Encouraging employees to share their unique ideas, the company introduces a program that improves operations and enriches morale.
In the late 1940s, Cargill was looking for fresh viewpoints to evolve corporate culture and improve operations. Executive Vice President Austen Cargill proposed a plan that he believed could accomplish both.
On April 13, 1948, the Cargill Suggestion Plan was introduced. The company-wide program encouraged employees to think progressively and submit ideas for changes that would make Cargill a more efficient, innovative company. Submissions were as diverse as Cargill’s areas of expertise, ranging from new product ideas to methods for cutting costs.
Whenever inspiration struck, employees were encouraged to write down and deposit their plans into a suggestion box. Proposals that passed review by an advisory committee were assigned to an investigation team, which weighed the pros and cons and evaluated the possibility and costs of execution.
In its first four years, the Cargill Suggestion Plan inspired 3,819 submissions, almost a third of which were adopted by the company to increase efficiencies and decrease costs. Employees not only had the satisfaction of seeing their contributions come to life for the benefit of the company, but they also received a financial reward based on the expected success of their concept.
Decades later, in 2004, the company developed a program similar to the Cargill Suggestion Plan: Ideas to Innovation, known by most as i2i . The initiative prompted thousands of original ideas that reflected the company’s expanding global presence.
Many submissions have led to major improvements for businesses operating in countries around the world. In Germany, for example, an employee proposed a solution for increasing productivity in Cargill’s rapeseed plant, which was running at reduced capacity due to foaming during processing. Using the new system, Cargill was able to significantly increase processing speeds.
In Texas, Cargill’s meat solutions business benefitted from the program after asking its employees to offer water-saving recommendations through i2i . The team submitted 283 ideas in just two months. Thirty of the proposals were put into practice, cutting costs and saving the beef plant more 11.7 million gallons of water each year.
“The campaign shows employees that we are serious about creating a culture in which their ideas matter.”— Paul Hiemenez, Vice President of New Brand Initiatives, Cargill Meat Solutions
When Austen Cargill first asked employees for their best thinking to help the company in 1948, he likely had no idea the great impact it would continue to have almost 70 years later. Since its inception, the Cargill Suggestion Plan, and later i2i , has improved business practices, saved millions of dollars and conserved resources. But beyond this, the program has harnessed the creativity of Cargill’s employees, embracing their ideas to achieve new levels of success