The Suggestions and Comments sections are important not only because of how valuable the contributions of the team members are, but because they give many clues about how people feel about how valued, listened to and taken into account they feel within the organization.
To have a good suggestion system, it is first necessary to clarify some concepts and from there see how you can improve the participation of your teams in this valuable section within Clarity Wave.
The first thing to have a good system is to understand the difference between "suggestions" and "complaints".
These two words, although sometimes used synonymously, have very different connotations. Suggestions are made in a positive way, as a proactive proposal, while complaints are made in a negative way, as a passive reaction.
Although most of the time, both speak of the same point of improvement, in suggestions the perception is one of opportunity and in the complaint it is one of a problem.
Let's take an example of both positions:
Complaint: "The employee dining room always has the same food and we are tired of eating the same 5 things."
Suggestion: "It would be very motivating for everyone to have a more varied and healthy menu in the employees dining room"
Both sentences speak of the same thing, but they do not say the same. Which of the two suggestions do you think is received with greater openness and desire to resolve?
Obviously the second, correct?
Suggestions vs. Comments
To have effective suggestion and comments sections, you also have to be clear about the difference between a "suggestion" and a "comment."
A suggestion is always something that leads to action, something that invites you to do something in the future that will improve a present situation.
A comment does not necessarily lead to an action and can live in the past, present or future. A comment is more focused on the feeling, thought or expression about something, a suggestion is an invitation to a change.
Once these main differences have been made clear, you must take into account that for suggestions and comments to be a point of participation in the organization they must be something that is important to it.
What is not important for the company is not important for its employees. What is done is more important than what is said, and suggestions are verbs that live in action.
Steps to have an effective feedback and suggestion system:
1- Communicate the importance of listening to people:
Express to employees that it is extremely important for the organization to listen to them. It is always worth explaining to people the difference between suggestions, complaints and comments and encouraging them to make suggestions and avoid complaints.
2- Communicate that there is a system of suggestions and comments to have the employees' voices heard:
As a company, make sure that all employees know that there is a system of suggestions and comments and that listening to them is a priority for you as an organization.
3- Ensure that administrators read, comment and approve the suggestions and comments in the system quickly:
Many times people make their suggestions, but these get stuck in the daily tasks of the administrators without being put to action in a timely manner. Suggestions and comments are invitations to action and if this movement does not begin with the company taking them quickly through the process, you are sending a signal that these are unimportant for the company and therefore they will be so for its employees.
4- Constant feedback to those who offer suggestions and comments:
The people who suggest seek to have a closer communication with the company and be part of the change. The worst that can happen is that a company ignores the team members in their effort to propose something productive.
For this reason, it should be the task of the administrators of the suggestions and comments, to respond to each person who made a suggestion or comment, whether these have been approved or not.
When a suggestion or comment has been approved, it is very powerful to congratulate the person with a private message and when it is not approved, it is very important to explain to the person what were the criteria for which their suggestion was not approved and thank them for participating with their opinion.
5- Celebrate the approved suggestions in public:
When team members see that they are taken into account and that their ideas and suggestions are carried out, this encourages them to be more active in communicating new opportunities for improvement. Celebrating those who have opinions, encourages others to comment. It is very important that you use this strategy, always communicating positive things like these when they happen in the company, as it generates virtuous circles that change organizational climates and cultures.
6- Create a suggestions approval group:
Something that we see that works very well to have an effective suggestion system is to designate a group of 2 to 4 people, preferably from different areas of the company who will manage the suggestions in the system. This multidisciplinary team members are the ones who make sure to give feedback to the people who make a suggestion or comment, take the suggestions to the right people in the organization to see their viability and be in charge of giving this section the attention it requires so that it is always a “living” space in which people feel highly heard. (See Article "How to deal with suggestions")
At the end of the day, the suggestions and comments areas of your organization are only a reflection of how listened and participative the team members are.
The Community area in general is a very good thermometer of how integrated, motivated and involved your staff is. If they are not getting a response from their teams in this section, it can be a symptom of teams that do not feel the motivation, need or desire for improvement and this is something that can generate low productivity, profitability and efficiency in companies.