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In the virtual world of the Internet, everyone has a voice and someone is always listening. In the real world, only the loudest voices are heard. When companies look to solve problems, the solutions found might not be optimal if employees with the most innovative ideas aren’t in the right positions to be heard. Virtual suggestion boxes provide companies with the opportunity to give all employees a voice. Ideas can be posted, evaluated and voted upon by everyone in the company.
The first step toward implementing a virtual suggestion box is developing a project plan. Clearly define the scope and goals so the project team can make informed decisions about vendor and software selections. Describe why the box is needed and how long it should remain active -- employees could lose interest if it permanently stays online. Consider using the box for a set period of time to collect ideas relating to specific problems or for process improvement events. At the end of the period, take the box offline. It can later be put back into use for a new activity.
Assign resources to the project. Ideally, the first resource is an executive sponsor. With high profile leadership support, the project will gain momentum, encouraging employees to answer the call once the suggestion box is open for submissions. Next comes the team itself, starting with a project manager or team leader. Assign one or more team members to focus on issuing communications to the workforce as the project progresses, keeping employees informed and building interest.
Investigate vendors and assess the capabilities of available software. Review features such as methods for collecting and analyzing employee input, and how employees can vote on ideas that have been submitted. Evaluate analytical reporting tools to see how well the tools support the project goals. Be sure to confirm that security features are capable of preventing unauthorized users from gaining access and can protect gathered data. Also, explore options for customizing user interface features to fit workplace preferences without the need to write custom code. Purchase options can include buying the software outright or buying the rights to access it through an Internet-based company as a virtual software application.
Once the software is ready for use, test it with a select group of users. Verify data input features are working as expected, and the administrative tools for analyzing and reporting are meeting project objectives. Work with the vendor to correct any flaws before launching a company-wide campaign. When the software is ready for launch, the campaign should communicate why the box exists, what input employees are being asked to provide, and how to effectively use the software.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.