How to improve your company’s workflow

by Thom van Wijk

Workflow management may be something you want to prioritize in this new year. 

Proper workflow management is crucial in facilitating business growth and expansion. Specifically, great workflow management creates room for a high level of productivity. It also helps prevent burnout by keeping the level of chaos (thus stress), that comes with handling multiple business activities, to a minimum.

How can you improve workflow management? What are some of the tools and processes required? Before going into that, let’s start off by defining the term workflow.

What Workflow Means

Workflow refers to the various business activities required to complete a task. It consists of an orchestrated sequence of tasks that people undertake: to get work done.

Generally, workflows give a step-by-step illustration of which activities need to be performed and when to complete a specific task. Each step has a particular step before it and a particular step after it – with the exception of the start and ending.

Every business, regardless of the niche or industry, has a workflow. If it’s a really well-managed one is up to you. And depending on the size of your company, you may need coordination on different kinds of workflows:

  • Process Workflow:

Process workflows involve predictable, repetitive, and monotonous tasks. Examples include the approval of invoices or vacation requests. This type of workflow will typically delineate which tasks need to be done and when, as well as which departments are responsible for carrying out those tasks.

  • Case Workflow:

This type of workflow is the opposite of process workflow. Here, the steps required to complete a specific task aren’t known at the beginning of the problem. Instead, the correct path is determined along the way as more data is gathered. There’s no sequence or orderliness to it. The steps may change along the way and may require repetition.

  • Project Workflow:

The project workflow is similar to the process workflow in that it is structured and follows a sequence of activities. However, unlike the process workflow, the project workflow allows for some flexibility in how, when, and if all the required steps must be performed.

Identifying your workflows, as a starting point, can be very helpful.

How to Create a Workflow
There are several steps involved in the creation of a workflow, irrespective of the organization. They include:

#1. Deciding the Processes

The first step in creating a workflow is determining what it takes to carry out a specific task. This might require listing, in sequential order, the activities involved in completing “the job” successfully.

#2. Acquiring Necessary Information

Gathering information regarding all the processes that have to do with successfully performing a task is key to creating a workflow. It will help in having an in-depth knowledge of just how much resources goes into carrying out the specific business activity. 

#3. Create a Diagram

Visual representation goes a long way in establishing a workflow. The good old-fashioned diagram is one way to go. Diagrams help to properly understand the point of connection between the activities required in carrying out a task. It also assists in organizing the activities and ensuring the inclusion of every detail.

After capturing the workflow using a diagram, it is important to share the information with other workers to help everyone understand the role they play and how they are to perform their job. It also provides the opportunity for feedback. 

#4. Analyze to Improve on Workflow

It is nearly impossible to create a “perfect” workflow, but surely it is if there’s no room for improvement, so: organize for time and space to constantly evaluate and adjust.

12 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Workflow

There are different ways to improve your company’s workflow. This list may keep you occupied for a while:

#1. Analyze Current Workflow

Analysis of your company’s workflow is the first thing to do when trying to improve how your organization handles its business activities. 

This analysis will enable you to pinpoint issues that have been affecting the company’s efficiency. And subsequently, with the help of the analysis, you’ll be able to create effective solutions.

#2. Effective Communication

There is hardly a business that can operate properly without effective communication. Therefore, it is best that you clearly communicate the processes involved in performing a task and keep abreast with the progress of the task assigned. 

Apart from this, you should facilitate communication between employees. This will enable everyone to understand how much work the entire organization has done and what work lies ahead.

#3. Clearly Assign Duties

Clearly, assigning tasks to individuals is another way to improve your company’s workflow. This allows every individual to understand their role. 

Also, clear distribution of roles eliminates cases where a single person carries out a task meant for two individuals, with the risk of leading to burnout. Moreover, it helps avoid situations where a task is left undone.

#4. Give Rooms for Breaks

Frequent breaks are effective in relieving stress and getting your employees re-energized. When employees continue working while stressed or tired, they tend to make mistakes. Also, the pace at which they carry out assigned tasks slows down significantly. 

#5. Hold Training Sessions

Improving your company’s workflow requires that you train your employees. This is because there are always new ideas or technology that can better help workers carry out their tasks easily and effectively. 

A proper grasp of these ideas and technology can positively impact your company’s productivity. Also, constant training builds the confidence of employees to perform the tasks assigned to them.

#6. Focus on Crucial Tasks

Some tasks are crucial in enhancing a company’s productivity, while some do not hold so much relevance. Make sure you differentiate; prioritize and assign the most important roles first. This will ensure that your workers do not focus their time and more importantly energy on activities that barely contribute to the company’s results, with the unfavorable side effect of employees feeling that they’re not really making a difference.

#7. Discourage Multitasking

Many believe that multitasking provides a fast means of performing various business activities. It’s not. Research has shown that multitasking is counterproductive and has a negative effect on workflow. It’s easier to make mistakes if the brain is processing several tasks at the same time and it eventually causes stress. Discourage multitasking.

#8. Organization

One of the most effective means of improving workflow is ensuring a high level of organization to faster and more effectively perform tasks. It starts with obvious things like simply having your stuff together: placing files in the correct folders (even having folders?) or clearing resolved emails.

#9. Consider the Strengths and Weaknesses of Employees

When assigning various activities, it is important to take the strengths and weaknesses of employees into consideration. This is because there is a high chance of an employee underperforming when handling tasks outside of their expertise or skills, or just what comes natural to them.

#10. Ensure That Employees Don’t Take Their Work Home

Enhancing workflow would mean discouraging employees or your team from taking assignments home. As much as possible, have them complete their task while at work. 

Taking your job home prevents an employee from getting the rest they need. Consequently, when they come to work the next day, they’ll likely be more tired or stressed. At the end of the day, it will affect their level of productivity and, by extension, the company’s workflow.

#11. Create Targets

It is easy to facilitate a great workflow when there is a clear target. As a result, you should set a target regarding what the organization should have achieved by the end of the week, month or year. 

However, it’s not enough to just set these targets. You should ensure everyone knows about it too so everyone can prepare themselves mentally and act accordingly.

#12. Acknowledge Employees Growth

Acknowledging employees’ growth is crucial in improving workflow. It serves as a form of encouragement to them and encourages other workers to put in their best too. 

Once you notice that someone has outgrown a particular role, you can include new tasks in their job description to add variety or keep meeting their (new) interests. 

Tools That Can Help Improve Workflow
Different tools are helpful when trying to enhance your company’s workflow. We’d like to give a brief introduction to some of the most widely used tools that we know and are sure many companies will benefit from.

#1. Trello

Trello is an application that enables you to monitor your company’s workflow. Specifically, through the use of Trello, you can view the progress of each project embarked upon. This app also makes the automation of some tasks possible. 

#2. Slack

Essentially, slack is an instant messaging program that allows for easy communication between employees. Slack utilizes voice calls, video calls and text messages. 

With the help of Slack, you can provide employees with useful information that can go a long way in improving the workforce. It also allows you to receive feedback on certain activities. 

#3. Notion

Notion is a note-taking software platform that makes it easy to organize information and track the level of progress while carrying out a project. 

#4. Integrify

With the help of Integrify, it becomes easy to design forms. Furthermore, it makes the distribution and analysis of data easier. The app provides the opportunity to share dashboard details with other workers. 

#5. Scrum

Scrum tools can really help you get your project management straight, and come in handy when trying to break down complex projects into smaller units that different individuals can undertake. 

The tip of the iceberg

We’re only touching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to workflow management for companies, there is so much you can do. Whatever you choose to do, know it will really be worth your time. 

Start organizing! It’s a good way to start the new year.

You will thank yourself later.