You should trust your employees. Everyone says that. Isn’t it right?
It is! Your company consists of highly skilled professionals who know their work, and you have no reason to not give them the freedom they need.
But think of an orchestra where violinists, saxophonists, trumpeters and cellists perform with no notes, by memory. Wait, there’s a word for it — a cacophony, “a harsh discordant mixture of sounds.”
This is exactly what happens to an organization with no workflows in place. It has no potential to maintain stable performance, scale processes, hire new people and just grow.
Clearly, you need to create workflows that everyone in your company can follow. The IT department, HR team, sales reps, marketers and project managers should have documented workflows for repeatable processes they deal with daily, weekly or monthly. Every team can develop its own workflows to standardize the ways they get the work done and become more efficient.
3 Types of workflows
A workflow is an established way to perform a process. It covers a sequence of steps that should be done to complete the task. Depending on the nature and complexity of a project, there may be three different types of workflows:
- Process workflows.
- Case workflows.
- Project workflows.
A process workflow is a series of sequential steps that are taken based on predefined rules or conditions.
The key difference between process workflows and other types of workflows is that they map out predictable processes. Once the workflow starts, there are very few variations of potential outcomes, and all of them can be predicted. You don’t need to interfere in a process workflow much once you’ve created it.
Due to their predictability, process workflows are easy to automate.
A case workflow is a progression of steps that are taken to resolve a problem that requires a solution. As you begin the workflow, you don’t know how it will evolve before you gather more data.
Case workflows require human or artificial intelligence to discern the right path.
A project workflow is a pre-planned sequence of steps required to complete a project.
While it’s very similar to a process workflow, there’s a difference. A project workflow is created for the needs of a specific project and might not be repeatable for similar projects with minor differences.
The challenges you’ll face on your way to workflow automation
Each team in your company already has workflows they follow every day. The problem is — there are too many workflow variations within a team.
You’ll need to sit down with the leadership and think of how you can address this and other challenges that you’re going to face as you implement new workflows.
Aggregating data from multiple sources
To build workflows — automated or semi-automated — you need to pull the data from different sources. If you haven’t centralized your data yet, you’ll need to do it before you can create workflows that… you know, work.
Say, you’re building a lead qualification workflow. To automatically qualify leads, your system needs to pull contacts from your database, access your qualifying criteria, pull user behavior data from your website and process all the findings.
As you get started with workflow automation, you should first make sure all your systems integrate with each other.
Poor understanding of existing workflows
To systematize and document workflows, you need to understand how your team has been dealing with the processes up until this moment. Do they already follow standard operating procedures (SOPs)? You may find out your employees have different SOPs for the same procedures — and this is where the challenge arises.
To prevent ambiguity, you’ll need to revisit all the internal processes and decide which ones should make it to your new workflows and which ones shouldn’t.
A lack of resources for implementation
Workflow standardization takes time. It means some of your employees will need to put aside some project work and focus on creating workflows. Can you afford that? Well, you should.
Process standardization doesn’t bring immediate profit, which makes it so difficult to justify the effort spend on it — especially when you have urgent tasks (spoiler alert: you’ll always have those). But if you want to scale your business operations and see amazing long-term results, you’re going to prioritize workflow creation over current projects.
No sufficient technology
Another problem you need to solve is the absence of sufficient technology in your tech stack.
To build workflows, you need two types of tools:
- Automation software. There’s a wide range of business automation tools that serve different purposes. Your choice of software depends on the workflows you want to build. Do you want to streamline marketing processes? Marketing automation software will help. Are you looking to automate HR processes? You’ll need an HR automation tool. All of the above? Get ready to invest in a bunch of software solutions.
- Documentation software. To shape your workflows, you should document them. You need documentation software to map out every step in your workflow, explain it and put it into action.
No time to explain each and every workflow in detail?
You can easily share the resulting guides with teammates and embed them in your knowledge base or Scribe Pages with video, images and more.
Nobody likes change. And by implementing new workflows, your company is going through a huge change. How would you make it easier for employees to accept it?
You’ll need to be transparent about the reasons behind this initiative and make it clear how standard process workflows will affect their day-to-day routines. Only with open communication, you can combat employee resistance and move forward with the changes.
Keeping the workflows up-to-date
Workflows are only helpful when they’re relevant and up-to-date. However, it’s very difficult to ensure timely revisions and updates without disturbing existing processes.
The frequency of reviews depends on the types of workflows you deal with. For marketing teams, it’s worth auditing workflows every quarter to be continuously testing new approaches and improving the strategy. For HR teams, yearly reviews must be enough.
Workflow examples for different teams
What do workflow examples look like in different cases?
HR teams can save up a lot of time and fill the talent pipeline faster by standardizing key workflows.
1. Recruitment workflow
Managing the recruitment process manually slows down hiring and doesn’t let your company grow as fast as you want. Automate as many processes within your recruitment workflow as you can to take the burden off your team and acquire the best talents.
It’s true that you cannot automate the entire hiring process, but you should definitely make use of HR automation software to apply automated candidate ranking, schedule meetings, send follow-up messages and more. Here’s how a semi-automated recruitment workflow may look.
2. New hire onboarding workflow
When a new hire joins your company, it takes time before they’re fully integrated into the team. In their first weeks at work, HR reps will be helping them to navigate company culture and master their role.
Regardless of the roles they fill, the onboarding process will be more or less the same for everyone. That’s why it’s easy to create a standard onboarding workflow, and you definitely shouldn’t miss out on it. Your new hire onboarding workflow will be more of a checklist that both HR reps and new employees will follow.
Resolving issues, maintaining hardware, managing data and many other tasks — your IT operations team deals with a lot of chaotic processes every day. Encourage them to standardize and document the most repetitive IT workflows to get the job done faster and more effectively.
3. IT helpdesk workflow
A help desk workflow is a sequence of steps that employees should go through to successfully submit and resolve help desk requests. It outlines the processes like ticket submission, prioritization, assigning tickets, etc.
While it’s never the same in different companies, a basic IT helpdesk workflow example might include the following steps:
- Administrators create rules that take submitted requests and route them as needed.
- A ticket is created by following the rules specified in the knowledge base.
- The ticket is assessed automatically.
- Duplicate tickets are automatically merged.
- The ticket is assigned to the most relevant member of the team.
- If the person is occupied with other projects, the ticket is re-evaluated and — if it’s urgent — reassigned to a different specialist.
4. Employee offboarding workflow
When employees leave, not only your HR team but also the IT department has a lot of work to do. To prevent confusion (best case) and data breach (worst case), you need to create a consistent employee offboarding workflow for your IT team to follow.
An employee onboarding workflow is a systematic process that helps your company to manage employee departure in the most effective and low-risk way. With a proper workflow, you won’t forget to withdraw access to critical information or cancel the subscription for pricey software when another employee leaves.
This is a typical workflow an IT team goes through when offboarding an employee:
- An initial offboarding form is filled out.
- Access to company assets is blocked.
- Work-related files from the departing employee’s devices are backed up.
- Company equipment is collected.
- Access cards and keys are decommissioned.
- Mail from the departing employee’s corporate email address is redirected to a manager before the address is deleted.
- The company website is updated.
Sales & marketing
Sales and marketing teams can automate almost every workflow. In doing so, they can focus on data-driven decision-making, strategic initiatives and process improvement.
5. Lead nurturing workflow
You can’t do lead nurturing effectively without automation however hard you try. Unless you have no more than a dozen of leads in your pipeline, of course. But we hope that’s not the case.
A lead nurturing workflow is a set of automated touchpoints between your company and a prospect. It usually includes a sequence of emails and retargeting ads that are triggered based on the lead’s previous action. You can create lead nurturing workflows with your marketing automation software.
Lead nurturing workflows may be very extensive and cover a range of different scenarios. They are hardly ever linear, and therefore, it’s best to display a lead nurturing workflow example in a form of a flow chart.
6. Customer onboarding workflow
When a lead turns into a paying customer, it’s time for a customer onboarding workflow. Creating it is probably one of the most rewarding processes since customer onboarding flows are almost always similar and pretty much linear.
You can automate most of the onboarding journey by setting up reminders, follow-up emails, and even training flows. When a new customer registers, an onboarding workflow starts automatically without the need for any manual action from your end.
When you already have a comprehensive knowledge base and in-app guidance in place, a customer onboarding workflow doesn’t have to be too complex.
Your support team must feel overwhelmed most of the time if they don’t have standard workflows to rely on.
7. Customer feedback workflow
Dealing with feedback fast is one of the biggest challenges for customer support teams. Yet it’s very important to reply to any type of feedback promptly. With a customer feedback workflow, your support team will have a clear action plan to follow when they receive another message.
Here’s an example of a customer feedback workflow:
- A customer leaves feedback.
- An agent identifies whether the feedback is negative or positive.
- If the feedback is positive, an agent thanks them for sharing feedback.
- If the feedback is negative, an agent thanks them for sharing feedback and promises to look into an issue.
- If there’s no simple and immediate solution, an agent opens a ticket explaining the issue.
- The issue is assigned automatically.
- The product team fixes the issue or files it for later.
- An agent gets back to the customer with an update on the state of the request.
- Once the issue is resolved, an agent updates the customer on it (if the comment was public, then the response should be public as well).
If you receive large volumes of customer feedback, you may use a sentiment analysis platform to automatically filter messages. When the messages are grouped, you can save up a lot of time by replying with pre-built templates.
Always document your workflows
Creating workflows is no rocket science. With your team on board, you can complete the task quite fast.
Remember to not only automate your workflows but also document them. Whatever process you’ve optimized, having it documented will help you communicate it to the team and ensure workflow consistency.