TSA’s IdeaFactory: The next generation suggestion box for the front line

IdeaFactory is a Web-based tool that empowers all TSA employees to:

  • submit ideas,
  • provide comments on how to improve new concepts, and
  • rate ideas that should be recommended for implementation

It uses social media concepts to harness the “wisdom of the crowds” and expand upon the traditional suggestion box.

This information is then elevated to program managers and Senior Leaders to provide them with not only an opportunity to implement ideas that will positively impact TSA’s mission, but gives them an unfiltered glimpse into the needs and opinions of 60,000+ TSA employees.

While implementation of ideas is the ultimate goal of the IdeaFactory, when an idea cannot be implemented, program managers and senior leaders are required to explain why, creating a two-way dialogue between idea creators and implementers, and increasing good-faith between a predominantly field-based workforce and headquarters.

IdeaFactory’s integration into TSA’s culture and business processes continues to evolve even after its launch in 2007 and is just one part of TSA’s overall communications and transparency strategy, while also addressing innovation as one of TSA’s core values.

Providing the workforce with involvement in operational decision making has changed the way TSA does business.  The program was launched in April 2007 to address three key needs at TSA:

  • How TSA could engage employees and ensure that every member of its large workforce at more than 450 airports and other locations could communicate with headquarters;
  • How TSA could collect constant, fresh input and perspectives on improvements to keep the agency flexible and effectively mitigate security threats; and
  • How TSA could disseminate information about new and existing programs, initiatives, and policies to front-line employees and provide a forum for communication between employees.

Results

IdeaFactory has implemented over 90 ideas which had impact on security, recruitment and retention, employee morale and customer service. In addition, IdeaFactory sponsored a Cost Savings Challenge in 2009, which asked employees to submit their ideas for saving TSA money. Over 600 ideas were submitted, and the winning idea saved TSA $2 million. Below are representative ideas:

Idea Benefits
Employee Recruiting and Retention
TSO Referral Bonus Created a nationwide incentive to recruit Transportation Security Officers (TSOs)
Job Swap Created a website that allows TSOs that meet certain criteria to post their interest in swapping job locations
Employee Morale
Diversity Day Created an annual Diversity Day highlight importance and recognize workforce diversity
Mourning Bands TSOs can recognize employees who passed away with special markings on badge
Security
Public Web Site Clarity Change Web site clarification of the term “children” who are allowed to bring liquids through the checkpoint to “infant/toddler”
Training Updated various training programs with suggestions made by employees
Efficiency
Travel Expenses Identified ways to use non-refundable fares for certain city-pair travel

 

Megan Kenny
Department of Homeland Security Transportation Security Administration

The  IdeaFactory code and program facilitation guide are available for no charge to any federal government agency who signs a Memorandum of Agreement with TSA. The code is fully configurable so agencies can customize all aspects of the tool to meet the needs of their employees.

Also, TSA’s IdeaFactory Team maintains active membership in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Ideation Community of Practice, which shares best practices across government. The group maintains membership and best practice documentation on OMB’s Max Federal Pages.

Information about TSA’s IdeaFactory can also be found on the TSA.gov website, located here:

http://www.tsa.gov/research/idea_factory/index.shtm 

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