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Reinventing the Suggestion Box

The wooden box with a top slot may be obsolete, but collecting, synthesizing and acting on employee feedback is essential to engagement, collaboration and innovation. Use these tips to reinvent the suggestion box - and get the great ideas your company needs:

Once upon a time, the "suggestion box" was a literal box. Often with a slot in the top, the suggestion box invited employees to submit ideas written on slips of paper - which may or may not have a signature attached.

The old-fashioned suggestion box is an anachronism in today's digital workplace, but its function can still provide value to managers, HR teams, and employees. Here's how to rethink the suggestion box for a digital world.

Get Creative

Digital options to recreate the physical suggestion box abound - but simply moving the suggestion box into a virtual space may not be the best use of this tool.

Instead, focus on the suggestion box's core function and purpose: Idea management.

From this perspective, suggestion boxes reveal a host of flexible uses. For instance, your team might use a suggestion box to:

  • Brainstorm solutions to a problem.
  • Gather creative ideas.
  • Reflect on the progress or completion of a project.
  • Offer a sounding board for general suggestions.
  • Vent their frustrations.
  • Collect feedback on workplace culture, offerings, and setup.

Once you know what you want your suggestion box to do - or to avoid doing - you can more easily focus on how to transition the suggestion box to a digital format.

While planning uses for your suggestion box, consider the affects you wish to see on your company's culture as well. Do you want to inspire innovation? Identify problems and bottlenecks before they cause serious issues? Boost employee morale and engagement? These visions can further direct the use of your suggestion box.

Suggestion Box 2.0: Avoid the Traditional Box's Biggest Shortcomings

Physical suggestion boxes were highly popular in mid-20th-century workplaces. In the 21st century, however, they've all but died out. Why?

Suggestion boxes can be demotivating. When the suggestions in a box never produce evidence of actual change, employees can feel dragged down by the mere presence of the box. Over time, the flow of suggestions dries up - not because employees have nothing to contribute, but because they don't see the point of offering suggestions if those suggestions never result in change.

Anonymity can point to deeper issues with company culture - and poison your results. The ability to make suggestion box submissions anonymous is said to help employees feel they can express themselves without fear of reprisal. While this may be true for some individuals, it raises the question: Why do your employees fear reprisal for speaking up?

Often, anonymous suggestion boxes indicate a deeper problem with company culture. Until a company addresses this issue, the suggestions in the box cannot be trusted to accurately reflect what your teams are thinking.

Quality filters are non-existent. Not all submissions to a suggestion box are equally valuable. You want to hear from all your employees - but you want to listen to their considered suggestions and thoughtful feedback. Physical suggestion boxes required managers to sort the wheat from the chaff. This task was time-consuming and often a low priority for managers, further contributing to a lack of follow-through.

Harness AI To Help

A digital suggestion box can help you address many of these issues. AI-enabled suggestion box tools can further boost the value of the suggestion box for your employees.

Artificial intelligence can build a smarter suggestion box by:

  • Offering real-time, customized responses. A physical suggestion box waited for someone to read it. AI can manage responses in real time, offering tailored prompts in response to users' input to gather more information and refine submissions.
  • Analyzing patterns in feedback and suggestions. AI specializes in identifying patterns in data. An AI-enabled digital suggestion box can spot patterns in feedback and suggestions, allowing managers to focus on rising issues or concerns.
  • Boosting efforts to develop actionable plans for real change. As AI notices patterns, it can also indicate areas that need direct change. As managers respond, employees notice that the suggestion box works - making them more likely to submit substantive, meaningful comments.

The suggestion box isn't dead - but today's digital world demands a new digital approach to this time-honored tool. Clarifying goals can help define the uses and design of a suggestion box for better results.

Need great suggestions - and great people - to staff your business more effectively?

Reach out to your staffing partner for the ideas, advice and solutions you need.