The Employee Suggestion Box: Weighing the Pros & Cons

The Employee Suggestion Box: Weighing the Pros & Cons
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To Suggest or Not to Suggest

If done incorrectly, the use of an employee suggestion box can open a whole new can of worms for the business owner, especially because suggestions should be anonymous. The business owner that proudly displays a box and encourages employees to use it may find more comments than actual suggestions.

These off-the-cuff employee suggestions will be anything from the desire to have a window in their office to how they don’t like their co-worker’s clothes. Many times, the business owner will find off-color comments about themselves hidden within these employee “suggestions.”

If the purpose of a suggestion box for employees is to improve processes or implement ideas, with that box must come a plan to help you discover the value of the suggestion box in and of itself.

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The Pros of the Box & How to Use One

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An employee suggestion box can be used as a tool to improve your business and keep your customers and employees content. Here are some of the pros and how to implement them:

  • Suggesting Anonymously is Key – Do keep the suggestion box anonymous so that employees are not required to give their names. Even if you know the “handwriting,” never reveal that you do. No one will suggest anything if they fear repercussions. By keeping the offered tips unknown, you’ll get a lot of comments, but can still weed out the true suggestions or tips.
  • Suggestion Box Planning – Those who are successful in the employee suggestion box setup do plan for the process. Create a suggestion box committee that includes both supervisors and subordinates that become equal when analyzing suggestions placed within the box. Make sure the members on this committee are rotated in intervals.
  • Consider the Good Stuff – Your committee, while weeding out the bad, will also discover some good suggestions. If you feel confident in your committee and they have a suggestion that they think will work, implement that suggestion and don’t wait too long to try it.
  • Explain the Box – Make sure all employees are aware of how the suggestion process works and that the use of the box is not for complaints. By informing employees on the suggestion box plan and how the committee will evaluate, administrate and implement suggestions, you’ll be less likely to get unwanted complaints.
  • Business Owner Blindness – Many business owners, when it comes to their baby—the business—often see it through rose colored glasses. A good pro to employee suggestion boxes are real tips that you may not even see with that business owner blindness. While you must play the supervisory role at all times, that doesn’t mean your employees will never have good ideas so take off those blinders and reap the rewards. You may see some tips that are revelations.

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The Cons of the Box & How to Avoid Them

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Along with the pros of the employee suggestion box, there are also some cons including:

  • Employee Nonsense – If you have no plan or committee and you don’t oversee the suggestion box, you will get a lot of nonsense complaints from employees who really don’t value your leadership. You can turn this con into a pro, however, by being diligent about the suggestions you receive and don’t put weight on the bad complaints, even if they’re about you.
  • Harassment Comments - An employee who feels they have been harassed by a customer, co-worker or supervisor may use the box to post harassment or discrimination complaints. Make sure this doesn’t happen by having a good harassment and discrimination policy in place.
  • False Accusations – Any employee who may want to get rid of a co-worker may offer false complaints or suggestions. If the complainer can get one person to back them up, you could be losing a good employee from false accusations.
  • Employee Adversity – No matter what you do to sway employees from telling co-workers about pay scales or benefits they are receiving—employees talk to one another. Your employee suggestion box may be a holding place for employee adversity.
  • Wasteful Insights – When and how your employees utilize the suggestion box could make for not only wasteful insights but less employee productivity. If all they think about is making a suggestion (even if it’s a good suggestion that you would consider), the less productive they’ll be. Set rules on when the suggestion box should be utilized.
  • Threats – You may be surprised, but some employees may use the box to make threats against you, the business itself, co-workers and even your customers.

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Make It Useful

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Often the cons outweigh the pros for instituting an employee suggestions box, but they don’t have to. You can make your employees’ suggestions be meaningful, clear, and insightful if you implement a plan and suggestion box committee that every employee is eligible to participate in. A committee is also useful in helping to weed out the nonsense you don’t need in your business owner busy day.

Think of your suggestion box as another business policy and include a brief statement about it in your employee handbook. As with other company policies, if you implement this one, don’t just allow it to oversee itself. To make it useful, you need to really investigate good suggestions and if you decide to just let the box hang on the wall and never respond; you’re heading down a bad road. Your employees won’t trust you if you offer this benefit and you never do anything with it.

The employee suggestion box can be a good or bad thing, but don’t make it a place where employees just harbor complaints without your leadership or involvement. To be really successful, make the guidelines clear for the suggestion box; if you have to, put the guidelines in writing.

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