One of the things I’ll never understand is why many organisations create an obstacle course for hiring managers when there’s a need to recruit a replacement employee.

Typically, a requisition is raised, passed to the next manager up the food chain, then to the Finance head, then to HR and finally to the CEO. Apart from the “trust your managers” issue, the delays caused by this largely unnecessary paper trail percolating through several in-trays can cause a large hole in departmental performance.

To show the flip side of the same problem, I recall a case, where the Managing Director needed a new head of Marketing. He knew who he wanted, took them out to lunch and clinched the deal. Due to sickness and holidays, the unfortunate HR department took nearly three months to secure the necessary authorisations a posteriori for the file.

Well, even if your business wants to keep this unwieldy process going, work flow can take the legwork out of authorisation without moving any paper around.

This works by setting up and selecting a standard form in your HR system which is then completed by the initiating party and routed by a pre-configured protocol for approval. As each stage is completed, the form is automatically “passed” to the next person in line.

So what’s different? Recipients see this appearing in their inbox with increasing frequency and / or level of priority, which encourages action. The option to set alternative approvers means that nothing is buried under a mound of other papers while someone is away or sick. Authorisation is simple, being a matter of one or two clicks, and the request continues on its journey. And, with all the forms in a single online system, the HR team has visibility over the whole process, so can nudge things along if needed.

I always urge clients to overhaul their key processes before committing to implement a new system, as it’s a great chance to sweep away irrelevancies. But to set up effective work flow, you need to invest time and effort to get it right, and test for illogicalities; one Chief Executive I knew came back from a long business trip to find her inbox chock-full of holiday and sickness forms for approval. Why? Because default approvers had not been written in correctly for absent managers, and tasks that could not be authorised were automatically escalated upwards!

Work flow can also be applied to many areas of the business where approval processes are needed, such as staff benefits changes, sickness absence and development needs that have been identified by reviews, as well as the reviews themselves.

Training sessions on the new software is the ideal time to learn to construct these processes, starting with basic ones and then more complex ones can be structured as user confidence grows.

Our consultancy reckons in a typical organisation of 1000 employees, work flow saves about 1.25 FTE of time, and that is a very conservative figure, that does not bring in the reduction in time to hire* Work flow certainly merits its place on the Five Big Benefits podium.**

*Derived from empirical studies by HRmeansbusiness Ltd over a rolling 10 year period)
Copyright ©Hrmeansbusiness Ltd 2018


**The Big Five:

  • Self Service
  • Work Flow
  • Report writer
  • Automatic Triggers / Notifications
  • Organisation Charts

David BarnardDenis Barnard is acknowledged to be a leading expert in the selection of HR & payroll systems, and other HRIS, both inside and outside the UK.

He has been instrumental in leading successful selection and implementation projects in a wide range of sectors, including local government, Higher Education, publishing, music industry and manufacturing.

His recently-published book “Selecting and implementing HR & payroll software” has been acclaimed by leading HR practitioners.