Employee Suggestion Program

Horizontal Line

What is a Successful Employee Suggestion Program?

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) has an internal suggestion program (STAR) which is successfully linked to the state-level program administered by the Employee Suggestion Board.  The DOT employee suggestion program is called STAR, for Successful Thoughts Are Rewarding, and was begun in September 1997.  Prior to that, each DOT division had its own program.  The STAR program is based on quality leadership, and its objective is to encourage, support, and implement ideas in the spirit of continuous improvement.  DOT measures how it does business, and also wants to increase employee satisfaction in his or her job.   Elements of the success of the STAR program include:

  • Employee Involvement and Excitement

  • Senior Management Support

  • Employees look for support from above

  • Employees know that DOT will listen

  • The program is supported, and sponsored, by Division Administrators and Office Directors

  • Any and all ideas are welcome

The Department has a STAR committee with 7 members representing each division, plus the executive (Secretary's) office.  Membership is staggered in two-year increments.  Budget review is provided by the appropriate division.  The Secretary's Office supports the program wholeheartedly.   DOT advertises the STAR program in many ways:

  • intranet (DOTNET) web page

  • suggestion form is on-line

  • form is included within the paper brochure

  • "Lobby Day" at Hill Farms State Office Building -- photos of suggesters; video on loop; samples/trinkets; "fishbowl" for business cards; gifts

  • Articles in DOT newsletter

  • Annual STAR award ceremony at DOT -- photos, visibility

DOT gives non-cash awards including a choice of items with the STAR logo -- sweatshirts, coffee mugs, portfolios, and umbrellas.  Their goal is to add one gift item a year.  Other token gifts include flashlights, markers, tape measures, notepads, and pens.   Award-winners at the annual DOT ceremony also receive a STAR plaque signed by the Department Secretary.

DOT is also developing an on-line system in which awards may be submitted either by Inter-D mail or to an electronic In-Box.    Suggestions received are routed to an Evaluation Committee which reviews suggestions in terms of feasibility and savings (money/time) and rejects or accepts them.   Employees whose suggestions are rejected receive a letter with a blank suggestion form to encourage them to submit suggestions in the future.   Employees whose suggestions are accepted receive a congratulatory letter and a gift.   Accepted suggestions are also forwarded to the State Board with an agency recommendation for a certificate and, when appropriate, a cash award.

Budget for the DOT suggestion program (STAR) is funded by the DOT Secretary's Office.   Staff Time devoted to the STAR program by Division coordinators is up to 10-20 percent of the employee's job.  The STAR Department-level coordinator gives about 25% of her time to the program.  DOT takes a team approach to its STAR program, with each division having a backup program coordinator. 

The STAR program is also enhanced by printed materials including a poster, brochure, forms, letterhead; a video produced by DOT; a digital camera for award ceremonies; and food (treats) during special occasions.

DOT has successfully linked the STAR program with the state-level Wisconsin Employee Suggestion Program.  Starting 1997, when the DOT agency-level STAR program began, until 1999, the department received 240 employee suggestions.  Of those, 70 were accepted and forwarded to the Employee Suggestion Board for review, certificates, and possible cash awards given by the State Board.


DOT is a Model agency in the Wisconsin Employee Suggestion Program.  While DOT is one of the largest state agencies, many of the same concepts used in their STAR program can still apply to the development of a successful internal agency-level employee suggestion program in medium and small agencies.

Agency/Campus program coordinators are CRITICAL to the success of the Wisconsin Employee Suggestion Program.  The State Board, and administration of the program at the state level, primarily involves Board review of suggestions forwarded at the recommendation of agencies, the annual special awards ceremony, and state-level coordination and promotion.

Program success at the agency/campus level depends on activism and involvement by many people at that level, led by the agency/campus program coordinator.  Managers and supervisors are needed to support the program -- such as encouraging their staff to participate, mentioning the suggestion program at staff meetings and in other day-to-day encounters with staff.

The Wisconsin Employee Suggestion Program is a "sleeping giant."    The program has enormous potential to have a positive impact on the operation of state government -- by saving money for taxpayers, improving services to Wisconsin citizens, and boosting the morale of state employees who work hard to improve efficiency and create innovation in their daily work.  Success of the program depends on visibility, credibility, and the cooperative efforts of employees and management at the agency and campus level.

Finally, A Big Thank-You to Blinda Beason and Marjorie McCormick of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, for their special presentation on this topic given Sept. 21, 1999.


Horizontal Line

Horizontal Line
Last Modified:  4/20/2007 5:19:02 PM