HR teams manage some of the most complex processes in any organization. These processes and workflows often require input or action from multiple teams or departments and often deal with sensitive information and situations.
These processes are also some of the most important in terms of overall business strategy. HR processes impact employee and candidate experiences and ensure the business has the right talent to meet its targets. That’s why every HR team needs to know about process mapping.
In this short guide, we’ll help you understand what HR process mapping is and how it can help your HR team bring clarity, accountability, and consistency to any process or workflow.
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What is HR process mapping?
HR process mapping is the documentation of the tasks, workflows, and activities that make up a process managed by the HR or People Ops team. HR process mapping provides a reference point for how a process should be carried out. An HR process map illustrates the people, data, and systems that are at work within a particular process.
7 benefits of HR process mapping
HR process mapping serves many helpful purposes, such as increasing efficiency and improving productivity. Here are seven additional key benefits of HR process mapping and documentation.
1. Ensures HR business continuity
The most important benefit of mapping HR processes is that it allows the team to continue its work in the midst of a disruption such as personnel changes. If HR processes are documented, they can be replicated to maintain harmony and ensure positive user experiences, even as team members come and go.
2. Adds accountability
When a process is documented, responsibility becomes formalized. As the process structure becomes more visible, it also becomes easier to identify the tasks and activities assigned to each task member.
3. Helps teams get more from existing apps
HR teams depend on a variety of apps, systems, and databases to manage multiple sources of information and data. Mapping processes makes it easier to see how all of the components of the existing stack work together. The process map also simplifies the creation of a process within an HRIS or low-code automation tool to help teams get more from the components of their tech stack.
Process mapping plays an especially important role in HR automation initiatives.
4. Highlights data and collaboration silos
One of the most common challenges HR teams face in managing their processes is the appearance of silos, either in terms of collaboration or data. An HR process map can highlight points in the process where data or communication fails to move between people, apps, or systems.
5. Quickly orients new hires and external stakeholders
An HR process map helps new hires and external stakeholders understand how a particular process works. These process visualizations make it easy to quickly see how the process is structured, who has accountability, and how information is exchanged throughout the flow. Sometimes called a workflow diagram, these process maps illustrate the relationships between the people, systems, data, documents, and activities that make up the process.
6. Enables process duplication
As employees depart and new hires are onboarded, an HR map protects the department’s ability to keep projects and workflows progressing seamlessly. Using the map, leaders can easily “plug in” new people and remove the employees that are no longer there, and the new people have a detailed explanation of how to accomplish tasks or projects.
In addition, once you map one process, it can be used as an HR process mapping template for other ones. This benefit is a big time saver, as HR won’t need to start from scratch each time.
7. Supports process improvement
When a person is in the midst of a process, they may not notice process inefficiencies nor see what’s causing them. A process map gives users a bird’s eye view of the process. From that perch, it’s easier to pinpoint bottlenecks and other weak points in the process. Once that happens, the issues can be handled and mitigated for future processes.
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When should you map your HR processes?
If you are trying to decide if now is the time to map your HR processes, here’s a quick checklist to review. If any of these situations sound familiar, it’s time to start mapping.
When there’s no process documentation.
Ideally, every process in your HR department will be documented. Documenting processes is an important step toward process standardization. When a process is standardized, manageability improves and it becomes easier for IT to enforce security requirements. Employee and candidate experiences also improve from the added consistency.
When not everyone understands how the process works.
Check in with the people on your team. If there are questions about how a process is supposed to work, or you find that everyone is handling the process in a different way, then it’s time to document your process. This is especially important for helping new hires get up to speed quickly.
When there’s little or no insight into process performance.
Every process needs a defined set of KPIs as well as a target outcome. If these metrics aren’t clear, or performance data isn’t currently being collected, then it’s time to map out the process. This helps clear up any ambiguity that might make it more difficult to determine how well the process is performing.
When your team is ready to automate.
Many of the tasks, activities, and workflows that make up HR processes can be automated. Automation improves response times, avoids errors, and eliminates repetitive, manual work. Before HR teams can automate a process, they need a blueprint to help identify every automation opportunity.
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How to map your HR processes
You may think mapping is a great idea, but don’t know where to begin. We’ve laid out the steps for creating a successful HR process map.
Mapping an HR process is a relatively straightforward exercise. At its core, all you need is a deep understanding of all the people, work, and information involved in the process. Then it’s just a matter of organizing those details into a visualization.
Before you get started, review how the process contributes to overall business strategy. The success of every process should be measurable and reportable. How does that work for the process you have in mind? Details like these can help resolve any points of ambiguity that you find as you build your process map.
Now that you’ve looked at the big picture, here’s how to map an HR process:
1. Define the process
The first step is to simply define your process. Give it a name and make sure it aligns with the desired result. For example, if the process you are mapping ensures that employees’ PTO is approved, then the best name for the process would be “Employee PTO approval process.” The name of the process clearly describes what the process does.
2. Identify the process boundaries
Now that you have a descriptive name for the process, determine the start point and end point of the process. These are known as process boundaries.
Using the same PTO request process example, the starting point (or trigger) will be receiving an incoming request for time off. That’s what puts the process in motion. The end result or outcome for this process will probably be to approve the PTO request or not approve the request. Anytime there are more than one possible outcomes of a process, you will need to include all of them in your process map.
3. Create a list of all tasks, activities, and workflows
Now it’s time to connect the dots between the process starting point and all possible outcomes. You can use a sheet of paper, a whiteboard, or a process visualization tool (like Miro) to start filling in the blanks.
The easiest way to do this is to imagine an incoming PTO request. Where does the request go? Who has to approve it? What are the steps to get from point A to point B?
4. List all the people, systems, and apps that impact the process
In addition to identifying all the steps in the process, you’ll need to add a layer of additional detail. This includes knowing everyone who handles the request, even if they take no action on it. For example, if an incoming PTO request is received by an HR team member who routes it to an approver but takes no other action, you want to include this step in your process map.
Also be sure to note all of the systems and apps that the request must pass through as well. If PTO requests can be submitted through multiple channels (such as a request form, email, or an HRIS), then you need to identify each of these avenues on your process map.
5. Build a first draft
Now that you have an inventory of all the components of your process, you can now build your first draft. You can use the same tools you did in Step 3.
6. Review the draft with your team
Even if you are familiar with the process, it’s a good idea to invite input from everyone impacted by the process. This will help avoid any blind spots that result from data or collaboration silos or from recent changes to the workflows. Find people who work with the process every day and ask them if you’ve missed anything.
7. Fill in gaps and make adjustments
After you’ve received feedback from all stakeholders, update your draft with new details. If there are no updates to make, move on to the next step.
8. Build a second draft
Now it’s time to review all of your work and develop the second (and almost final!) draft. Make sure every task, activity, document, and system is accounted for. You’re almost there.
9. Formalize the map with symbols (optional)
HR process maps are usually — though not always — structured using standard flowchart symbols. These symbols are used to map processes of all kinds and can help bring consistency to your process mapping work, especially if you plan to map more than one HR process. These flowchart symbols are also widely recognized and may help external stakeholders such as your IT team understand how processes flow.
10. Make the process map available
Once your process map is finalized, make sure it’s available to anyone with permission to view it. A centralized location where other process maps are kept is ideal.
HR process mapping examples
Reading about how to map an HR process is one thing, but seeing it illustrated is something else entirely. Below are examples of HR process mapping that will be familiar to most HR teams: recruitment, onboarding, and offboarding.
Recruiting is one of the most important support processes in any business. Recruiting helps the organization source the best talent and right people to build its strategy and meet its goals. Without a reliable and efficient recruitment process, positions go unfilled and employees may feel the stress of being stretched too thin.
Employee onboarding is a complex process that requires input and action from a wide range of teams and departments.This list includes talent acquisition, third party recruiters, finance, IT, payroll, legal, employee education, and benefits. Depending on the organization, it may include others as well.
When it’s time for an employee to transition out of your organization, the process needs to be well-defined and flawlessly executed to reduce anxieties and simplify the transition. Like onboarding, the offboarding process usually requires input from a wide range of stakeholders.
Build better HR processes with Pipefy
Understanding what HR process mapping is and why it’s important is a great first step to building better workflows and improving outcomes for your team. But the increasing complexity of most processes — and the increasing pressure to do more with less — means that it’s no longer enough to just understand the process.
HR teams need tools that build better employee experiences and extend the capabilities of their existing apps and systems. They also need the ability to adapt their processes and workflows quickly, without always having to send a request to the IT team.
Today, HR and IT teams need to work as co-creators to solve business problems without adding to the IT backlog. That’s what Pipefy’s low-code automation software does. Pipefy helps HR teams stay agile and lets IT teams conserve their resources.