Human error in business processes is usually caused by employees trying to take shortcuts or simply overlooking detail. It can happen just as easily to an experienced member of staff who isn’t fully focused as it can to a new employee who isn’t familiar with applications and processes to use them.
Human error in business processes can be extremely costly to organizational productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction. Anthony Macciola in this Forbes article describes three real-world stories of human error, from an accidental $900 million payment to lenders, to mailing 500,000 absentee ballots with incorrect information. Clearly the consequences of human error in the workplace can be catastrophic. But human error can cost more than just money—it can cause dangerous accidents and serious harm to people depending on the industry.
It may never be possible to completely remove human error from business processes. But businesses that utilize the latest workflow automation tools can minimize the likelihood and severity of mistakes which would have a negligible effect on their bottom line.
Common causes of human error in the workplace
One of the most common causes of human error in the workplace is a lack of instruction.
Naturally, the more information and direction we get regarding tasks, the more likely it is that we can complete them to a high standard. Therefore, one of the principal ways to reduce human error is to create structured business workflows. But even the most judicious workflows can have flaws and still be susceptible to human error.
Watch out for these common mistakes that can occur when you’re creating workflows:
1. Gaps in communication
Poor communication can cause several problems during a workflow’s lifecycle: Information can become outdated, employees aren’t on the same page, and expectations and deliverables can be unclear. Steps can fail to advance if a workflow participant does not complete their task, or does complete it but neglects the hand off to someone else to take the next step. These gaps in communication slow the overall process, generate costly errors, and impact your organization’s ability to scale the business and meet customer needs in a timely manner.
It is often the responsibility of IT teams to create business workflows. With so many employees to serve, workflows often end up being large and complex, with long and uninterrupted diagrams that look and feel daunting for end users. As workers adapt these workflows to their own team, department, or tasks, the workflows can bend or break completely. With employees approaching the same workflow in different ways, mistakes are bound to occur, and workflows can be abandoned entirely if deemed too onerous.
3. Lack of planning
As workflows become long and complex, planning plays a more important role. A poorly-planned workflow can cause key information to slip through the cracks and key stakeholders to be neglected. Poorly planned workflows can also fail to handle all possible paths a workflow may take, resulting in errors and the omission of data and steps.
4. Lack of adaptability
Many administrators focus only on the ideal of a workflow – they don’t consider what will happen if things go wrong. It becomes easy to think of a workflow as a direct path to a goal. But workflows that are created with no flexibility are more prone to human error as all possible exceptions and business conditions are not considered, leading employees to skip steps or modify as they see fit just to get their work done. A workflow should act as a unifying method for your team with exceptions handled efficiently, not as a micro-managed, entrenched structure that leaves some possibilities unaddressed and prone to error.
Reduce human error with process automation
If workers are using flawed, broken processes like those mentioned above, they have been set up to fail. Broken processes make human error more likely, and the resulting mistakes take time, effort, and money to fix.
Process automation removes many of the manual, mundane, error-prone, and time-consuming steps in traditional business processes. The result is a process that is more streamlined, more efficient, and more accurate, reducing or sometimes removing tasks that need human interaction, which will reduce the risk of human error.
A dedicated process automation platform can improve:
1. Ease of use
Process automation software provides users with a dedicated interface for building automated workflows, making processes feel less daunting and easier to manage. Features like a visual drag-and-drop interface and integration with popular business apps make simple workflows available to every member of the business. Once deployed, automation software comes alongside employees to help them with their daily tasks, making execution faster and less prone to error.
A flexible automation platform allows end users to create diverse workflows customized to their individual or departmental needs. Building a workflow step by step will allow it to shape itself around the task at hand, making it easier to use and less likely to cause mistakes.
Workflow automation software also provides automatic step progression, engaging the right people at the right time to execute the required tasks. The software communicates with all process stakeholders, leaving no room for communication oversight. Business rules can also be configured to ensure actions taken fall within prescribed parameters for each step, further minimizing human error.
By mapping their processes, users can take control of workflows from start to finish. Process mapping and management allows users to better understand, map, and manage enterprise-wide processes to drive collaboration, visibility, and accountability from within a single interface. With end-to-end control over workflows, you can dramatically remove the likelihood and severity of human error.
Remove human error without removing the human aspect
The Nintex Process Platform is designed to manage and automate business processes. With more capabilities than ever—including process discovery, process management, dynamic digital forms, advanced workflow automation, robotic process automation, document generation, and eSignature—businesses have a full toolset when it comes to managing, automating, and optimizing business workflows. This leaves less room for human error to creep in.
With human error minimized in our business processes, we can better manage risk and compliance, lower operating costs, achieve greater productivity and efficiency, and boost customer satisfaction. Automating your workflows is the first step.
Take an interactive tour of Nintex to experience the simplicity of drag-and-drop workflow automation, and how to get started yourself. For more information on how process automation can reduce human error, get in touch with Nintex today.