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Effective suggestion programs throughout the Government are successfully improving organizational performance. Some of the more formal suggestion programs receive thousands of suggestions annually and suggestion awards in the form of cash are often granted in recognition of the improvements made. Other more informal suggestion programs elicit suggestions for improvements through non-traditional means and recognition is more often given in forms other than cash. These informal programs also have resulted in significant improvements in productivity and performance. On September 10, 1997, the National Partnership Council presented the 1997 National Partnership Awards to several Federal organizations that had established successful partnerships between labor and management. Several of the award winners had innovative suggestion programs that were initiated by their partnership councils and demonstrated exceptional results through increased levels of employee involvement.
In addition to the Department of Veterans Affair's formal suggestion program, the James A. Haley Veteran's Hospital has established the Facility Quality Council Suggestion Program. This program encourages employees, patients, patient's family members, and others to submit ideas for improvements at the hospital. Ideas can be dropped into one of the many suggestion boxes located throughout the hospital, sent via email, or telephoned to a "hot line." Many facility improvements are a direct result of this program. An average of 20-25 suggestions per month are reviewed by the Facility Quality Council for feasibility and implementation. Almost 75 percent of the suggestions are anonymous, but when the employees making adopted suggestions are known, their names are printed in the Hospital's monthly newsletter and they receive continuous quality improvement appreciation pins. Feedback on all suggestions is provided in the newsletter.
The U.S. Customs Service's formal suggestion program is successfully used at the Hidalgo/Pharr Port of Entry, Texas, but the Port's partnership council wanted to tap even further into the knowledge and expertise of Port employees. The partnership council created problem-solving employee groups to brainstorm ideas for improvement and to address specific problems at the Port. By implementing the suggestions made by Port employees, the installation has increased the number of narcotics seizures by about 40 percent, among other improvements. The Port's award committee recognizes those who make suggestions that are adopted with certificates of appreciation and small, informal recognition items, such as a baseball cap, a supply of cold sodas, or sometimes for groups that propose adopted suggestions, a pizza party.
The Army has one of the largest and most active formal suggestion programs in the Federal Government. To generate even more ideas for improving a specific program area, the Rock Island Arsenal used part of its Safety/Security Standdown Day event to gather employee suggestions for improving safety and security at the Arsenal. More than 1,800 employees were divided into small groups to identify problems in their work areas and to brainstorm possible solutions. Not only were 188 suggestions for improvement adopted, but the exercise helped to raise safety/security awareness. Everyone was thanked as a group for their participation and the Arsenal's electronic bulletin board keeps employees informed of the status of adopted suggestions.
As shown by the 1997 Partnership Award winners, suggestion programs can be used to improve organizational performance. These organizations have successfully used both formal and informal suggestion programs to address specific areas of concern, make significant improvements, and recognize employees for their efforts to improve performance.
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