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what is a workflow?

What is a workflow? The term workflow is very popular today, especially in the corporate world. However, very few people have a deep understanding of the definition of the term workflow, differentiating it from Business Process Management (BPM) and telling what it entails. Despite the fact that both of the terms cater to similar business needs, they have very distinctive definitions and functions. Workflow is considered a constituent of business process management. BPM is more complex than workflow systems which are cheaper, much easier to set up, and less time-consuming.

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What is a Workflow?

A workflow is a set of steps performed in sequential order over a period of time that uses both people and systems to attain a target in a seamless manner. A workflow system may be designed to have branches, conditions, and loops to accommodate events that may occur contrary to the original plan. Most people create workflows in their personal or business lives either consciously or unconsciously. Components of a workflow process include actors, inputs, and outputs.

  • Actors are the resources that are necessary for carrying out the task such as the company staff members
  • Inputs are the tasks carried out by the actors
  • Outputs refer to the outcome of these activities

Businesses deploy cloud-based workflow engines as an automation tool to help them perform repetitive tasks that constitute a workflow.

Benefits of Using Workflows

Workflows have proven to be very crucial in optimizing and attaining desirable results that are in line with business goals. For example, workflow systems make use of workflow management software to enable document management and processes in an organization. The benefits associated with workflows include but are not limited to:

  1. Better decision-making. Business success relies greatly on decisions made by management teams. Decision-making processes are sometimes sensitive and running a successful business requires smart decision-making. The workflows are here to simplify the decision-making process and executing smart decisions can be done with the help of workflows. For example, a CRM workflow offers a series of steps to achieve this such as taking care of customer complaints.
    Workflows facilitate the automation of business tasks that are repeatable. Automating workflows in turn improves the efficiency of processes and the business as a whole. Decision-making becomes easier and faster, and increases employee morale. Employees become more willing to engage in their work and become productive. The decision-making process in the organization also includes formulating business rules for the purposes of affirming the structure of the business and setting the standards of behavior for the business. Business rules, therefore, spell out how the various aspects of a business should be conducted.
  2. Faster processes. Teams will save time using workflows. With an easy-to-use workflow management system in place, an organization is able to identify areas for automation. This streamlines the speed and efficiency of processes since tasks that need a lot of time may be automated leaving the employees with high-value tasks to perform. For instance, workflows streamline and automate business processes. Business process automation for complex business processes utilizes technology-enabled automation to streamline a business, therefore, achieving faster and high-quality service delivery. Workflow automation integrates processes such as data capture and routing. It is also effective in reducing costs and attaining digital transformation in a business. 
  3. Reduced costs. The ultimate goal of any business is to maximize profits while maintaining high-quality production. There is no better way to do this rather than by reducing production costs and increasing efficiency. Due to the reduced amount of resources required the costs incurred by a business become greatly reduced. The business is able to make more profits since so much more is achieved but the spending is greatly reduced. This is due to the fact that workflow processes are standardized and work is done with higher speed and accuracy. Wastes and inefficiencies are taken note of in good time and sectors that need improvement clearly identified. The onboarding process for instance improves employee retention, saving on the cost of replacing employees.

How to Create a Workflow

Business users need a workflow model in order to simplify and understand how a process workflow works. The workflow foundation involves a number of chronological tasks and decisions that constitute a business. Designing for workflow efficiency is key. A number of important steps are involved to make workflow optimization possible.

  1. Gather information from SMEs. Knowledge is power. Having information about voluntary and involuntary turnover sets the business up for success. SMEs are a great source of information. Once equipped with vital information about how the process needs to be done, it becomes possible to design a workflow around it.
  2. Identify who is responsible for each step. After identifying the tasks that need to be handled, the next relevant step is finding out people who will be accountable for each step and delegate roles. Bring together all the people relevant to the workflow and collaborate to create a draft of the process in detail, including what workload is assigned to who. A workflow manager can be assigned to be responsible for the overall process. All the stakeholders should be made aware of their responsibilities and the information needed to carry out certain roles and establish accountability for the tasks they perform.
  3. Outline the workflow. Workflow design involves compiling a list of all the steps to be followed in the workflow. Time-consuming steps may be set aside for outsourcing or eliminated. A workflow diagram works to visualize the process. A user-friendly workflow management tool to build workflows will also come in handy at this stage. A workflow template will serve this purpose. It makes it easier to outline procedures, identify the resources required, and establish the roles for the completion of the project.
  4. Get approval from the responsible team. Once the workflow is tested, modified, and proved efficient, the next step involves seeking approval from the responsible team. When asking for approval, the team responding needs to be convinced that the workflow will be of benefit to the organization in order to approve it. Once convinced of a powerful workflow, the team will grant permission for its use.
  5. Finalize and implement workflows. After gaining approval from the responsible team, the final step will entail training the team on the new workflow and deploying the new workflow. This can be accomplished by first deploying it to a small team first before sending it out to the entire organization. When the requirements change, it will be possible to adjust the workflow to accommodate the new requirements.

Examples of HR Workflows

New Employee Onboarding

Onboarding is a process whereby new employees of a company are integrated into both the social and performance nature of their jobs. In simple terms, it defines an employee orientation process. It may be surprising to know that about 25% of companies lack a formal onboarding process. The essence of establishing an effective onboarding is of great impact. It not only increases the chances of retaining employees by about 70% but also improves their performance by around 50%. New hires feel welcomed and are introduced to the company culture and their responsibilities. New employees become informed about company policies and regulations, the culture of the company, duties and performance expectations, and establishing healthy relationships and boundaries. The onboarding process may be carried out in a series of five steps namely;

  • Preparation which includes paperwork that needs to be completed before the arrival of the employee and an informal introduction
  • Orientation involves a lot of human resource processes such as staff training and reviewing policies of an organization.
  • Integration is the stage of the process where new hires familiarize themselves with colleagues with similar responsibilities.
  • Engagement is the personal interactions with members of the team meant to welcome the new employee and make them comfortable
  • Follow-up is the stage is the evaluation of the performance of a new hire

Employee Offboarding

Resignation, termination, or retirement is followed by a formal process of severing the relationship between the employee and the company. It involves all the decisions and processes involved when an employee leaves work. This can include an exit interview, explaining what will happen to their healthcare benefits, and collecting any company equipment that they were issued.

Time-Off Requests

Time off requests are formal inquiries from employees to take time off of work. Businesses that adopt a standardized vacation request are able to manage time better than those that do not. At the same time, they can avoid mistakes such as approving too much vacation time or approving too many requests on the same day within the same department. A request workflow ensures that the needs of the business are taken care of while at the same time allowing employees to take some time off


A workflow is a necessary tool of survival for any business. Workflow makes automated business processes possible and improves business decision-making, decreases runtime, and reduces costs. Process optimization is made possible with workflow software. Businesses that thrive have well-designed workflows that are efficiently facilitating smooth running, management, and profitability. Creating and setting up a business workflow that is effective and implemented may seem very rigorous. But it can be simple.

It is therefore advised that a business adopts a platform to be able to automate an effective workflow. PeopleSpheres is a customizable HR solution, designed to allow agile HR professionals to build intuitive and automated workflow solutions that span across multiple software and HR functions.

We would love to help you with your workflow integration. Contact us and get started in creating seamless HR workflows today!

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