Most organizations value employees who can think for themselves and think on their feet. But even employees who are the most independent and thorough can make mistakes. For this reason, a key focus of many training programs is training employees to follow a formal process.
While some employees may chafe under the requirement to strictly adhere to processes, these processes have numerous benefits.
Benefits of Formalized Processes
Less likely to forget. When employees follow a set process, they are much less likely to forget key steps or important items. Even something as simple as a checklist can ensure some seemingly small or insignificant item isn’t overlooked.
Audits and compliance. Many companies are subject to various audits or compliance requirements. For example, a software company may be subject to cybersecurity audits.
Having a formal process in place that every employee is required to follow can demonstrate commitment and adherence to those audit or compliance requirements.
Even companies that aren’t subject to formal audits can benefit from having formal processes, such as by mitigating the risk of legal liability for accidents in showing that it has implemented processes to avoid such incidents.
Consistency. There may very well be more than one way to complete a given task; however, having a set process in place ensures the work is done in a similar fashion each time, bringing consistent results.
Resolution of issues. Even with a great process in place, there’s always the possibility that something will go wrong. But if employees follow a set process, it will be much easier to review and troubleshoot because each step is documented.
While not all staff like working within the confines of a formal process, there are a number of advantages to having one in place. To the extent that there are deficiencies with the process that may contribute to staff dissatisfaction, these can be addressed with consistent review and iterations to keep the process up to date and consistently improving.
Simply having a process in place isn’t enough, and the work produced by following a process is only as good as the process itself. Now we’ll shift focus and discuss some best practices for creating and maintaining these processes.
There’s no need to come up with a completely unique and novel process. Take a look at what industry leaders and competitors are doing with their processes.
Additional information may be gathered through trade groups and associations. Depending on the industry, there may also be government-mandated or recommended steps or tasks to include.
Iterate. Processes can easily become stale and outdated. It’s crucial to regularly review and update, with an eye on industry changes, new technologies, experience with working through the process, customer and staff feedback, and other factors.
Incorporate metrics. Metrics are crucial to evaluating the effectiveness of any process. Metrics could include qualitative measures, such as customer satisfaction based on survey responses, and quantitative measures, such as the number of defects or the time to completion.
Metrics should be gathered both before and after the implementation of a process and continue to be measured and documented with any iterations made to the process.
Solicit 360 feedback. 360 feedback refers to input from anyone who touches a process. This includes the customers who are impacted by the process, managers who oversee it, and the staff who implement it. Soliciting feedback doesn’t necessarily mean the organization will act on the feedback.
For example, staff members might feel that processes require unnecessary steps when those steps are required for safety or some other valid reason. But soliciting feedback engages stakeholders in the process, helps increase buy-in, and can identify potential areas for improvement.
Having a process can greatly improve the quality, consistency, and efficiency of work in any organization. But the process has to be well crafted and well maintained.
By following the best practices described above, organizations can ensure the processes they put in place remain relevant and consistently improve based on changing circumstances.