What Is A Workflow? (With Definition, Benefits And Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A workflow introduces a regular sequence of actions for carrying out a business process. It offers a structured way to ensure consistency, efficiency and productivity. You can decide which workflows are suitable for an organisation by learning about workflow and its advantages. In this article, we answer the question 'What is a workflow?', discuss the significance of using it and provide examples of business workflows.

What Is A Workflow?

If you are wondering 'What is a workflow?', it is a way to list repeatable steps for a business process or activity. A workflow's steps typically follow a particular order or flow from one stage to the next until the end of the activity. A major advantage of workflows is that they ensure all users consistently execute the same business process or activity. Workflows streamline tasks involving multiple people, tell them which tasks to complete, list who is responsible for each task and determine how long tasks may take. This is especially useful for organisations with large workforces.

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Benefits Of Using A Workflow

Workflow management software generates a categorised to-do list that assists with organising sequential processes. Certain software can also automate certain tasks, saving employees time. The following are the benefits of workflows:

  • Helps enhance business operations: Using workflows is one of the easiest ways to enhance business operations. It allows you to clearly explain intricate activities and procedures, which can increase the efficiency of the team.

  • Removes redundant actions: Organising your to-do list enables you to concentrate on important actions and tasks. An efficient work process eliminates redundant actions and enables you to employ the most efficient means to achieve your objective.

  • Lowers costs and expenses: When developing a task flow, it is important to test the most optimal method first. Developing a detailed step-by-step guide is useful for conserving resources—such as money and time—that may be necessary to complete specific tasks.

  • Helps develop automated processes: One of the primary objectives of workflows is to automate processes to allow you to establish higher standards for your employer.

  • Helps educate team members: Educating team members ensures that they can perform to the employer's standards. Creating processes and to-do lists helps your colleagues understand your expectations of them.

  • Boosts productivity: Workflows help employees comprehend their tasks and how and when to complete them. They reduce confusion, which increases employee productivity.

  • Maintains consistency: Implementing workflow standards typically results in more consistent outcomes within an organisation. This means that an effective workflow can help you maintain consistency and improve the quality of your team's work.

Related: Automation Of Processes (With Definition And Examples)

Examples Of Workflow

The following are some examples of when you may implement a workflow:

Sales order

Physical signatures and manual paperwork can slow down the sales cycle, while digital ordering processes can improve customer service, reduce delays and increase profits. For example, automated sales order systems allow businesses to create digital ordering processes. A fully digital sales order workflow can reduce the likelihood of errors, deletions and misunderstandings, and mobile-friendly forms and electronic signatures accelerate the sales cycle. The following is an example of a sales order workflow automation:

  • A salesperson creates the sales order.

  • The manager approves the sales order.

  • An external customer signs the sales order.

  • The client receives the billing invoice.

  • The client pays the invoice.

  • The fulfilment department is responsible for product delivery.

  • The records department organises and stores digital documents.

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It is common for multiple teams to review incident reports. This requires handling the reports as quickly as possible to address problems. Automation enables teams to share information faster during incident report processes. The following are examples of elements that may appear on an incident workflow:

  • An employee reports an incident.

  • The first team evaluates the incident.

  • The first team shares information with the department head.

  • A department manager suggests a solution.

  • The head of a department forms and assigns a response team.

  • The response team applies the solution.

  • The response team conducts a risk analysis to prevent future incidents.

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Employee onboarding

Establishing an employee onboarding workflow ensures that new employees receive all necessary information during their first weeks of employment. The business can monitor where a candidate is in the training and orientation process by using an efficient workflow for new hires. This gives new employees a list of onboarding tasks they can refer to as they increase their understanding of their role when speaking with a supervisor.

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Purchase order

Purchase orders help businesses keep records of expenditures. Suppliers usually have access to these documents to ensure that the ordering process is accurate. You may experience delays when sending and receiving manual documentation, such as using PDFs that you send via email. A workflow clarifies the order of the stages and who is responsible for each stage. The following is an example of a workflow for a purchase order:

  • An employee generates the purchase order.

  • A supervisor signs the purchase order.

  • The manager shares the purchase order with an outside vendor.

  • The supplier sends the manager both the product and the invoice.

  • The manager approves and clears the invoice.

  • The manager documents the transaction for accounting purposes.

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Recruitment involves finding and hiring new employees. Though the human resources department is generally in charge of recruitment, some departments or offices within an organisation may manage recruitment independently. By creating a workflow to standardise this process, you can create better job postings that entice high-quality candidates, review applications quickly, schedule interviews on a regular basis, ask the same questions during each interview and offer jobs to qualified candidates.

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Customer support

Workflows for customer support ensure that agents respond quickly and consistently to common customer service questions with high-quality answers. These workflows enable customer support agents to identify the type of question quickly. For example, the question may pertain to a technical or billing issue. They can then follow category-specific workflows with suggested questions and responses. If an unusual question slows down a support agent, you can add that question to the workflow so that a quick and accurate response is available to them next time.

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Client onboarding

Increasing the number of customers who use a product or service continuously requires a repeatable onboarding system. Once clients buy a company's service or product, they may become repeat customers of that company if they perceive its value. A client onboarding workflow may include the following tasks:

  • Holding a commencement call

  • Providing training webinars on how to use the product

  • Collecting data about initial product use and scheduling a strategy call as a follow-up

Forms approval

Many businesses have procedures for common forms, such as requests for time off, invoices, expense reports and project proposals. These require the approval of multiple managers and executives. Because everyone who signs the document can see the requests, a structured approval workflow can speed up the process. An approval workflow reduces instances of lost or delayed requests and leads to more effective decision-making.

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Some large organisations may have employees travelling simultaneously for client meetings, conferences or training. A workflow can help travellers and human resources departments stay organised and avoid deleting. The ability to list tasks and sub-tasks in travel workflows provides the traveller with a practical checklist. Submitting funding requests and reimbursement forms for airline tickets, rental cars, lodging and meals are examples of travel workflow items.

Content marketing

Typically, content that ranks near the top in search engine results meets certain requirements. A well-designed content marketing workflow guarantees that the content meets all SEO benchmarks and adheres to important content marketing and copywriting requirements. Common checklist items found in content marketing workflows include the following:

  • Use a headline with a high-volume keyword.

  • Ensure that subheadings focus on keywords.

  • Verify that each section has an image.

  • Use alt texts for images.

  • Check grammar and spelling.

  • Publish the content.

  • Create at least five backlinks.

  • Promote the content on social media.

  • Have employees share the content.

  • Run paid ads for the content.

Content promotion

A content promotion workflow outlines all the necessary steps for promoting content, allowing you to repeat your promotional strategies successfully. This ensures consistency in the number of people who view and interact with your content. A content promotion workflow is effective when the initial promotion increases exposure, people share the content and the number of shares is high. Initial promotions for this workflow may include emails to subscribers, social media shares and blogger outreach.

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