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IdeaFactory: Engaging Employees to Improve Security

IdeaFactory

IdeaFactory webinar:
There is a comprehensive webinar posted at GSA.gov that for additional information. » Visit and view the IdeaFactory webinar.

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.

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.

IdeaFactory Today

After the first year of implementation, The IdeaFactory Team worked on solidifying a strategic plan for the program. IdeaFactory’s vision is to support TSA’s mission by fostering a community that engages employees and encourages collaboration to initiative innovation. The strategic plan also identified three key goals:

  • Support innovation as a TSA core value
  • Continue to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the innovation process
  • Expand and evolve IdeaFactory outreach, collaboration and communication

After the initial launch period, the IdeaFactory Team enhanced functionality, reengineered the evaluation process and completely redesigned the site to increase community building efforts and make the site more user-friendly. Also, the IdeaFactory Team developed a communications strategy to meet the needs of the TSA field employees.

We have implemented more than 85 ideas through our open site, which allows employees to post ideas 24/7 to one of 17 program-specific categories, and through challenges, our periodic solicitation of ideas on a specific topic chosen by a Senior Leadership sponsor.

The IdeaFactory Community

The IdeaFactory Users

Before the launch of TSA’s IdeaFactory, and during the course of two years of operation, the IdeaFactory Team has had to evaluate and reevaluate the nature of the culture of TSA and the needs of its workforce, including conducting audience assessments, need assessments and adjusting for volume of site usage as a percentage of the entire workforce. The IdeaFactory Team conducts regular user surveys and focus groups of core users to analyze IdeaFactory users and obtain further data about usage by geographic location.
The TSA workforce is comprised of about 50,000 employees at over 450 airports and other locations. Approximately 85 percent of TSA’s workforce is stationed at non-Headquarters, field locations. These employees:

  • Perform their job duties without regular access to a TSA computer, and seldom check e-mail.
  • Have limited time to access TSA “extras,” such as IdeaFactory, the TSA blog or other message vehicles
  • Are oversaturated with messages, which generally aren’t targeted to address specific peer groups

On average, TSA receives 300 ideas each month and each idea receives 10 comments and 25 votes on average.

TSA IdeaFactory gets more than 12,000 unique page views from employees every month, and about 5,000 every week.

Representative IdeaFactory 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

In The Press

July 2010
Center for American Progress
“Capital Ideas: How to Generate Innovation in the Public Sector”
Jitinder Kohli, Geoff Mulgan
The Center for American Progress report, Capital Ideas - How to Generate Innovation in the Public Sector includes a section on the IdeaFactory text and screen shot (p. 9-10) in the section titled How to Generate Great Ideas. Source: White House Web site.
Link: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/07/dww_capitalideas.htmlThis link takes you to a nongovernment website that may have a different privacy policy.

February 2010
Federal Computer Week
“CDC, other agencies find social media an elixir for healthier public relations”
Doug Beizer
Summary of the Government Solutions Forum on Social Media and crafting a successful social media strategy.
Link: http://fcw.com/articles/2010/02/24/social-media-tips.aspxThis link takes you to a nongovernment website that may have a different privacy policy.

December 2009
NextGov.Com
"Panel: Government Should Educate Workforce on benefits of Social Media"
Gautham Nagesh
Summary of the AFFIRM sponsored panel at GW University speaking on the importance of social media and Gov 2.0 in the government. Includes a paragraph remarks on the IdeaFactory and how leadership buy-in and an effective communications plan were vital to the success of the IdeaFactory.
Link: http://www.nextgov.com/nextgov/ng_20091215_6412.php?oref=rssThis link takes you to a nongovernment website that may have a different privacy policy.

November 2009
Federal Computer Week
"6 tips for generating better ideas"
William D. Eggers & John O'Leary
This article is adapted from William D. Eggers and John O'Leary's new book 'If We Can Put a Man on the Moon: Getting Big Things Done in Government' (Harvard Business Press, 2009). It mentions the IdeaFactory as an example of using Web 2.0 to expand the idea pool. It also references an interesting theory known as the Tolstoy facts that suggests people become blind to inconvenient facts, or facts that challenge our pre-existing beliefs.
http://www.fcw.com/Articles/2009/11/16/FEAT-6-tips-for-generating-better-ideas.aspxThis link takes you to a nongovernment website that may have a different privacy policy.

October 2009
Government Executive
"The Gospel of Gov 2.0"
Jill R. Aitoro
IdeaFactory is included in a list of Gov 2.0 applications.  The article focuses on the struggle to incorporate Web 2.0 and social media into the government - particularly the intelligence community
Link: http://www.govexec.com/features/1009-01/1009-01s1.htmThis link takes you to a nongovernment website that may have a different privacy policy.

IdeaFactory Awards
  • Employee Involvement Association – Communications Excellence Gold Award 2010
  • IABC Silver Quill Communications Management/Employee Communications Award of Merit 2009
  • IABC Silver Inkwell Award Communications Plans and Campaigns Award of Merit 2010
  • Secretary’s Award for Team DHS Excellence December 2007
Latest revision: 10 February 2014