Suggestion boxes, once shiny and new like the bright ideas they hoped to reveal, now more often sit on a forgotten counter or hang on a bent nail with the sign covered in dust. Yet, employees welcome the chance to give ideas if they know someone is actually receiving and considering them. If you kick off your program with a splash and convince employees you value their comments, your digital suggestion box can be overflowing with ideas.
Writing a Suggestion Box Introduction Letter
Which letter gets your attention and makes you want to read further?
"I'm writing to introduce to you our new suggestion box program..."
"Got a great idea to improve our company? We want to hear it! Your ideas could earn you prizes and may even be accepted and implemented to improve our business in our brand-new Sassy Suggestions program just for employees."
Your suggestion box introduction letter needs to grab and hold the reader's attention. Your employees are busy and can easily be distracted from a letter that doesn't hold their interest.
Start with an unexpected opening line, as in the second example, then get right to the point. In the next paragraph, explain briefly how the program works, then direct them to the online program information you've created to explain the details and submit suggestions via an electronic form. End your letter with a vibrant call to action such as, "We're serious. We want to hear your ideas. So let's get thinking!"
Emailing or Sending a Letter?
Everyone in business uses email to communicate, so it's natural to send a suggestion box email to employees, right? Yes, emailing is a perfectly valid option. Although, chances are your employees receive hundreds of emails every day, so your email could just get buried.
Few people get physical letters these days, though, so this would be a great way to get attention first. A simple solution for a small business is to have the letters hand delivered by department managers and waiting on employees' desks when they arrive in the morning.
Better still, wrap a bow around each envelope and print the letter on colored paper so it demands attention the moment it's opened. Then, call all hands to the kick-off meeting at a certain time. Celebrate with cake or canapes and sparkling cider to convey what a big deal the new suggestion program is going to be. Be sure someone takes photos!
Teasing Before the Big Reveal
Another way to make a splash when introducing your suggestion program is to build up to the announcement by sending teaser cards to employees. They should pique interest but not reveal the program until it's time for the announcement. Again, have department managers place the cards on desks and plan to send at least three teaser cards, three days in a row, which could say something like:
- We hear you have a lot of bright ideas. (PICTURE OF A LIGHTBULB LIT)
- We want to give you prizes and awards. (PICTURES OF TROPHIES AND CERTIFICATES)
- Come pick up your first prize! All hands meeting in the conference room at 11. (CARTOON OF CONFUSED PEOPLE or CLIP ART OF BALLOONS, CONFETTI, STREAMERS etc.)
Prizes need not be expensive. For the kickoff meeting, have Smarties candies in a big bowl and explain that you have a super smart team that's probably brimming with ideas. Maybe with every idea submitted, employees get a raffle ticket for a bigger prize, so get the excitement going by giving everyone a raffle ticket now, putting them in a bowl and asking someone to pick the winner, who then gets a small gift card. Award prizes often and do so publicly to keep the excitement going.
Ideas can come from unexpected places, so include every employee. Choose a small group of judges — perhaps rotate the members periodically — who read suggestions every week or two. Give everyone feedback on why their ideas were or weren't chosen, and begin to implement great ideas large and small. By getting everyone excited and following through with results, who knows where their ideas may take you.
Implementing Your Digital Suggestion Box
A simple way to put your suggestion box in place is to create a dedicated email address for employees to send their ideas to, using a link to the suggestion form. Set up automatic forwarding so that those emails are immediately sent to the chair of the judges, who sends a "thanks for your idea!" email so the sender knows it was received. The chair then puts the email in the suggestion file, to be read at the next judges review meeting.
There are also companies that can set up the entire suggestion box program for you. They have already created the software that handles the entire process, and can help you decide how you want your program to work.
Some employees will want to shout their ideas to everyone, while others may hesitate in case their idea isn't chosen, so have an option for remaining anonymous. And make it clear to all that the suggestion box is not the place to air grievances; it's the forum for positive ideas that will enhance the company's future.
- You also might choose to incorporate an online suggestion box that is available to both employees and customers.
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is a freelance writer who lives in the Washington, D.C. area. She has written on business topics for afkinsider.com, smallbusiness.chron.com, Harbor Style Magazine, the Charlotte Sun and more, as well as advertising copy and materials. Barbara holds a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and has won numerous awards in B2B and B2C marketing.