There’s a logical reason why companies are oftentimes referred to as organizations. These entities are typically large in scale and have processes and systems in place to make their operations, well…organized.

But you don’t have to be a large company to implement the same structures. Businesses of all sizes can and should create workflows to help make things run smoother.

It can even help improve productivity levels in the workplace. Nearly 70% of employees waste time waiting for team members to deliver information, which results in 3.5 hours wasted each week.

By establishing a workflow that ensures employees have the data they need to perform their roles, you eliminate this issue. More than half of Americans aren’t engaged at work and 17% are actively disengaged.

This is an issue we can find in workplaces around the world.

How do you fix this problem? Well, according to 71% of employees, it’s the managers who don’t spend enough time explaining plans and goals.

Again, this is addressed when document workflows are in place. These workflows help to guide employees along whatever process they’re currently going through.

For instance, document workflows are useful for onboarding, training, and projects. Businesses that implement document workflows can improve communication.

And this is especially important since $37 billion is loss annually due to poor communication in the workplace.

But how do you go about creating a document workflow?

Let’s dive into that now.

What’s a Document Workflow?

The best way to define this is as the set of steps documents go through during a particular project or process. This workflow should identify who, when, and what happens to a document during a process.

For example, here’s the workflow for a book:

  • Step 1: The writer submits a rough draft of the manuscript
  • Step 2: The editor proofreads and supplies feedback within 7 days
  • Step 3: The revises the manuscript per the editor's feedback (re-loops until the manuscript is complete)
  • Step 4: The designer creates the book cover and any graphics that go into the book within 4 days
  • Step 5: The publisher uploads and/or prints the book for distribution
  • Step 6: The marketer uses the finished product for advertising and optimizes the listing for Google

This process is straightforward and gives all the professionals in the process the info they need to do their part. Everyone knows their role and how long they have to complete their task.

In other words, there’s no confusion or hiccups in productivity.

Why Use Document Workflows in Your Business

Now, there are various ways you can use document workflows to improve your workplace. As we already mentioned, you can use it in the onboarding process.

Each time you hire a new employee, the undergo the exact same process. Creating a document workflow makes sense in this case.

And this workflow can work for just about any department. The things you want to cover in your workflow include:

  • The order of steps
  • The tasks required
  • Who’s in charge of each task
  • The deadlines for the tasks

Onboarding will become much faster and easier for both managers and new hires, thanks to your organized document workflow.

Standardizing all of your document workflows is also important. Allowing employees to do what they deem fit may not be efficient for the workplace as a whole.

By giving everyone a roadmap, you can ensure everyone’s on the same page and tasks are completed in a timely and orderly fashion.

Plus, it’ll eliminate the instances of human error.

In turn, this will help to improve and optimize your company’s processes. With a documented workflow, you can track its progress and make note of any improvements needed.

Your document workflow isn’t set in stone (nor should it be). Every business is, or at least should be, evolving over time. So you’ll need a workflow that evolves with your company.

Then in the event you have a change in management or ownership, the workflows are documented and available to view and implement.

Creating an Internal and External Document Workflow

In business, the documents you process stem from both internal and external sources. Having a workflow in place to ensure everything remains on track and secure is critical.

Your document workflow should cover how documents are sent, received, shared, signed, and the like. If you’re using paper-based processes, then your workflow will be considerably slower and less secure.

You run the risk of having documents lost, misplaced, or even damaged. The best way to eliminate this issue is to use a software document management tool.

When it comes to documents that require signing, you can use a platform like eversign. Here, you can create or scan a document into the software.

Then you can email it to recipients to sign digitally. The platform tracks all of the signatures, which you can see right in your platform.

Let’s say you’re trying to create a document workflow for your onboarding process. In this case, you’ll have several documents going through the workflow.

For example, new hires will have to sign tax documents, contracts, NDAs, and any other agreements and terms necessary for new hires. Then these documents must be reviewed by the appropriate managers in order to ensure they’re accurate and fully completed.

You’ll need to have key HR personnel overlooking the onboarding document process. Make sure to detail who’s responsible for each document being signed by new hires.

You can do the same for documents signed by external parties. For instance, your clients or other businesses you collaborate with.

It’s important to have a system in place for securely sending out these documents, overseeing the signatures, and storing the documents.

This is easier when you’re using online software. This will securely store your documents and enable recipients to sign the document using either a mobile touchscreen device, mouse pad, image upload, or a pre-made signature by the platform.

With this method, you can prevent the risks associated with emailing and mailing documents with sensitive data.

The workflow for it all can look something like this:

  • Step 1: Email documents (tax forms, contracts, NDAs, payment terms, etc) to the recipient.
  • Step 2: Recipients digitally sign documents.
  • Step 3: Managers review the signed documents or reach out to those who have yet to sign after X days).
  • Step 4: Paperwork is processed and filed by human resources.

This is a pretty basic workflow, which goes to show that your document process doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the less complicated the workflow, the easier it’ll be for everyone to complete it.

When you’re using a platform like eversign, the managers can easily track the process to ensure everything’s on schedule.

Documenting Your Workflow

Once you have the document workflow you want to implement, it’s essential to document it. This will make training your managers (both new and old) on the process.

If you decide to use an online platform, then you need to document how to use it. This includes the login information and the steps to take to upload, send, and monitor and manage the documents.

Both your managers and HR department should have access to the document workflow, along with any other workflows they’re involved in.

Be sure to monitor your document workflow process to ensure it’s efficient. You may find you need to allow more time for recipients to sign.

Or you may find that it’s better to have a two-step approval process for each of the documents to prevent errors. Continue to update your processes to make them better.

Also, get feedback from your employees, managers, and others involved to see how they think the process can be improved.

To make it easier to manage all of this, you should digitize your document workflow. This will make it easier to send to your personnel.

It’s also a good idea to add visuals, screen captures, and diagrams to make it easier to understand the workflow. If necessary, you can even upload video tutorials to help explain using the necessary software to complete the process.

Quick Tips for Making Document Workflows

Now, there are several things you want to keep in mind when creating and distributing your document workflow. For instance, you want to create separate processes and procedures vs having a huge document explaining the whole job.

For example, you can have a separate document for the HR department than you do for the managers.

It’s also a good idea to have a date stamped on the top of the document so everyone knows when it was last updated. This will also help prevent usage of old, out-dated materials.

Creating Your Document Workflow

Ready to start crafting your own document workflow? Then use the above tips to get started. There are tools you can use to help with brainstorming your document process.

However you decide to create your workflow, be sure to be thorough, yet concise. You don’t want to leave any room for interpretation, nor do you want to make it overly wordy and confusing.

Make sure to ask for feedback and continue making updates to your processes.

Already have similar processes in place? Let us know in the comments how you plan, document, and manage your workflows!