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Dear Workforce How Can We Stagger Employee Suggestions?

Get feedback from your employees on what’s expected.
February 18, 2001
Related Topics: Recognition, Policies and Procedures, Dear Workforce
QDear Workforce:
    Our companyencourages employees to provide feedback or suggestions that could improve workprocesses or improve the growth and success or our organization. We rewardemployees based on each implementation, if applicable. Although the programappears to be working, employees in recent years have started turning in"soft" suggestions.
    We don't want todiscourage participation, but we need some guidelines to determine the type ofaward they should get for specific implementations (i.e., pop-up menus oncomputer programs should not warrant cash or stock options). We also would liketo know how other companies stagger their rewards.
- Leisha
Dear Leisha:
    Based on thequestion you posed, I'd suggest that you take a look at two different aspects ofyour suggestion system. First, you need to ensure employee understanding of theintent of the program, and also build understanding of the correlation to thesuccess of the business.
    Second, you need toensure incentives are aligned with the goals of the program, and that they arerewarding suggestions to address the "big issues."
    First things first.I would suggest performing a little internal market research to get into thehearts and minds of employees. A simple phone survey to a random sampling ofemployees can help you understand employee perceptions of the program, determinetheir understanding of its intent, and identify any potential barriers to itssuccess. This is also an opportunity to ask employees what types of incentiveswould further encourage their participation. Of course, you need to carefullyphrase the questions in order to avoid making promises about potentialsolutions.
    Listen to youremployees and you may be surprised at what you hear. For instance, you maydetermine that the issues you see with the system are simply the result ofemployee misunderstanding of the intent. You may find that employees hear mixedmessages about the program, which would subtly work to discourage participation.
    Employees mayperceive a lack of follow-through on the suggestions themselves, which woulderode the credibility of the program and work to discourage participation. Thisresearch will help you determine, based on employee input, whether the processis underutilized due to the incentive structure, or some completely unrelatedreason.
    Armed with directemployee input, you'll be better positioned to successfully resolve the issues.If it's a matter of understanding, a recommitment to the process, includingsenior-level sponsorship, and a re-launch to increase visibility may be inorder. If it turns out that the incentive structure is a deterrent to success, Iwould suggest going back to the original objectives of the system and building areward model based on the ROI of the suggestion. The value of each suggestionshould be measured in ROI to the business.
    To determine ROI,look at factors such as length of time to implement, cost-savings, investment intime and effort, and employee attitudes (studies demonstrate a directcorrelation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction). In theend, you need to ensure that incentives reflect the ROI of the suggestion to thecompany so that employees feel valued in their contributions. Good luck.
SOURCE: Anne Sutton, seniorconsultant, Unifi Network of PricewaterhouseCoopers,Minneapolis, Minn.
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