workflow process
Productivity

Designing workflow processes to help you work smarter

How a good workflow process can boost productivity and save time

By the team at SlackFebruary 5th, 2024

Your job’s a lot more than the tedious work tasks you have to do, but don’t want to do. So why do they take up so much of your workday?

With the right workflow process, you can get more out of those tasks while spending less time on them. And with the right automation tools, you can get more out of your workflow processes. Enter Slack’s new Workflow Builder, a tool that can help your team reduce manual tasks and support quick, effective processes, enabling your people to take their time back.

What is a workflow process?

Think of a large, complex task that’s routine in your workplace, like employee onboarding, for example.

As necessary as onboarding is, it can eat up a lot of time and effort, especially for growing teams. Every new hire needs contracts, equipment, account access, direct deposit setup, meet-and-greets, and myriad other things to get them started in their role.

But by implementing a workflow process—a standardized series of steps used to simplify and expedite a routine task—you can streamline your team’s onboarding procedures. Keeping this process the same for every new hire can reduce confusion and boost efficiency. And by automating certain onboarding tasks, you can level up this process even more.

An onboarding workflow process might include ordering equipment, setting up accounts, drawing up HR paperwork and scheduling introductory meetings. In this process, Workflow Builder’s integration with Google Sheets could automate updates on candidate status and interview scheduling. And the DocuSign app could help with managing contracts and other paperwork.

‘Workflow’ vs. ‘process’: what do these terms mean?

“Workflow” refers to the specific actions taken during a “process,” which describes an overarching goal. In other words, the workflow supports the process.

Let’s keep using onboarding as an example while we dig into these definitions:

  • Onboarding process: The overall goal of onboarding is to set up a new hire for success in their job. This means the new employee should have all the resources they need, know where to direct their questions, and understand what’s needed of them as they settle into their role. Typically, the HR department determines the onboarding process.
  • Onboarding workflow: To fulfill the onboarding process, the responsible team must complete a specific set of tasks. These tasks make up the workflow. The onboarding workflow could differ for each employee depending on their role and schedule.For example, a remote sales employee would complete onboarding entirely online, and their tasks might include watching a prerecorded sales presentation. An in-office software developer, on the other hand, might complete an in-person code review and attend a welcome lunch with their colleagues.A new employee’s manager usually determines their onboarding workflow.

The workflow process lifecycle

Workflow processes are cyclical, and you’ll often see them illustrated in diagrams as circles flowing from one step to the next. In general, the workflow process lifecycle has three main components:

  1. Trigger: The trigger initiates the process and prompts the first action. Triggers can be anything, from time-based events (like deadlines) to spontaneous triggers (like sales leads or customer requests).
  2. Step or action: This component refers to the actual tasks you must complete as part of the process. Within a standardized workflow process, the actions might vary slightly depending on the team, goal and situation.
  3. Outcome: The outcome is the workflow’s end result—a fully onboarded new employee, for example, or a completed Jira ticket. Depending on the workflow’s goal, you might loop back to the beginning of the workflow, go to a different step, or move on completely.

Why do you need a workflow process?

It’s simple: Effective workflow processes make for more productive employees.

Slack’s 2023 State of Work report found that the most productive employees surveyed were 65% more likely to be automating their workflows than their less productive counterparts. The survey also reported that employees who automated their workflows felt a greater sense of well-being and impact at work.

Of those who use automation to be more productive at work, nearly 50% report saving at least three and a half hours per week on average. (In other words, they’re getting half a workday back.)

Designing a workflow process

Start with the end: Identify the result you want. Are you a developer trying to get your code reviewed and approved? Or maybe a recruiter trying to meet a hiring goal? Determine your process goal, and work backward to lay out the steps required to meet that goal.

Each step in your workflow should logically flow to the next. Some steps may even flow back to a previous step, such as if a colleague requests changes to your code after their review, or if a promising candidate declines an offer to interview.

Creating a workflow process map

Once you’ve identified the goal of your process and determined the steps in your workflow, it’s time to visualize. Illustrating your workflow process with a diagram can draw attention to repetitive steps, potential bottlenecks and other glaring issues. It can also help you explain the workflow process to other stakeholders.

Use a diagramming program to create a workflow process map and share it with your teammates.

Monitoring and improving your workflow processes

No workflow is set in stone. Once you’ve implemented a workflow process, pay attention to how well it’s performing for you. Refine it and make tweaks as needed.

Use time-tracking tools to monitor how long processes are taking. These observations can help you identify and eliminate unnecessary steps from your workflow.

Have team members report their weekly workload to help you understand how responsibilities are being distributed. This data can help you identify imbalances, such as one or two members with too much work on their plates. You can then shuffle assignments to make the workflow more efficient.

If a workflow process isn’t quite cutting it, consider writing a process improvement plan. Process improvement plans provide resources and guidance to make a workflow process better, including steps users can take to improve specific tasks.

Unlock the power of workflow automation with Slack

Once a workflow process is dialed in and finalized, you can take it a step further with automation in Slack. Workflow Builder allows you to automate tasks within a workflow, saving you time and improving productivity across the team.

Workflow Builder can automate daily status updates and collate the information into a Google Sheet so your team can stay on the same page without manual reminders. You can also automatically schedule social media posts, send automated email drip campaigns, and track website leads directly in Slack, no coding experience required.

Want examples of how to automate workflows with Slack? Let’s look at a few ways companies use Slack to streamline their processes.

Automate reporting

Airbnb integrates Slack with Jira and PagerDuty to track incident management in one centralized channel. The channel provides an automated timeline of events to simplify the process of putting together a post-incident report.

Onboard new team members

DocuSign, which builds software to support digital contract signing, uses Workflow Builder to automate new-hire paperwork.

Noom, a behavior-focused weight loss program, utilizes Workflow Builder to get ahead on onboarding for new employees before their start dates.

Update spreadsheets

Spreadsheet maintenance can eat a lot of time, but Workflow Builder integrates with Google Sheets to keep things quick. Use one of Workflow Builder’s prebuilt templates to send information from a Slack channel into a Google Sheet—no more manual data entry.

Track contracts

Slack integrates with DocuSign so you can build automated workflow processes to manage contracts. Set up a workflow to ping a Slack channel whenever a new contract is added or signed. Plus, you can add automated reminders for contract review deadlines and contract renewals.

Manage projects

Slack lets you use your favorite project management tools in one central app. With Jira and Zapier integrations, you can create and track new bugs and add new tasks to your project management tools directly in Slack.

Enter your flow state

Good workflow processes make a world of difference for busy teams, especially when Slack automation gets involved. Leveraging Workflow Builder and other automation features can take your team’s processes to the next level.

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