The Idea Campaign

Your Employees May Have Your Organization’s Next Great Idea

By David Cox, SPHR, SHRM-SCP | October 13, 2016

I have watched numerous management consultants begin their engagements by surveying the employees of the client’s business. The goal of this survey is to identify workable ideas they can recommend to the client around which they will create projects and charge thousands of dollars in billable hours. This may seem unethical, but after all, the management consultants are just doing what their client was either unwilling, or didn’t know how, to do on their own.

Management expert Peter E. Drucker once said, “One has to assume, first, that the individual human being at work knows better than anyone else what makes him or her more productive…even in routine work the only true expert is the person who does the job.” So what do the “experts” in your company have to offer?

The concept for utilizing employee ideas and rewarding the contributors is not new. About four years ago, there was an employee suggestion program referred to as the Idea Campaign. In just three weeks, the organization using this approach received over 500 new ideas from their workforce. At the end of the campaign, they had substantial ideas and employee suggestions on how to increase productivity, cut costs, and improve employee motivation.

A number of organizations have used this program successfully. Eglin Air Force Base ran this campaign for two weeks where both civilian and military personnel were asked to submit ideas that could reduce waste and inefficiency or increase productivity. Eglin received a tremendous surprise when workers generated $400,000 worth of cost savings ideas and new ways to generate revenue. Harley-Davidson ran a similar program saving $3,000,000 in one 30-day program.

Organizations often use a reward and recognition approach to encourage participation. For example, employees submitting workable ideas might receive personalized gifts such as coffee mugs or a pens. Once a month there might be a scheduled gathering to recognize everyone’s ideas. A small gift certificate to a local lunch spot might be a much appreciated reward.

Employers should encourage employee involvement in contributing suggestions that might improve business practices and productivity. As an employer, if your organization is to be competitive, you should involve the minds, hands, and ideas of everyone in the organization. Getting employees involved not only yields valuable ideas and suggestions, but also improves employee morale as they feel more fully invested in the business, resulting in a more productive and satisfying work environment for all.