How to Set Up a Suggestion Box that Employees Would Actually Use

Do you suspect that something’s brewing among your employees? Want to set up a suggestion box to find out?

Low employee engagement. Workplace harassment. Unethical behavior of some employees… Unfortunately, no organization is immune to challenges among employees. 

However, only smart companies set up systems to discover those issues before they escalate. 

And most use a very simple method to do that – they set up a suggestion box. 

In this guide, not only will I show you how to do the same, I’ll also explain how to ensure that employees will use your suggestion box. 

So, let’s take it from the top…

What Exactly is a Suggestion Box?

I suspect this term – suggestion box – evokes a similar image for us all…

We immediately think of a small box, hanging somewhere on a wall, with a narrow slot on top where you can slip a piece of paper with your suggestion.

You know – even though we have moved far away from collecting employee feedback this way, the image still stands. 

Because a suggestion box (this time I mean a digital one) is still a system that allows employees to anonymously submit ideas, suggestions, feedback, or even concerns to management. 

I guess the only real difference is that today, the whole process happens online, and the digital suggestion box resembles a form rather than an actual box. 

Here’s an example of what a suggestion box looks like today. 

As you can see, it’s a simple form, easy to complete, and allows employees to communicate whatever they need to the management and the company. 

Example of a suggestion box.

But it works. 

It allows employees to share their feedback quickly, and most importantly, anonymously. Just as if they slipped a piece of paper into a slot at the top of a box.

But why is it so important to consider providing employees with a way to share ideas or concerns?

There are plenty of reasons, but to just to name a few:

  • Fostering inclusion and making employees feel valued, their ideas appreciated, and giving them a sense of ownership of the company’s success.
  • Higher morale, greater job satisfaction, motivation, and loyalty.
  • Better communication between management and employees. This is particularly evident with companies that launch anonymous suggestion boxes
  • Innovation that stems from ideas directly given by people involved in those aspects of the product or service. 
  • Identifying workplace issues before they escalate, and more. 

In short, a suggestion box is your gateway to discovering what your employees think, feel, and experience about your company. 

But do suggestion boxes work? 

I appreciate that my opinions on the matter might sound biased. I do run a suggestion box software, after all. Therefore, I asked our customers to tell you about the difference having a suggestion box program has made for their companies. 

Jennifer George from Vituity told me this:

“We recently implemented a paid community service benefit because of an idea received through Suggestion Ox. The benefit allows employees to participate in community volunteer events. Vituity encourages employees to take time away from work to make a difference in the communities where they live.”

Greg Cook from Guarantee Electrical shared this with me:

“It’s small things to big things. In HR you don’t want to guess and you don’t want to just throw things at the wall and hope they stick. Suggestion Ox lets us diagnose and understand what’s working, what’s not working. Where are the opportunities?”

And added:

“Basically, we’ve created a safer environment. We’ve provided a voice to employees.”

Incredible, isn’t it? 

But there is one thing those, and many similar companies, have in common. Coincidentally, this is also the biggest obstacle to achieving success with a suggestion box.

You see, they’ve all acted on the feedback. 

I found an alarming statistic when preparing to write this guide. Now, it’s worth noting that the data is about ten years old, however, I do believe that today, the situation isn’t much different. 

Basically, a survey conducted by SHRM found that although 93% of employees in the US make suggestions to their companies on regular basis, only 39% of those companies have processes to address those ideas. 

It’s beyond shocking. Not surprising, though. As a result, employees have long developed negative attitudes towards suggestion boxes. 

  • Many fear that their feedback will never be acted upon. Such feelings often come at the back of their previous suggestions being completely ignored. 
  • Others fear retaliation or negative consequences of what they’d say. 
  • Many doubt that suggestion boxes are truly anonymous. 
  • And some view a suggestion box as somethig the HR does just for show.

The good news? It’s actually relatively easy to overcome all those objections, and more, and create a suggestion box that employees will want to use. 

Let me show you how. 

How to Prevent a Suggestion Box Fail

For many people, the notion of a suggestion box equals something done for a show. Some consider it a futile exercise, where their suggestions will not even be reviewed.

As a result, your best option to succeed with the suggestion box is by combating those attitudes. 

And there are several ways to do that, actually. 

#1. Set a theme for the suggestion box

You can create a suggestion box in two ways:

  1. You can just set it up, and hope for good feedback to arrive, or
  2. You can ask employees to provide feedback on a specific issue. 

And let me tell you, the other option works million times better. 

Ask for feedback on a specific issue communicates several things to employees. 

First, that you seek feedback on something specific. This also suggests that the issue is close to home, and something you feel they can help resolve. 

Having a theme suggests another thing – because the issue feels important (you do ask for feedback about it, after all) it means that there is a far greater likelihood that whatever feedback you receive will be reviewed and acted upon. 

In other words, a theme creates a situation where the issue takes the center stage. Anyone affected by it will want to share feedback, since the resolution will affect their situation, too.

#2. Promote the box

Some companies create a digital suggestion box, then email employees the link and hope for the best. 

There is nothing wrong with that approach, of course. But it might not be overly effective, and that’s for several reasons:

  • Email overload. According to a research by Radicati Group (link to PDF), employees receive around 128 emails per day. Granted, some of those messages are spam. But even if we discount those, it is still highly likely that a message linking to your suggestion box will end up buried among those other messages. 
  • Low exposure. In other words, emailing a link to the suggestion box once might not be enough to get all employees accustomed to the program. 

How do you overcome those issues?

First of all, allow employees to reach the suggestion box through different channels. 

My product – Suggestion Ox – for example, allows you to set up shareable link to email to employees but also:

  • A QR code that you can print out and distribute across the office. 
  • Slack integration, 
  • MS Teams integration. 

As a result, our customers’ teams can be reminded and access suggestion boxes through a channel that works best for them. 

Distributing the suggestion box to employees.

#3. Offer incentives and rewards

I admit that incentives would not work for every suggestion box theme. 

You can’t (or at least, shouldn’t) incentivize suggestion boxes that aim to uncover workplace harassment or unethical practices. 

But in many instances – particularly if you’re looking to collect ideas or suggestions for improvements – incentives and rewards can spark employees into action. 

These incentives can range from monetary rewards, gift cards, extra time off, or recognition awards, and can help build and foster a culture of continuous feedback. 

One particular reward stands out on this list above – recognition rewards. In general, these type of rewards acknowledge employees for their contributions to the organization. 

In the context of a suggestion box, these acknowledge the best ideas suggested by employees. As a result, these rewards tell the person’s colleagues:

  • What idea they brought in, but also
  • That the company does implement employees ideas. 

As a result, recognition awards work in two ways – they convince employees that the company hears their feedback, and that it is prepared to act on the best ideas. 

Speaking of that, let me close this list with the most important factor that determines the success of a suggestion box program…

#4. Act on the feedback (duh!)

It really is as simple as that. Act on the feedback, and very quickly, employees will realize how much you value their voices and opinions. 

How to Set Up a Suggestion Box – A Quick Walkthrough

As the last thing, I want to show you what the process of setting up a suggestion box looks like. 

Disclaimer – I’m going to use my product – Suggestion Ox – for this demonstration. However, the process would look similarly with other employee feedback tools

Once you log into the software, click the “Create Another Box” button. 

How to set up a suggestion box.

The system will display a small popup window where you can name your suggestion box, and choose a template (box type.)

Suggestion box templates.

In this case, I selected employee feedback to management. As a result, the system automatically preset the box for me. 

This is what the finished suggestion box looks like. 

Another example of a digital suggestion box.

However, I do have the option to edit and customize it further. 

For one, I can edit the information and instructions on the box, including the name. 

Suggestion box setup.

I can also edit the form design. 

Suggestion box design.

Finally, I can specify whether I want to collect anonymous replies (this option is always on by default,) and set up other aspects of the box. 

Suggestion box settings.

And that’s it. 

Setting up a suggestion box is as simple as those several easy steps. 

Want to try Suggestion Ox and launch a suggestion box? Sign up for a free, fully-functional demo and build your first suggestion box. 

I’m sure you’ll love the experience.

Try it free and experience the benefits of employee feedback