Ways To Improve Workflow Consistency

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Across the world, inconsistent and outdated workplace processes are a major time-consuming burden. Research has proven that top performing companies are those that invest in their employee well-being, and those that have agile processes based on empowerment of employees to make routine decisions.

Some business process management tips for evaluating the “administrative burden” and improving workflow, and/or creating streamlined new processes,  within your own organization, are as follow. We have also included tips for successfully using business process management software and other tools to streamline these types of managerial and workflow activities. Here’s how:

Vision and belonging

Is there a central vision that all employees feel connected to? This is an often overlooked critical first step to understanding how inconsistency presents itself in the workplace. Employees disengage when their daily tasks do not seem to be contributing to the central vision or success of the company, or when the actions of the company do not reflect the stated core values that they told employees.

 

This is a major cause of inconsistency in workflow processes. Ensuring that every employee from the janitor to the CEO understands how their job is important to everyone else’s, and providing employees with the tools to see and evaluate the impact of their contributions, goes a long way towards creating the type of environment where an employee gives his or her best.

Software packages with evaluation, feedback, and real-time progress on attainment of targets and goals; can greatly help facilitate and communicate these soft goals and contribute to employee engagement.

Barriers and Bottlenecks

Process flow for many employees is unnecessarily burdensome, and often depends on steps within and across divisions that have evolved organically in a manner that is not the most efficient. One of the greatest things you can do for efficiency, productivity, and consistency is do a critical evaluation of your employees’ work day. Put yourself in their shoes, and try to get something important done. What is it like? Do the existing systems and process flows help or hinder?

Once you have asking these types of questions, you have the framework in place for facilitating workflow process improvement- especially effective with the use of good business process management software. We suggest you evaluate your workflow for crucial processes, and of each crucial process identified, honestly ask the following:

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How many people touch the process?

A good rule of thumb to consider is the more people touch a process, a) the more places it has where it can break down and b) the greater potential for delays and inconsistencies in how the process functions for your company. Look at your crucial processes, and identify which ones seem to cycle endlessly from one person to another, and ask, “why did it end up like this?” Understanding the needs a process evolved to address, helps to also identify how a process might be improved.

How many actually need to?

There is a need for checks and balances in system processes, and reasons that persons of different areas of expertise to review or authorize a part of a process. A good guideline is to start asking, “who actually needs to be part of this, and who can be placed on other tasks for better use of their time and ability?”

 Where are your biggest bottlenecks?

These are places where a process gets “stuck.” Often, it lands on the desk of an overworked employee, or goes into a cumbersome software system and gets lost or forgotten. Or requires the inked signature of someone who is always out of the office, or, worse, on the other side of the country. Taking a close look at these places provides good insight into improving the agility and performance of your organization.

Can one or more processes be streamlined?

Can you start re-arranging the process flows in a more efficient manner? Can duplication of effort be reduced or eliminated? Can double handling be eliminated? Can you outsource something; or conversely, bring something in-house that someone outside is doing for you? Can a software program be updated to make it better fit your processes and needs? Can a new way of looking at reporting features be if use?

There are many ways to approach this stage – and one advantage of using business process management software in your change management efforts, is the opportunity to model and beta test new workflows for measurable improvement.

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It doesn’t just stop there, there are several tools that can be used to better your business. For example, consider using inventory tracking software to identify products, check inventory levels, and manage orders. This prevents human error and provides more time for your employees to do other work.

Can more decision-making responsibility be given to an employee at a key bottleneck juncture?

Many process inefficiencies arise from requiring an upper-level supervisor to personally sign off at several stages during a process. By considering how dependable employees may be empowered to take on some of this burden, you can greatly reduce the amount of time required to complete a task. Software can be used to test case studies, and to help define reasonable guidelines for when greater level of review may be needed, and when it is unnecessary.

Using a combination of business evaluation and business process management is the most efficient known method for improving business process workflow. Most software management companies provide organizations with options to test their applications and packages with free trials before making a purchase.

Talk to your employees

Our employees are often the greatest workplace barometers and change management resources that we have. Too often, employers wait for the 6-month or yearly evaluation to ask about challenges that employees face. Workflow problems affect everyone – from unexpected glitches, to system outages, to unwieldy processes that do nothing but get in the way.

On paper, many solutions, especially computer-based or automated solutions, look great – but when they are applied in the real world of the work day, in the hands of people who have to live with and use them, they start showing their flaws and limitations.

Almost every system rollout in the history of computer use in the workplace, has required regular tweaks and updates. Understanding this, employers should have a mechanism in place to ask, “How is the process working for you?” and not just at the yearly evaluation. They should be asked about both existing and emerging processes, and their input should be used to design new processes and workflows.

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Good system management software can be tailored to a) help solicit real-time feedback on process function from employees b) help employees identify the places in process management that could be made more efficient. This information is important for many vital organizational functions such as problem resolution, planning for demand, strategic goal-setting, etc.

Ask the customer

Customer and client feedback: similar to solicitation of employee feedback, asking for honest client feedback can provide valuable insight. Simple questions can be managed with business process managing software – making the process as minimally intrusive as possible for your customers.

Questions such as: Select an emoji to tell us about your experience with us today? Would you like to tell us why you selected that one? What would you like to see us do more of? May we add you to an email list for products/ services similar to ones you purchased today (we do not share or sell your information to anyone)?

A drop in customer satisfaction is often a key indicator that your processes are breaking down somewhere. Software algorithms designed for early detection and patterns of client dissatisfaction can identify where and how a process might need immediate improvement to prevent client migration and loss. Keep these tips in mind and it’s likely your business will be running more efficiently in no time.

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