Traditional vs. Online Suggestion Boxes: An Honest Comparison

Boxing GlovesShould you invest in online suggestion box software?

Or should you buy a few physical suggestion boxes and place them somewhere in your office?

In this article we compare your two options for implementing an employee suggestion program: traditional vs. online suggestion boxes.

1. Speed of Implementation

Is it quicker to buy physical suggestion boxes and place them around the office?

This is possibly true, especially in the short-term – but some of the online suggestion box software (especially the new breed such as IdeaGlow) can be set up in just a few hours.

Also, keep in mind that when you’re launching an employee suggestion program, most of your time will be spent obtaining buy-in; and communicating and promoting your program to employees. As a result, physical suggestion boxes may not save you much time, if any.

2. Transparency

What happens to suggestions written on a sheet of paper and dropped into your suggestion box?

Employees may think that the physical suggestion boxes are not checked often, or that their ideas may end up in limbo. This may discourage them from submitting a lot of ideas.

On the other hand, an online suggestion box makes your idea management process much more transparent. Employees can view the status of ideas online and they can be notified of ideas that have been accepted for implementation. That will make your employees much more likely to submit a lot of ideas.

3. Collaboration

Online suggestion boxes allow employees to collaborate and comment on ideas. There’s also the ability to give the “thumbs up” for ideas they like or to give the “thumbs down” to ideas they don’t like so much.

Most suggestion box software packages also allow employees to vote for ideas. You can give employees a number of votes each month or each quarter. This encourages participation in the program and helps employees feel empowered and valued.

As a result, online suggestion boxes tend to encourage much more collaboration.

4. Visibility

Physical idea boxes are more visible than online idea boxes – unless they’re hidden away rather than placed in a central position like reception area or cafeteria.

Visibility alone won’t ensure employees will submit a lot of new ideas. No matter whether you use traditional or online suggestion boxes, you need to promote your employee suggestion program to keep employees involved.

5. Costs

The costs of your employee suggestion program include investment in physical boxes or software plus the amount of time you spend communicating the program and evaluating ideas.

Although physical boxes are cheaper to install, in the long run suggestion box software can save you a lot of time as it makes processing ideas and communicating so much easier.

6. Accessibility

A traditional suggestion box is absolutely fine when you have a small number of employees at one location.

If you have multiple sites and/or a large number of employees, then an online suggestion box will make it much easier to manage your program. And if you like, you can even give your most valued customers or supply chain partners access to your online suggestion box.

7. Idea Challenges

Idea challenges focus on generating ideas on one specific issue within a time limit. Challenges usually take between one and four weeks. By adding urgency and focus they stimulate idea generation and motivate employees to submit their ideas.

Online suggestion boxes facilitate running idea challenges. They help you communicate new challenges to all employees. You can easily invite employees by email to submit ideas plus send out reminders just before a challenge finishes.

8. Learning Curve

Concerned about a long learning curve for online suggestion boxes?

This is a good concern – as most software tend to be hard to learn and use. However, the new breed of online suggestion box software – such as IdeaGlow – tend to be much easier to learn and use. Most of them offer a free trial (IdeaGlow Trial) – we recommend you sign up for trial and check out whether you find each software easy to use.

9. Processing of Ideas

Online suggestion boxes make the processing of ideas much easier. All ideas are archived and continue to be easily accessible. You can usually sort ideas by categories, and you can easily analyze which employee is the most active or successful in submitting suggestions.

10. Built-In “Virtual Rewards” System

This is an additional feature available with most online suggestion boxes.

Using virtual rewards (such as virtual badges, trophies, etc) you can motivate employees to submit more ideas, to collaborate or to vote more.

Traditional or Online Suggestion Boxes: Which is Better?

If you’re a small company and all employees work at the same location, you’re probably fine with a traditional idea box.

If you’re a large company with employees at different locations, you’re probably better off with an online suggestion box. The same is true if you’d like to take advantage of the extra features offered by software such as a built-in reward system, collaboration opportunities or the ability to launch challenges.

Write down the pros and cons of physical suggestion boxes and online suggestion box software – as applied to your organization. Then, implement a pilot program as soon as you can – and decide the next steps based on what you learn in the pilot program.

To get new information we publish on employee suggestion programs, sign up using the box at the top-right. Companies of all sizes (from Fortune-500s to growing startups) use software from IdeaGlow to build their own employee suggestion programs. IdeaGlow is affordably priced and relatively easy to implement. If you’re interested, you can apply for a FREE trial.

Leila Durmaz

Hello, I'm your author, Leila Durmaz. I spend a lot of my time researching the best practices for innovation management, and writing articles to share them. I hope you find them helpful! I work at Accompa - one of our products is IdeaGlow innovation management software.

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