weigh the pros and cons of the ideas taking into account feasibility, cost, effect, and more.
A final point worth noting is that majority vote doesn’t always lead to the right decision–so ideas should be investigated thoroughly before any action is taken. It might take a little more time to filter the ideas and narrow them down to the point of in-depth investigation, but the results from the exercise are sure to yield creative, innovative ideas and solutions to many situations that the company faces.