Improvement suggestions program, what is it?

improvement suggestions box

A solid foundation of employee involvement activities is critical to achieving the continuous improvement goals.  One of those elements is the improvement suggestions program.

What is an improvement suggestions program?

An employee suggestion program gives your employees a formal way to express their ideas to improve the processes of the workplace conditions.  Also, it is a way to channel those ideas from the work floor to management.  

A well manage suggestion plan serves two purposes.  The first is to formalize the suggestions process.  The second is to provide documentation of individual contributions.  With the former, leadership can prioritize ideas aligned with the company goals.  The ladder provides documentation for the year-end performance review.

Are you ready to lunch this program?

Why do you want to lunch an improvement suggestions program?  If you want to check a box from your to-do list, do not do it.  Are you receiving a steady number of suggestions?  If ideas are not flowing from employees to supervisors and managers, maybe you are not there yet.  On the other hand, if enthusiasm is growing and team members are communicating ideas constantly, it is time to launch your suggestions program.

Characteristics of an improvement suggestions program

But the improvement suggestions program is much more than a suggestions box.  Above all, careful design of the process is important.  For instance, the following are factors that describe a successful suggestions plan.

  • Hassle-free process – Make it easy to participate by providing a simple suggestions form. 
  • Clear and fair rules – Same rules for everybody, explain how you would assign a value or impact to the results of the estimated improvements.  Moreover, explain the rewards and recognition system tied to the suggestions propositions and results.  Also, establish guidelines for the type of topics open to suggestions and how ideas are prioritized.
  • Quick feedback – Establish a standard, such as responding to suggestions within one week.  Even more, create the standard for what information should be included in the response and how the feedback will be provided.
  • Program promotion and evaluation – Check how the system is doing versus the standards and look for areas for improvement.  Furthermore, create a measuring or evaluation system and publish the results.  For example, the total number of suggestions and participation percentage


A badly designed program will hurt your continuous improvement transformation.  Once it loses credibility it will be undertaken to win it back.  Put simply, avoid hurting the continuous improvement journey and the business bottom-line. The following are mistakes that should avoid.

  • Create a complicated form requesting too much information.
  • Take too much time to answer, don’t be the bottleneck of the process!
  • Have a homogenous evaluation team, include people from different functions and levels.
  • Fail to follow the program rules.


Team involvement activities are critical to achieving improvement goals in the areas of quality, cost, and delivery.   For that reason, their engagement is decisive to achieve the continuous improvement goals.  Certainly, it is important to create and maintain a fair and simple program that motivates participation.

Kaizen and Employee Involvement.

The three pillars of kaizen, standardization, 5S, and elimination of waste, are critical to achieving the goals. These activities are successful only if the foundation, employee involvement is robust. The employee involvement activities are teamwork, self-discipline, moral enhancement, improvement suggestions, and quality circles. From them, the last two provide information on how active employees are in continuous improvement activities.

Suggestion Programs to increase employee involvement

The purpose of this system is to motivate the employees to provide as many suggestions as possible.  One of the management’s responsibilities is to share with their teams the company goals. Another responsibility is to educate them on how their daily work connects to those goals.  If they accomplish those tasks, the team will understand how they can support those goals. Therefore, they will suggest things aligned with those objectives. 

The suggestion program should be easy to participate in, have clear rules and standards. Forms containing all the required information and acceptance criteria are an example. Also, other ways to facilitate participation are guidelines for prioritization and how to provide feedback. Other areas to cover with simple procedures are ways to motivate participation, decision-making, program promotion, and recognition.

Quality Circles

Quality circles are activities designed to address quality, safety, cost, and productivity issues. They are informal and formed by voluntary small-groups. You know your employees are engaged in continuous improvement when they suggest solutions. Another hint comes when they ask to meet with other teammates to work on an idea.

The idea can be part of the possible countermeasures of kaizen in progress. Another possibility is a simple checklist to minimize errors or to create visual marks to improve a process. Management support for these groups is vital. They can help to remove obstacles and facilitate resources and training. Also, they oversee what is going on to ensure meeting policies and critical criteria.

The temperature of employee involvement

These systems or activities are excellent ways to take the temperature of the continuous improvement effort.  The more participation, the more active and engage the employees are.  They are also excellent vehicles to boost the employee’s morale, which is another daily activity to ensure kaizen success.  It is very important to practice respect for the people, respect their ideas, and always provide feedback.  The main idea behind all these is to develop your people, to provide the environment to explore, learn, and change.