To Develop Idea Culture Think Outside The Suggestion Box

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How many times has an employee suggested something and you've stopped and thought, "Now, why haven't we thought of that before?" What about the expensive consultant who comes in and recommends something that an employee recommended a few years ago?

What I'm getting at is that every credit union, has a wonderful resource available to it-its own employees. Now before you brush this off with a wave of your hand thinking, "We've had a suggestion box up for years and have had little to show for it," read on, because what I'm proposing is not another suggestion box.

What I'm proposing is making new ideas and suggestions a part of your corporate culture; make it exciting, rewarding and fun for your staff. By holding contests and involving the employees in the process of evaluating the suggestions they submit; the credit union not only gains buy-in, but the staff develops a sense of ownership.

Who better knows the work processes being performed every day at your credit union than the people doing them? Every staff person has tasks they like and don't like and many of them have ideas that could make the process easier, faster, or maybe just more enjoyable.

As a direct result of a suggestion submitted from an employee, one credit union has automated its cash-ordering process. The result is that the orders are always correct, always on time and rework has been completely eliminated.

Many companies have saved millions of dollars from the suggestions and ideas presented by their employees. Many companies pay staff a percentage or a minimum value, which ever is greater, of the cost savings, generated by their suggestions.

Some companies have idea promotions during specific months where things like t-shirts are awarded along with a financial award for submitting viable ideas. The staff gets to wear the t-shirt and dress casual during the promotion.

Other companies have idea fairs, where idea forms are provided and on a specific day the forms are collected, pizza, soda pop, and goodies are provided and all the suggestions are read at a ceremony (anonymously if requested by the submitter). Awards are given for the idea with the best potential, greatest potential cost savings, timesavings, goofiest, etc.

The point is we all have a wonderful, mostly untapped resource available that has the potential of saving us money, time, or improving our service and member satisfaction. Speaking of member satisfaction, I'd bet our members might have some good ideas as well.

Lester Warby III is VP and CIO at Seattle Metropolitan CU and a member of the CUNA Technology Council. He can be reached at LesterW SMCU.com.

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