A New Way to Think About The Employee Suggestion Box

Michael Dearing, former eBay executive and founder of Harrison Metal Ventures, wrote recently about the Orange Box–his unique and wildly successful interpretation of the employee suggestion box.   It’s worth reading and I suggest you go there first.

One of the reasons Michael’s employee feedback program was so successful was because he practiced a tactic called “boundary-spanning”, where executives champion front line suggestions to get cross functional support; and keep critical issues from slipping through the cracks. 

I’m a former employee of Michael’s who saw his Orange Box in action, and when I read his post, I immediately thought about how well Poll Everywhere could be used to replicate the Orange Box, and perhaps improve upon it in two ways:

Increase Participation.  By using text and anonymous web response, the friction point of a single physical box is removed, allowing employees working away from headquarters to respond.

Accelerate Management’s Response  Transcribing all those little slips of paper and keeping track of what was done was a dreary task that could be postponed in favor of higher priorities.  Getting the submissions in digital format allows a team to download those responses into a tracking document where actions can be made transparent to the team as a whole.

To be sure, another part of the success of the Orange Box was Michael’s sense of humor and his utter humanity and honesty in his answers, but it’s a formula you can replicate as well at a very low cost.

So here’s a quick primer on using Poll Everywhere to create an anonymous employee feedback mechanism.  Each step contains a link to our user guide with in depth instructions.

1.  Create a free Poll Everywhere Account

2.  Create a Free Text Poll.  Where the question goes, you simply put: The Orange Box, or your own spin.

3.  Part of the success of the Orange Box was its visual symbolism.  Use visual styles and graphics to customize the poll to your theme.

3.  Have employees text in questions via SMS, or answer via web.  All answers are anonymous (though if you need to see who sent them for other purposes we make that available too). Be sure to set your poll to anonymous too.

4.  If you want everyone in a room or at their desk to see *all* the employee suggestions, or the ones you moderate, you can provide a live chart link to show the questions at all times. Otherwise, keep the poll results secret and only show the questions on meeting day.

5.  Download the employee questions and suggestions as a .csv, then load into a Google Spreadsheet and keep track of progress to committed response.

7.  If collecting more than 40 responses each week, upgrade to a larger account

8.  If you want to separate out each week’s answers, you’ll also want to upgrade so you can clear the poll and save multiple runs.

This is a picture of a beautiful Orange Box. It is not in any way representative of that gloriously cheesy tattered old box with orange crepe paper. But maybe it will help anchor this concept in your mind….

Do you have employee suggestion programs that you love, or hate?  Why?  How else could Poll Everywhere improve that experience? Tell us about it in the comments!

About Steve

Steve is the Product Manager at Poll Everywhere. After receiving his degree in Industrial Design from Virginia Tech, he headed west for cooler summers and higher mountains. He stopped off at Enterprise's Management program before making audience engagement his full time job at Poll Everywhere.

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