Why You Should Have a Workplace Suggestion Box

Gathering feedback from employees is very vital for any company to enjoy consistent improvement and a workplace suggestion box is a great tool for achieving this, especially if it’s an anonymous one. We explain.

Employees at all levels of any organisation have their own unique perspectives and ideas, but may not feel comfortable sharing them for various reasons. This is where an anonymous workplace suggestion box comes in very handy.

Picture this: a new entry-level employee just got hired for their first job ever at a large company. Still so fresh-faced and untainted by the organisation’s cultural biases, they quickly notice the inefficiencies in the company’s processes and get new ideas for products/services that the company could offer.

However, this new employee is hesitant to share – after all, if their ideas for process improvements and new products/services are so brilliant, how come none of the smart people already working at this mighty organisation has already come up with them?

Maybe they already did, tried them out and realised they don’t work. If not, then they surely must be silly ideas that aren’t worth anyone’s time. So instead of sharing them, the new employee holds back to avoid bringing unnecessary attention to themselves for fear of being ridiculed as crazy or reproached as a trouble-maker.

They lie low in their new job, get in step with their colleagues and soon, they absorb the organisation’s status quo, start thinking like everyone else they found at the company and their fresh ideas are quickly lost forever.

This is a scenario that happens very often in organisations. Human beings are naturally social creatures and so we have evolved to be very sensitive to how we are perceived by others in our social groups for the sake of our survival.

Most of us tend to customize the feedback we share in various social situations to avoid rubbing others the wrong way, especially when we’re not at the top of the social group.

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This is why employees are often hesitant to share their honest thoughts with their colleagues and managers out of fear of rocking the boat. Unfortunately, this often results in the company stagnating and getting stuck with outdated methods and approaches.

This is why offering your employees a safe space to share their thoughts and ideas can go a long way towards propelling your company forward.

Benefits of a workplace suggestion box

Anonymity breeds honesty – a couple of university studies (here and here), as well as this Harvard Business Review article, highlight the importance of an anonymous workplace suggestion box.

The benefits of allowing employee feedback via an anonymous workplace suggestion box include:

  • fresh perspectives and ways of thinking by encouraging employees to think of new ideas;
  • empowering employees who don’t feel confident enough to speak openly to still have a say;
  • increasing productivity as employees feel valued and listened to hence having higher morale;
  • cutting expenditure by enabling employees to identify and share ineffective company processes;
  • boosting revenue by enabling employees to identify and share new avenues to generate sales;
  • increasing employee retention levels by giving employees a sense of ownership in the company’s future;
  • fixing conflicts early by offering an accessible platform to share disgruntlement with colleagues;
  • detecting dishonest/illegal activities in the workplace by enabling safe whistleblowing, and;
  • delivering higher customer value by creating a channel for employees to translate and relay the ideas, tips and complaints they receive from customers about the company’s products/services.

Modern methods for a workplace suggestion box:

When we hear the word “suggestion box” the first image that springs up in our minds is a wooden box hanging on a wall with a cute slot at the front for someone to slide a piece of paper in and a little door on the side for someone to open and remove its contents.

However, with the modern digital age and the millennial generation that is now far too used to sharing their opinions, complaints and ideas via social media apps, emails and comments sections, the physical suggestion box is simply no longer viable.

While the physical version is becoming redundant, the online, anonymous workplace suggestion box is growing more and more important as far as nurturing business innovation and boosting employee engagement in today’s organisations. The modern workplace suggestion box can be created by:

  • using your company intranet;
  • encouraging anonymous emails;
  • using pulse surveys, and;
  • having an online form.

Here are five critical tips to keep in mind as you put together your modern workplace suggestion box:

Offer the right motivation

Highlight the empowerment and contribution value this workplace suggestion box has to offer to your employees instead of offering monetary rewards.

Feeling a sense of ownership in the organisation and taking personal pride in knowing that they are playing an active role in the future success of the company are far more effective motivating factors than any amount of money you could offer them.

workplace suggestion box

Image: Unsplash

Seek ideas on specific topics

Put together a list of topics based on the goals you have set as a company and the challenges you are facing in achieving them.

Next, seek ideas on each one of these topics, one at a time, by posing probing, thought-provoking questions that are not limiting to the possible ideas your employees could generate.

Cast your net far and wide

Encourage a wide variety of ideas by soliciting ideas and suggestions from employees in different levels, departments, and physical locations.

This will allow you to collect a wide variety of ideas from many various perspectives, giving you a wider, clearer picture of the specific topic you’re trying to understand.

Make it fun

While it’s tempting to only reach out to employees for suggestions about serious business topics such as how to boost sales and improve production, you should make it a point to regularly use the workplace suggestion box for fun topics such as “What should the theme of the next office party be?” or “which pizza toppings should we get when we order some next week?”

Such occasional light-heartedness maintains a high employee buy-in and keeps them looking forward to the next question you will ask.

Keep it voluntary

Forcing employees to participate in a workplace suggestion box won’t work as they will just give you dishonest answers to get you off their backs. The creativity necessary for fresh ideas and suggestions simply can’t be forced out of someone.

On the other hand, highlighting to your employees that participation is strictly by free choice, while emphasizing the earlier-mentioned empowerment and contribution value, will often encourage them to take their own personal initiative to participate.

In Summary

Innovative ideas are the fuel of every successful company and a very important source of these innovative ideas is employees because they are on the front lines, directly interacting with both the products and the customers on a daily basis. This is why a workplace suggestion box is so important.