In total, we received and evaluated 144 ideas over a one-month period.
We found that employees who were given a choice of reward submitted 86% more ideas than those who were told what they would be getting. Moreover, the average creativity score of their ideas was 82% higher. Overall, our suggestion program elicited double the number of ideas as the company’s own program and resulted in ideas that were ranked 84% more creative.
Why it matters
Soliciting employee ideas can be a key driver of innovation in organizations.
When employees share their ideas about products, services or policies using a suggestion program, an organization can take those ideas and refine and then implement them.
These implemented ideas can enhance an organization’s ability to adapt and compete. A 2003 study of 47 organizations found that ideas submitted to employee suggestion programs saved those organizations more than $624 million in a single year.
Our own study suggests small incentives could have a significant impact on the quantity and quality of those employee suggestions.
Research is still needed on whether there is an optimal number of rewards that organizations should offer to get more submissions. One past study found that when employees were asked to choose from a large set of rewards, they felt overwhelmed and produced few ideas.
Future research can also test whether our results can be found in other types of organizations, with employees in other types of jobs and in other parts of the world. We plan to examine these issues in our future studies of suggestion programs.