Small Business Brief


Top Tips for Effective Office Workflow Practices

Did you know that NASA lost a Mars orbiter worth $125 million in 1999? With today’s inflation rate, that equates to about $192.14 million!

Were you also aware that in 2014, Microsoft Azure caused their clients a total downtime of 54 hours? In that year alone, Azure experienced a staggering 241 outages.

So, what’s the similarity between the two? Lack of process management.

In the case of NASA, it was due to having no consistent unit measurement. With Azure, the culprit was non-compliance of a deployment process.

This highlights the importance of learning how to create a workflow that’s efficient. Without a streamlined workflow system in the office, disastrous mistakes can arise.

The good news is, creating an office workflow isn’t rocket science. It does need time and effort though, but you can make it simpler by following our tips!

How to Create a Workflow that Produces Results: It All Starts with Brainstorming

A workflow model is a step-by-step system that involves businesses processes and decisions. Meaning, it affects every department — and each member of that department.

That said, creating a workflow process requires input from each team.

Start by scheduling a brainstorming session with a representative from each department. This way, you can get deeper insights as to how each team also works. You can then build a workflow factoring in every team’s needs and responsibilities.

Separate Individual from Simultaneous Tasks

During the brainstorming session, ask the reps which processes they can do at the same time. You may have heard of these as “parallel tasks”. They’re several tasks performed simultaneously, without affecting the results of the others.

Let’s use the process of employee onboarding as an example.

As soon as there are new hires, the HR department can already give them an orientation. At the same time, the IT team can already assign each employee with a company email address. During the same period, facilities can already set them up with access or ID cards.

All three teams can finish these tasks at the same time without affecting the other. This can then make onboarding easier and more enjoyable for the new hires. And since everything gets completed within the same period, productivity also goes up.

Automate Tasks

Speaking of tasks, there are many processes that you can now automate, from IT to accounting. Many of these are repetitive admin tasks that kill productivity. In fact, every year, these activities cost U.S. business $2.87 trillion in productivity losses!

Talk to the department heads about which tasks can be set for automation. In accounting, this can be invoice generation and certain areas of payroll. In IT, this can be backing up files and rolling out system updates.

Be Clear about Roles and Responsibilities

An effective workflow limits errors like duplicates or non-compliance. To avoid these mistakes, it’s vital that each team knows who’s responsible for which role. As such, make sure you’re clear in defining and delegating each responsibility.

Train Your People

Add frequent training programs to your workflow to make sure everyone’s up to speed. “Refreshers” should also be part of the policies, as this can drill back the basics some may have forgotten. All these can help your people feel less intimated and more comfortable in what they do.

You should also come up with training program ideas for team scenarios. A good idea is to get your best performers signed up for a course that will help them work well in a team. Or, you can have a high-performing team trained to work with another team.

Use Collaboration Tools to Reduce Errors

A company workflow exists to streamline processes and boost productivity. Lack of communication, however, can result in projects not beating the deadline. It can also lead to many errors such as duplicates or incomplete tasks.

Collaboration tools can boost workflow by helping improve communication between teams and members. There’s Trello, for example, which uses the Kanban system (the same one Toyota developed). It can help “eliminate all waste” (in this case, errors), to quickly get the job done.

There are other collaboration platforms, but they share the same goal. They help teams find out right away who’s working on which task or part of a project. They’ll also know which tasks are still pending or which ones are in progress.

Test Your Workflow

If you followed everything else at this point, you can now test out your new workflow. It’s the best way to figure out its effectiveness and areas of improvement. A good place to test it is the same employee onboarding example we shared above.

Track the Results

During the “testing” phase, make sure you keep track of and review the results. Otherwise, you’ll have no way of determining if it’s actually the best workflow.

Also, be sure to ask your people what they think of the system, such as through surveys or polls. This can also help boost morale, as you’re showing interest in what they have to say. In fact, employees who believe employers listen to them are 4.6 times more likely to do their best.

Polish and Refine Your Workflow with a Management Software

There will always be room for improvement in the workflow, so prepare to make adjustments. You can make this a lot easier though by using a workflow modeling software. With such a program, you can tweak the current workflow rather than starting from scratch.

Plus, the best workflow management programs make updating your system easy. For instance, you can enter the test results straight into the software. This allows for easier monitoring and reviews later on.

Design an Effective Office Workflow System Now

There you have it, some of the best tips on how to create a workflow designed for productivity. The sooner you follow them, the sooner you can go from developing to testing. From there, you can find out if your workflow works for everyone and how happy they are with it.

Don’t forget to be open to suggestions from your people too! Show them that you value their opinions, which can help them feel happier at the workplace.

Found this post useful and interesting? Then be sure to check the rest of our informative posts filed under our site’s Business Advice section!