Before 2021, we had always processed applications manually as soon as they came in. This has never been a problem for the past decade.
Challenges presented themselves when we started getting around 40 employee & internship applications in a month, while simultaneously onboarding around 2 employees & 15 interns in a month, scattered on different dates. As a small team, this meant our admin officer was focusing on getting this done every day of the week, or delaying it.
To solve the problem, we could have hired more people to delegate work to. We could have also restricted start dates and been more rigid in the way we do things.
Before resorting to easier solutions, we agreed to find ways to eliminate unnecessary work as a team, which eventually led us to automate tasks in our workflow.
Now, our admin officer does not need an entire week, not even an entire day, to process applications and onboarding.
Some things can be automated directly, like short repetitive tasks that disrupt your workflow. However, there are also bigger processes like employee onboarding that are not as straightforward.
Before we automated our applications & onboarding (and as we keep on updating them), we continuously do 3 things: Outline, Optimize, and Outsource.
Although we had existing documentation on the work to be done, we had to take a second look if that was still what we were actually doing, and figure out how long each set of tasks took.
This is not solution-finding nor finger-pointing, but realistically looking at what we do and how much time it takes from our day. We had to ask ourselves objectively: where does our time go?
Outlining step-by-step tasks gives visibility to everyone before we start optimizing them.
Two main things happen here: eliminate some of the outlined or improve a specific way of doing things.
After outlining the process, we brainstorm and have dialogues on which part of the process to eliminate. This is a team effort. It's easier to eliminate tasks with the people doing the actual work as they are the ones feeling the pain.
On the day-to-day of getting things done, it's not often that everyone gets to see the complete picture. This is an opportunity to examine, reflect, and retrospect on that. It's also easier to come to an agreement when everyone is aligned with what we want to optimize for as a team.
Before we automate & while we automate, there are some things that we have to remind ourselves:
Not all work can be automated. These are things that usually require the intervention of people that are external to the team.
Not all work needs to be automated. It was important for us to not automate tasks that are required to foster connection. Doing meaningful work and building meaningful relationships is still part of our core as a team.
There will always be work to automate. Although we have existing automation, we still explore a new way of doing things. We don't let our automated processes hinder us from optimizing.
In these scenarios, we still use automation in a certain way. We use it to create triggers for the next step of work with actions being done by the people in charge. For example: as soon as a new hire specifies a start date, we automatically send a calendar invite for the onboarding call to happen.
We are a team full of developers & designers, but we were able to automate our workflow with no development work.
We used off-the-shelf solutions like automate.io & Zapier and these tools became the medium in which all our other tools communicate. Now, automating tasks has been part of our workflow to get more things done.
Eventually, this workflow will be integrated into the systems we've custom-built for ourselves.
*Figure 1. The automated message the admin gets every time an intern applies.*
*Figure 2. This is what the automation commands look like which will immediately send an acceptance email to a qualified intern once the admin accepts.*
✅ Find ways to eliminate waste in the process, always.
✅ Technology can enable us to focus on high-impact work.
✅ We can leverage technology to have a more efficient process; our process does not need to be limited by technology.
Story by Jarrhey De la Peña, Symph's COO :)
Curious how we get each one's ideas at Symph? Read this