How to Build Successful Workflows

by Oct 7, 2021Process Improvement

You’ve heard that automating your workflows will give you all sorts of productivity and visibility gains. You’ve decided on your workflow platform and you’re ready to go. But then you ask yourself:
 
“How do I actually build a decent workflow?”

Many people believe that workflows are designed to tie together systems.

They send emails for you automatically. They trigger a purchase order to be raised. They flag an issue.

However, this leaves out a key part of the equation. The people.

Building successful workflows is all about the people element.

For your workflow to be considered “successful”, ask yourself:

A) Does this improve the employee or customer experience?

B) Does this increase company productivity?

It is easy to focus on one of these over the other.

You can build the most efficient workflow possible. But if your employees get frustrated using it, they will find ways around it.

So how do you keep the people element in mind when building your workflow?

Here are 6 tips that may help:

Make it easy to follow

Design your workflow for those who are using it. Not for those who are building it.

Your workflow should read more like a process, not a system map.

Label steps clearly and in a way that makes sense to anyone.

Include instruction fields where helpful. This prompts people on what they need to do.

Avoid acronyms and jargon.

The idea here is that everyone from your CEO to your new intern should be able to understand at a glance who is responsible and what is required of them.

Serve up the right information at the right time

Searching for information is one of the biggest time wasters in the workplace.

Depending on which study you want to reference, the average employee spends anywhere in the range of 4.5 to 9 hours a week searching for information.

How can your workflow give your employees back all these wasted hours?

It serves up the right information when they need it.

Think of things like:

  • Having your Working from Home policy available as a downloadable attachment in the Working from Home application.
  • Saving a “Welcome to XYZ” email template in your Sales Handover workflow.
  • Serving up relevant contracts and paperwork within a workflow, rather than saved in some obscure SharePoint folder.

Think about your audience

Will your HR team be using the workflow? Or will it be your factory staff?

Will they be at a desk? Or on the factory floor?

Your audience will define what makes a good workflow.

What output are you looking to achieve? Work backwards from there.

Maybe the output you’re looking for is that your factory staff consistently log incident reports. Make it easier for them by using dropdown options and image uploads rather than asking them to write an essay.

Potentially you want to increase the quality and consistency of your employee onboardings. Submission speed and screen size is not as much a factor here. Instead, give your team everything they need in one place, from tax forms to H&S induction records.

Equally, if you want to speed up your CAPEX sign-offs, make sure your Executive team can sign-off on the go. Phone notifications with one-touch approval may be best here.

Your audience will define what makes a good workflow.

What output are you looking to achieve? Work backwards from there.

Utilize automated reminders and deadlines

As people we’re inherently forgetful. Even more so when we’re under the pump.

Lean on your workflow system to do the remembering for you.

Adding deadlines and reminders to each step of a workflow gives your employees a clear To Do list to follow.

Automating these reminders means that you should never have to push the process. It should roll right along without any intervention.

Added bonus: Adding deadlines to a step in Flowingly will allow you to run reports on your SLAs. Even if it’s not a critical action, adding deadlines to all steps will make it easier to identify bottlenecks and inefficiencies within your processes.

Ditch the documentation

If your staff need to read an instruction manual on how to submit a request, then you’re in trouble.

Big trouble.

They’ll end up emailing the CFO direct rather than applying through your overly confusing CAPEX form.

Ditch the documentation and design an experience that makes life easier for your employees.

Label fields in a way that makes sense to the end-user.

Include instructions and rich content such as videos or templates to guide them.

Add a “Help” email address to your more complex forms. Or if your workflow system has it (as Flowingly does), prompt users to leave any troubleshooting questions in the comments.

Future-proof your workflows

Workflow admins change. Whether your Business Analyst, HR Manager or CIO is building your workflows, chances are they will move on at some point.

The last thing you need is for your workflows to fall over as soon as they leave.

It might seem crazy, but we’ve heard companies say they had to rebuild a workflow because they had no idea how it was built in the first place.

That’s one of the benefits of a no-code system. You don’t have to decipher lines of code to uncover how the workflow works.

The most important thing? The people.

There’s a famous Maori proverb here in New Zealand.

He aha te mea nui o te Ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.

What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

When improving your processes and workflows, start with the people.

Think of their experience. What would make their job easier? What information do they need to complete their tasks? What would remove frustrations from their day-to-day?

Do this, and the productivity will come with it.

Want to find out how Flowingly puts the employee experience first? Get a demo today.

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