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Defining and Mastering Employee Workflow Management
What Is Employee Workflow Management?
As the debate over remote versus in-office work rages on, it’s easy to forget that changes in how we work are just as important to address. Employee workflow management is crucial to getting a handle on the many processes in your business — and how you can improve them.
Use our quick guide to learn what employee workflow management is, how software tools can help, and which factors you should consider when adding workflow tools to your tech stack.
What Are Employee Workflows?
Employee workflows are the repeatable steps employees take to complete a task as part of their job. When dealing with complex projects, individual workflows inform larger processes. An employee participating in a mentorship program, for example, follows a distinct set of steps, or a workflow, for matching with a mentor and scheduling regular meetings. On the other hand, implementing advice from a mentor and taking steps to advance their career is a much more complex process that is dependent on more than one workflow to succeed.
There are two types of workflows: sequential and parallel. Sequential workflows mandate the completion of each step in a set order. Leave requests, for example, require an approval workflow to occur in a particular order. Parallel workflows can trigger more than one step at the same time.
Why Is Workflow Management Important?
Workflow management looks at the steps in a workflow and poses an important question: How can we do this better?
Consider a workflow for team goal-setting. There are a set number of steps for producing ideal results. If team leads fail to review last quarter’s goals, they risk repeating work that’s already been started. Meanwhile, if managers don’t communicate the team’s new goals, people won’t know where to focus their energy.
Workflow management examines the steps in your everyday workflows to find where you can standardize and improve on what you already have. This requires you to monitor workflows and stay alert to inefficiencies in your processes. Workflow management helps you operate more efficiently while using fewer resources. Extra steps in your workflow for approvals you don’t really need, for instance, will add time and slow your team’s roll.
Workflow management is more important than ever. Everything about how we work is changing, and that constant disruption presents opportunities to improve. Managing workflows in this environment requires a keen eye for detail and the ability to recognize optimization opportunities.
Employee Workflow Management Software Basics
But with so much going on at work and so many variables affecting legacy workflows, keeping track of workflow efficiency can take a lot of work.
Many employers are adding workflow management software to their tech stacks to make this easier. Workflow software allows users to create custom workflows and automate employees’ movement through them. Workflow management tools are especially helpful in automating tasks that don’t require much energy, like sharing and managing files, or pinging managers to let them know when a task has been completed.
3 Signs You Need Employee Workflow Management Software
Workflow management software can transform your daily processes. Here are a few signs that it could be a great fit for you.
Repetitive Tasks Sap Your Productivity
Straightforward but tedious tasks, like data entry, can sap employee engagement and drag down productivity. If you have a lot of automatable tasks like this, workflow management software can save your team countless hours that can be rerouted to high-touch, high-value tasks.
Team Communication Is Tough to Track
Are you losing important communications to the black hole of your inbox? It’s easy to lose track of task notifications and other documentation your team members need to move workflows forward. You need an employee communication and workflow platform to host transparent conversations in one place for easy reference.
Everyone Performs Basic Tasks Differently
There are many ways to solve problems, but this can become a problem when employees all have their own approaches. You might benefit from employee workflow management software if inconsistent processes confuse your task flow.
What Can a Workflow Management System Do for You?
A workflow management system can transform your daily workflows to improve the work experience for everyone. Here are some of the ways these systems can help.
Standardize Your Processes
When workflows are automated, you gain more control over how they’re carried out. Instead of having five hiring managers create a job requisition in five different ways, you can create a workflow template guiding them through a repeatable process.
Creating a standard workflow makes it easier to develop and refine your processes. It also reduces the chance of users going rogue. Since you have more control over the workflow and can set conditions for triggering the following steps, you can make sure all the to-dos, documents, and signatures are in place before moving on to the next steps.
Consistent task flows also produce better outcomes for the business. For example, there are a lot of steps to sending a customer-facing email: ideation, writing, inputting into your email campaign software, and so on. Missing any of these steps jeopardizes the quality of the final product. Standardizing the workflow through a workflow management system can help you make sure that every step is followed and in the right order
Save Time and Money
Eliminating repeat work cuts back on wasted time and frees employees up to drive more value in their jobs. Automating workflows conserves resources your team can devote to more important tasks.
Workflow management software can help people become more productive, too. Take employee onboarding, for example: Helping new hires ramp up into their new roles takes time, but workflow management software can make a big difference in their learning curve. The software can automate the compliance process that’s traditionally dominated onboarding, empowering managers to get employees up to speed faster.
Provide a Line of Sight Into Improving Workflows
Sometimes, you don’t know where to improve something until you see it in black and white. That’s one of the advantages of using a workflow management system: You can see your workflows laid out, giving you visibility into how they could be more efficient. A workflow tool with drag-and-drop capabilities allows you to play with the order of operations until you find the best one.
And when managers can modify the templates you provide, they can improve the workflows within their own teams.
Drive Engagement in Your People Programs
Our research into HR in the Age of Overwhelm has revealed that HR professionals are struggling to engage people in critical HR programs. More than half (65%) of respondents to the survey said that HR initiatives haven’t changed their behavior over the past 12 months, and 36% say they haven’t made the most of L&D programming available to them.
The primary reasons for this lack of participation? They come down to poorly timed communication, connection, and engagement. Workflow software can help fill those gaps by delivering the right communication to the right people at the right time to create an impact. If an employee receives not only a reminder to complete a task, but steps and resources for making it easier, they’re much more likely to actually do it.
4 Things to Consider When Choosing Workflow Management Tools
Software decisions can be overwhelming, especially when they touch every person and process in your workforce. Answer these four questions to help you narrow down your choices.
Can You Transform Manual Tasks Into Automated Processes?
Some manual tasks still require human oversight. But tech tools are always getting smarter, and many simple manual tasks can be automated without risking quality. (In some cases, automation might even improve quality.)
Identify the best candidates for automation in your workflows. Knowing where automation can have the biggest impact can help you choose the right solution to meet those needs. During a merger or acquisition, for example, automation can save hours each week. There’s a lot of data flowing across several channels, and it’s easy to lose track of what’s most important in the mix. Using a workflow system to pull the right information into the right places can help stabilize shifting people processes, reducing errors and freeing up your HR team to focus on strategic change.
Do You Have Clear Workflow Processes?
If you already have clear workflow processes, then you already know what to look for when finding the right software to automate them.
Not every business has clearly defined workflows, however. But don’t let that stop you: Take some time to sketch out ideal steps in a workflow and what conditions should trigger the following tasks.
What Tools Are You Already Using to Guide Workflows?
Most organizations have an abundance of tech tools, especially when considering tools unique to departments or functions. Your marketing team, for instance, probably has a tech stack distinctly different from the tools your finance team uses.
The challenge with employee workflow management systems is finding a solution that integrates with the tools you already have in place. Look at workplace chat software, for example. By integrating with your daily video call or communication software, like Microsoft Teams, you can ensure that everyone involved in a workflow gets notified of status changes in the right place and at the right time.
What Features Do You Need From Workflow Management Software?
One of the most important steps to take when selecting any type of software is to write down all the features you need. Whatever software you choose should grow and evolve with you. Cloud-based software is a better choice than an on-premise tool for achieving this.
Features that promote a simple user interface should be at the top of your list. No-code and drag-and-drop tools let you design workflows with ease. It should be simple to create workflows, assign owners, and manage the associated tasks and activities.
Simplify Employee Workflow Management
The changing world of work has introduced countless complexities to our obligations as business leaders. But why should that complexity drag down your workflow management? Using workflow management software allows you to simplify daily workflows, creating a better experience for everyone. Everyone wins when employees can focus on the right things at the right time.