Hiring an employee and getting funds for a new coffee machine have one thing in common. Workflow management.
Workflow is a progression of steps that comprise a work process, involving two or more people, that creates or adds value to the organization’s activities. But that sounds like a mouthful.
Simply put, workflow is the process that guides how things get done. Hiring a new team member has precise steps in a particular order that are followed every time someone is onboarded. The same goes for many other activities carried out constantly to keep your business running.
Business workflows happen all around you every day, but they can go unnoticed as tasks are completed.
However, getting things done is not good enough. Especially when you are trying to increase productivity and optimize growth. Workflows are not always predictable and do not always give consistent results. If you are aiming for perfect processes, you need to keep a close eye on tasks and the people involved. This is where workflow management comes in.
Why Does Workflow Management Matter?
Workflow management means supervising tasks as they progress, ensuring the people and processes involved are moving efficiently and effectively. It optimizes processes, limits the waste of precious time and resources, and keeps workers accountable.
In the words of Ben Horowitz, “…when an organization attempts to do anything, it always comes down to a single person who can delay the entire project. An engineer might get stuck waiting for a decision or a manager may think she does not have authority to make a critical purchase. These small, seemingly minor hesitations can cause fatal delays.”
Imagine the horror of a project grinding to a halt because of one small mistake. The best way to prevent this is to automate the arrangement, coordination and execution of workflows. This in itself can become complicated because different applications are used for a variety of tasks. Zoom for meetings. Slack and emails for communication. GitHub for software versioning control. Dropbox for files sharing.
Don’t feel overwhelmed just yet. All of these can be integrated on a single platform like Hive.
Let’s see an example of how this could work for hiring a new employee.
Sam, an IT team lead contacts HR about hiring a junior developer. His department has been understaffed for a while and it was time to get a new pair of hands on the team. HR run by Katy uses the specifications for the position in Sam’s email, sent with Hive Mail, to create an application form. She then takes a look at the competency test Sam created through Hive’s Dropbox integration. Katy sends a message in Hive via the Slack integration to Eugene from Brand and Publicity to publicize the job opening out on job boards and LinkedIn. The team starts a project in Hive dedicated to the Junior Developer role, where they’re able to communicate on applicants and strategy. They can even use Hive Forms and Templates to automate applicant entry.
The next week, a few impressive applicants are selected for the interview by Katy’s team. Everyone on the interview panel receives notifications through the project in Hive. They’re able to meet via Hive and Zoom’s integration to talk through initial candidates, then they move onto speaking to each candidate over Zoom. After the interview, Katy and Sam think the choice is clear but the others are not so convinced, so they discuss the best fit over Slack’s Hive integration. As they discuss, they check out the test scores and interview notes uploaded via Hive Notes to firm up their decisions. Katy sends the chosen developer an offer when a decision is made. All this was accomplished in less than 2 weeks.
It’s not magic.
The hiring process was made fast, easy and effective because teams were able to collaborate using a workflow management tool. And these are just some of the ways these tools improve your business. Let’s look at a few more.
The Benefits Of Automating Your Business Processes
Employees move faster with better documentation and clear communication. Instead of spending hours waiting for access to a folder with vital information, they can access it in minutes when it’s uploaded to a single platform.
When each person has a defined role and deliverables, which can be logged and tracked in a workflow management tool, it is easier to find the problem and hold them accountable. Instead of hiding behind the word “we,” everyone has to do their part and do it well.
Silos get broken down when everyone is brought onto a platform to collaborate. With a tool like Hive, you can integrate communication apps like Slack, Gmail and Zoom so that team members can all send messages and respond on time.
Speed up productivity
80% of an employee’s day is spent on unproductive tasks. Which means a tiny 20% is used to do actual work. Workflow management helps to identify inefficient activities (data entry or chasing down an email thread) and eliminate or optimize them.
Eliminate mistakes and confusion
Humans make mistakes. Many humans working together and multitasking can create a lot of mistakes. But by arranging, tracking and coordinating processes, people can access information when they need it, clarify ideas and make better decisions.
How To Implement Workflow Management For Your Business
Now you know how workflow management can make your business more productive. But how do you get started? Here are 5 easy steps you can follow.
Identify recurring processes
The first step is to ask “what business processes are repeated over and over again?”
Focus on the essential processes. Prioritize them over tracking processes that happen once in a while.
A great way to make sure you have all the recurring processes is to ask team leads and employees about it. Talk to everyone involved in the process to understand how it is carried out and what they think should be done better. Guessing will throw you off track. Better yet, automate recurring processes with Hive by creating recurring actions daily, weekly, or monthly.
What are you trying to achieve by managing workflows?
Using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) goals makes efforts laser-focused in one direction. This is much better than everyone not knowing why they are doing things or what they are doing in the first place. Employees will be motivated when they understand how their own efforts tie into the larger tasks.
Create clear communication channels
A military technique might be just the thing to get the information you need. Sending messages with the Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) makes communicating faster and workflow management more efficient.
Instead of sending “Hey” over Slack or Hive and watching for hours for a reply, mention the reason for the message first. Include context and the goal you are trying to achieve. It could look something like this: “Hey, Sam. Could you send specifications for the junior developer role your team needs to fill today. I need to send it over to Brand and Publicity to create an ad.”
Defining who, what, why and when gets your message answered fast. Try sending urgent messages over Slack or Hive, and less urgent ones sent through Hive Mail. This way everyone can know what messages need attention immediately and what can wait.
Create a database for information
A study revealed that 16 days of the year are wasted by companies chasing paper. A move to an online database is inevitable especially for a remote team. But what’s more important is access. Files stored in a central database online are of no use to any worker who cannot get to them. Waiting hours for someone to get information to another person can be spent doing productive tasks. Choose a based file sharing application that lets teams share and access information easily.
Define roles and deliverables
For tasks to move down the line, activities need to be defined in terms of roles. Everyone needs to know who is doing what and when their work is due. Roles makes it easier to allocate and track deliverables which increases accountability and chances of success.
Letting members understand how important their end is to the overall process is crucial. It motivates them to give their best.
Choosing A Workflow Management Tool
Before choosing a workflow management tool, make sure to consider what your business needs. The best tools are intuitive to use, flexible, integrate well with other apps and fit into your budget. Opting to try a free trial first to understand how it works is a better idea than jumping onboard a tool that is not suitable for your business.
Using a tool like Hive will help your teams to collaborate effectively, removing silos and exterminating delays. But don’t just take our word for it. Hear what Julian Judge, a product manager at Plan Day has to say about Hive,
“The ease of use and simplicity of Hive has enabled everyone across our organization to be able to jump and start getting real work done immediately.”
Here are a few of the features Hive has that can help enhance your workflow:
- Integrations with Zoom, Slack, Jira and Salesforce
- Hive Mail, an email inbox inside of Hive itself
- Project Templates
- Hive Forms
- Flexible project views (Gantt, Kanban, Calendar, Portfolio)
In the end, workflow management is not a one man job. Your greatest asset is the support and willingness of your team to take your business process from slow and unproductive to efficient and profitable.
Never lose sight of this — optimizing productivity is more important than anything else.