Companies everywhere are embracing automation technology and transforming their tedious, time-consuming, manual processes into streamlined, easy-to-use, automated workflows.
They’re doing this to reap the many benefits of automation technology. These benefits include reduced operational costs and increased productivity, as well as increased availability, reliability, and performance. In turn, this results in more satisfied customers.
Failing to automate your workflows comes at a cost. The average employee spends 20-40% of their time searching for documents and loses around 40% of their productivity to task switching. Meanwhile, CEOs reportedly spend some 25% of their time on tasks that can be easily automated.
Every company has different goals and therefore different automation needs and priorities. For instance, a manufacturing company that frequently purchases raw materials might benefit from automating purchase order and invoice approval workflows. A temp agency that constantly recruits and onboards new employees may wish to invest in HR workflow automation to make the hiring and onboarding processes more seamless.
In this post, we’ll dive into eight powerful examples of workflows at the workplace and discuss how to make the most of each workflow for optimal performance and efficiency. With the right business workflow automation software, you can automate these processes – and much, much more.
8 Essential Everyday Workflow Examples
Below, we’ll look at eight examples of common business workflows and discuss how optimizing each workflow can give your business a competitive advantage while saving you time and money.
Workflow One: Sales Order
Sales orders play a crucial role in every business, and efficient order processing is vital to profitability. And yet, many businesses continue to rely on email, Excel sheets, and paper forms. Even in cases where the sales order process has been digitized, physical signatures are often still required, which can cause significant delays and bottlenecks.
In today’s increasingly digital business climate, manual paperwork slows customer service and risks the viability of your business. This is particularly true if your competitors are offering an intuitive digital ordering process.
An automated sales order system reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings, errors, and omissions. By automating your sales order workflow, you can remove physical paperwork from the approval process completely. With mobile-friendly digital forms and electronic signatures, customers can sign the order anywhere and at any time — leading to faster order processing.
While each organization’s workflow is unique, here’s what a typical sales order process might look like:
- Salesperson creates the order.
- Manager approves it.
- If the discount is more than 15%, the VP must also approve it.
- Client (external to the company) signs it.
- Billing invoices the client.
- The client pays the invoice.
- Fulfillment delivers the product(s).
- Documents are filed away for record-keeping.
READ MORE: How Sales Order Form Templates Help Improve Business Efficiency
Workflow Two: New Employee Onboarding
How you onboard new employees sets the tone for their entire time with your organization. In fact, studies have shown that employees are more likely to leave companies when they had a negative onboarding experience.
Manually onboarding new hires is inefficient and prone to mistakes and skipped steps. It also frequently places the focus on getting paperwork signed instead of helping your new hire to understand their role and build connections.
If you want to improve your employee onboarding, set up a workflow that delivers a standardized and consistent experience. With dynamic forms, you can kick off the onboarding process sooner and process employee information forms and compliance documents before the new hire’s start date.
Workflows help to organize the many different forms involved in onboarding and minimize the number of mistakes made along the way. Mistakes made during this process can be costly and difficult to fix.
Automated employee onboarding software can help you simplify this process and make it more reliable. Create a breakdown of every step of the onboarding process — from their first day through their first project and first month. This helps new employees feel welcomed into the company and creates a space that encourages them to produce high-quality work.
A detailed employee onboarding workflow should look like this:
- Prepare materials.
- Employee completes relevant forms.
- Discuss roles, projects, and responsibilities.
- Create work-related accounts.
- Prepare a benefits package.
- Assign training materials.
- Assign first project.
- Plan check-in meetings.
- Discuss long-term goals and expectations.
Workflow Three: Purchase Orders
Every business relies on purchase orders (POs) to manage and control spending in their procurement processes. POs are extremely important because they make sure the buyer and supplier are on the same page.
Companies that automate their POs benefit from huge cost reductions, greater financial visibility and control, reduced overspending, and significant productivity gains.
Emailing PDF documents around may have worked in the past when print-sign-scan was the norm. However, email is no longer considered an efficient way to send information throughout the company.
In today’s fast-paced – often remotely managed – business world, manual processes that rely on email and printing are simply too slow. Delaying purchases because your PO is sitting in someone’s inbox waiting for approval can set back your product timeline and result in lost investments and business.
Electronic purchase order workflows save valuable time, save employees from making easily-avoidable mistakes, and let them focus on work that matters rather than chasing paperwork. Instead, the PO is automatically routed to the relevant person(s) for approval according to the rules you built into your workflow.
A simple purchase order workflow might look like this:
- Employee creates PO.
- Manager reviews and approves it.
- Depending on business norms, a VP reviews it, e.g. if the amount exceeds $10,000.
- Send PO to the supplier (external to the company).
- Receive goods or services.
- Receive the invoice from the supplier.
- Authorize invoice, pay supplier.
- File documents for recordkeeping.
READ MORE: How Purchase Order and Purchase Requisition Templates Help Your Business Succeed
Workflow Four: Vacation Requests
Vacation requests usually require approval from a manager. An electronic paid time off workflow automatically routes the employee’s request to the right party for approval. It also tracks the process, sends approval reminder notifications, and automatically updates the relevant stakeholders about the request’s current status.
This makes the PTO request process quick, efficient, accurate, and easy to use. The employee avoids the stress of requesting and tracking their forms, and they don’t have to worry about paperwork.
The manager receives the vacation request – with all the related documents – within seconds of submission. The manager can approve and sign the form from any device, so there’s no reason their being out of office should affect employees’ vacation.
Automated workflows drastically decrease the PTO request turnaround time compared to performing this process manually.
Again, each organization has its own way of doing things, but here’s how a simple workflow might look in your vacation request system:
- Employee fills out digital vacation request form.
- Employee sends the form to their manager electronically.
- Manager approves request.
- Employee plans their vacation and blocks off time.
- They then list tasks that must be completed before leaving.
- Employee hands over tasks if necessary.
- Employee plans transition time back into the office.
- The employee takes a stress-free vacation.
READ MORE: Taking the Stress out of Taking Vacations
Workflow Five: Travel Request Authorization
Organizations frequently need to authorize travel requests and handle mileage reimbursements for business travel. These are especially common in universities and K-12 schools, where faculty and staff often travel to conferences or for training purposes.
A manual travel authorization process allows too many opportunities for mistakes and abuse. Employees can overestimate their travel costs and file for more reimbursement than necessary.
Or, employees who really do misplace their receipts can lose their reimbursement opportunity. Both situations are not ideal and completely avoidable with electronic workflows and automated travel request software in place. With the ability to upload photographs of receipts, employees can track their travel expenses on-the-go using their mobile phone camera.
Here’s a typical travel request workflow that a university might use:
- Employee fills out travel request form to attend a conference, includes estimated expenses.
- Their Department Head approves.
- Employee travels to the conference and keeps records of their expenditure.
- Employee reconciles actual expenses with approved expenses.
- If actual expenses are higher, the Department Head must approve again.
- The Business Office reimburses the employee.
Workflow Six: Expense Claims
In most companies, the finance department is rife with outdated manual processes. For example, generating expense reports is time-consuming and employees who file them manually have to sift through far too many papers and Excel sheets. This wastes time on unnecessary paperwork that could instead be spent on more productive and engaging tasks.
Automating the expense approval process reduces unproductive time and makes the process more consistent. Expense report forms can be configured to have mandatory fields and attachments, reducing back-and-forth. With automated expense approval software, it’s easy for managers to approve certain parts while asking for revisions on others. Employees can also track the status of their expense claims at any time.
A simple expense claim workflow would look something like this:
- Employee submits an expense report.
- Manager views and approves it.
- Finance reimburses the employee.
- Finance also enters data into the accounting system.
- Expense report documents are filed away for later retrieval.
Workflow Seven: Recruitment
Talent is the most important determinant of business success in the 21st century. Attracting and retaining world-class talent has, therefore, become critical to the organization’s future. This has never been truer than right now while the US is facing a critical skills shortage in multiple industries.
Automation can improve the quality and reach of job listings, increasing your applicant pool, and boosting your company’s chance of finding the right candidate for the job. It can help sort and filter applicants and shorten the application-to-offer timeline. An automated recruitment workflow streamlines and standardizes the entire hiring process. This prevents small but important steps from being missed, and improves the candidate experience – which increases the chance of them accepting your offer.
Better recruitment workflows lead to companies assessing candidates’ skills more accurately. This can save you from accidentally passing on qualified employees, and hiring candidates that are not a good match for the role or organization. Recruitment automation can also help create a fair hiring process that is free from implicit bias.
Automation provides a clear step-by-step process that is followed every time to make sure you’re finding the right match for your company and that no potential candidates are missed.
A detailed recruitment workflow would look something like this:
- A job description is drafted and approved.
- The listing is circulated.
- HR receives application.
- ATS identifies best candidates.
- Review and evaluate resume/CV.
- Plan interview.
- Conduct interview(s).
- Make and send job offer.
- Negotiate contract.
- If accepted, start onboarding process.
Workflow Eight: Incident Reports
Any process that involves multiple teams is ripe for automation. Incident reports, by their very nature, need to be submitted and dealt with as quickly as possible to resolve issues as quickly as possible. They usually have to be evaluated by different teams to see which corrective steps must be taken.
Manually, this is much harder, because all too often, employees are waiting for information. However, when incident reports are sent electronically and routed to the relevant party automatically, information is received in minutes. This minimizes wasted time and allows employees to address issues faster.
A typical incident workflow might look like this:
- Employee reports incident.
- First team assesses incident.
- First team sends information to Department Head.
- Identify solution.
- Create and assign response team.
- Team implements solution.
- Iterate until the incident is fully resolved.
- Perform compliance/risk assessment to avoid the incident recurring in future.
Businesses that choose to invest in automation accrue significant long-term benefits over those that stick with manual processes (business-as-usual). Manual work slows you down and exposes you to the risk of being replaced by more agile competitors.
In today’s world, there’s no reason to delay automation. Modern automation platforms are easy to use, cloud-based, and extremely affordable. Using easy workflow software like frevvo, anyone can automate everyday workflows so that there’s no longer any need to manually route tasks between employees; the software does it for you.
Electronic workflows are easy to set up and monitor (without help from I.T.) and allow businesses to analyze electronic data and continuously optimize processes through workflow analysis.
In the end, workflow automation software will make your company smarter, more efficient, more productive, and more profitable.