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Government NewsEmployee suggestion programs: Innovate and improve your organization
Many state and local governments have employee suggestion programs that reward staff members for their good ideas if and when implemented. The hope is that these suggestions can be used to improve agency processes and/or procedures. When done well, they can help agencies deliver better service, boost morale, increase motivation and save money. And we’re not talking pennies. In fact, since its inception in 1950, California’s employee suggestion program has saved the state approximately $95 million.This e-newsletter will offer tips on successfully implementing an employee suggestion program within your agency and will also discuss ways to garner participation. Keep reading for more information.Helpful tips for a successful employee suggestion program

Simply throwing out an idea box and expecting the ideas to flow in is somewhat of a pipe dream. Effective employee suggestion programs have several things in common:

  • Top-down commitment: Getting the entire team on board, starting at the top, is critical for any successful employee suggestion program. A recent study from the Society for Human Resources (SHRM) found that 36 percent of organizations with employee suggestion programs feel top leaders don’t see the programs as critical to innovation. Employees are given little motivation to participate if agency leaders aren’t listening, aren’t implementing ideas or simply don’t care.
  • Effective promotion: A great program does no one any good if people don’t know about it. Promote the program details, including how to submit ideas, the benefits for the agency and the opportunity for rewards throughout the agency. Hang custom-printed banners and posters in common areas, like lunch rooms and call centers. If your organization distributes paystubs, include a pack of money Post-it® Notes imprinted with program specifics. The more you promote, the better the chance employees will participate.
  • Establish clear guidelines: The last thing you want to do is create more work for your organization. Keep ideas relevant by establishing guidelines up front, including what topics are open to suggestion, which sectors are in need of help and what, if any, problems are in immediate demand for assistance.
  • Rewards: Clearly outline what rewards will be given for implemented ideas and when. Will it be a monetary reward? If so, when will it be received and how is the amount determined? You can provide a flat amount or a percent of proven cost-savings—usually somewhere between 5 and 25 percent. Rewards can also be tangible and could include logo’d apparel or something techy, like a Bluetooth® speaker or headphones. And as the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a bad idea.” Even if you don’t implement all suggestions, it may be worthwhile to offer some recognition to encourage participation. A public acknowledgement or hand written thank-you note will do nicely.

Remember, any successful employee suggestion program needs buy-in, promotion, clear guidelines and, of course, rewards. Give it a try—you may just get that million-dollar idea.


Kerrigan, Heather. “Good Ideas Get Government Employees Extra Cash.” Governing. N.p., 20 Nov. 2014. Web. Retrieved 16 Dec. 2014.

Durmaz, Leila. “Employee Suggestion Program: Definition and Benefits.” Practical Innovation Management. N.p., 15 April 2013. Web. Retrieved 16 Dec. 2014.

“Implementing a Successful Employee Suggestion Program.” Vetter. N.p., 28 April 2013. Web. Retrieved 16 Dec. 2014.


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