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How Can Workflow Improve HR Processes?

Our Workflow Masterclass series tackles the complexities of Business Process Improvement (BPI) for different verticals. In this post,  Jon Ingham about BPI for HR processes. Jon is an independent human resources consultant who regularly makes international speaking appearances on HR topics and has published many articles and the book “Strategic Human Capital Management: Creating Value through People.”


Globalization hugely impacts how businesses operate. In the past 30 years, the benefits of globalization include a rise in competition, changes in technology, new ways of trading, new markets and different ways of consuming.

In The Harvard Business Review in 1998, David Ulrich recommended that businesses would need to respond to these changes by completely changing the role and purpose of HR in their organizations. HR would need to move from a more traditional role as a subsection within a business, mainly focusing on payroll, to the role of a strategic partner for change within the organization.

In many of the most forward-thinking organizations, this transition has been achieved, helping companies become much more prepared for a globalized world. HR is now seen as a business partner, contributing to strategy and organizational direction. A key part of its new role centers on understanding how the business can improve its processes in terms of people management.

We sat down with Jon Ingham to discuss how HR professionals can design better HR processes and positively impact their organizations.

The Basics Are Already There

In most HR departments, the basics of better processes are already there. However, too often these HR processes are unrefined and could be improved significantly. From onboarding to payroll to performance management, many HR practices are all about process.

“I very much see process design as an HR skill – not the actual process mapping so much, but most of the more difficult aspects of good process design – identifying competencies, roles and accountabilities – are very much HR activities.”

Through their day-to-day activities, most HR professionals already carry out processes, yet all too often these are ”held in their heads.” HR professionals should take the opportunity to redefine the focus of their processes and practices.

Jon Ingham provides an expert tip on HR processes.Jon was critical of the “best practice obsession” common in HR processes in recent years.

“I think there’s too much focus on best practice,” he said. “If we focus on best practice and our processes are only as good as other organizations, then there is going to be a limited opportunity to change.”

Best practice is only so useful; the HR processes that worked for other companies were designed in relation to their culture, size and organizational goals. Simply copying these won’t really deliver the kinds of results your organization specifically needs.

Jon believes that better business process design will be more strategic. And this extends to workflow. When automating workflows with Nintex, begin with your end goal. That’ll guide your design and ensure that your processes are aligned with your company.

“We should be thinking much more about best fit,” he says. “This is easy to do when we shift our focus from the activities within the processes to the outcomes and business impacts we’re trying to create. As soon as we take this more strategic mindset, it’s generally obvious which of our processes need to be improved.”

Break Processes into Bite-Sized Chunks

Although HR uses many processes, they’re often long and complicated. When HR professionals attempt to map these out, it can become incredibly time-consuming, and this is especially true with something as complex as performance management processes.

The main reason performance management can’t be improved is its size. HR uses it to support business improvement, individual improvement, development, reward, poor performance, talent management and other things. ”That’s too much,” according to Jon.

Why not break these down into bite-sized chunks?

“Start again and prioritize much more tightly what performance management needs to achieve,” he says. “In many organizations, this will be about development and improvement. Other HR processes can then be constructed to meet the objectives that performance management is no longer going to serve, such as reward.”

Test HR Processes Before You Launch Them

A major challenge of business process improvement is ensuring that the processes you have outlined actually match your real-world activities. We asked Jon what he would recommend to ensure that professionals don’t miss key steps when mapping their HR processes. His first tip is that mapping is not a ”one-person task”; instead it should be collaborative and include different colleagues’ viewpoints and diverse insights.

Once you’ve built a good map of how the HR processes are built, it’s important to test them.

“Once you’ve created a workflow in Nintex, take the time to test this ‘in the real world’ with your end users and report on problems and issues that arise,” he says.

For the sake of consistency, Jon recommends following a tried and tested methodology for mapping processes out. His approach stresses the need to clarify process objectives, principles and rules before the mapping happens. Also, make sure you’ve reviewed the competencies, roles, accountabilities and interdependencies to catch bugs during the design.

From the Top

So, where should you start? Jon’s tip for HR professionals aiming to improve their processes is to start from the top.

“This is important as often otherwise when you design an individual process you become aware of dysfunctionality further up the organization that isn’t dealt with by your own process. And unless this high-level dysfunctionality is dealt with, it means your own process can never do an effective job.”


Learn more about how Nintex can help you automate your HR processes with our powerful yet easy-to-use workflow tools and see examples of human resources processes you can automate.

Click here to try the Nintex Workflow Platform free for 30 days!



Karina Mounivong

Vice President of Nintex Global HR,  Karina Mounivong brings more than eight years of HR experience within the technology sector to her role. Karina works closely with the Nintex management team and HR peers to ensure that all employees have a fulfilling career at Nintex and prosper within the company’s collaborative work environment.

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