Workflow automation helps maximize your most valuable resource – your time.

This might change in the future but as of now, time is the only non-renewable resource. You may have never thought about time...

November 16, 2020
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This might change in the future but as of now, time is the only non-renewable resource. You may have never thought about time this way before – after all, it’s invisible – but, unequivocally true nonetheless. Time is the only thing in life that you can never get back once it’s gone. An 8 hour day is about a third of our day. We spend another 8hrs with friends, family, and other discretionary activities. The remaining 8hrs in our day, we spend sleeping. Shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to maximize our time spent to be closer to time well spent? At Assembly we think ‘time well spent’ is the better metric to target. 

What is workflow automation?

In order to use workflow automation properly, we first need to know what it is. Workflow automation is simply a way to eliminate as much manual transfer of data as possible in a structured and repeatable way. With automation, you define a trigger (what starts the automation process) and an action (what needs to be done after the trigger occurs). It’s that simple and can save your organization time, increase productivity, and reduce errors. 

What are the benefits of workflow automation?

Time saved and time well spent are the biggest benefits of automation. The time that is saved can be better spent on more important tasks and work. In addition to time, automation will save you significant money (directly and indirectly). Think about all the work that goes into onboarding a new employee just on day 1 alone – make sure they’ve received their hardware, have logins, talk to the right people, have access to right tools, and more. This requires not only HR’s time but also, IT, their manager, and teammates as well. That’s a lot of time spent that could be saved otherwise. 

Here’s a more exhaustive (not completely exhaustive) list of potential benefits of implementing workflow automation:

  • Reduced risk and errors
  • Improved team collaboration
  • Faster completion time
  • Increased employee efficiency
  • Decreased bottlenecks
  • Improved operational visibility
  • Greater employee accountability
  • More compliance adherence
  • Fewer lost documents

These “soft benefits” need to be taken into account when calculating the return on investment for workflow automation – along with harder and more measurable metrics, such as reduced costs, operational time, tool costs, labor costs, and productivity improvements.

Examples of workflow automation in Assembly

Workflow automation comes in all shapes, sizes, and complexity levels. It needs to because workflow automation can solve a variety of problems for organizations. For example, one on one meetings typically require lots of coordination between manager and report – with workflow automation, a “form” can automatically sent to the manager’s report just before the meeting to answer structured questions so that if and when they do meet in person, they can have a more thoughtful discussion around the most important topic that week. Now that information is stored and searchable for later discoverability should it be needed. 

Here are two specific cases of workflow automation at work:

Employee Recognition

Apploi used workflow automation to streamline their employee engagement & employee recognition program. 

“Assembly has been like a ‘snowball rolling down a hill’ for fostering engagement across our teams. One person sharing recognition is a catalyst for multiple team members to take a moment to recognize their coworkers' contributions. That simple act of reacting to a shoutout then inspires those individuals to shoutout someone else, and all of a sudden you have a series of shoutouts flowing in.”

What was once a manual process or done with much less meaning now is automated and holds more importance in their culture. Employees can now share points with one another for extra help or going above and beyond. Those points can be redeemed in Assembly for rewards of the employee’s choice. 

Daily Standup

We used to spend over an hour each morning doing a round table verbal standup where we discussed what we did yesterday, are doing today, and if we have blockers. The most important part of that was the blocker and almost always required more time. That meeting became bloated and wasted a lot of people’s time. 

We’ve now set up a workflow that is triggered every morning for everyone in the company with a structured set of questions to answer. It takes 5-10 minutes to answer and is stored in our workflow feed. Each workflow can be set up with custom participants (people who need to respond to the workflow) and viewers (people that need to see the information and have access to the content/data). 

Our daily standup workflow didn’t replace our meeting but it did make it significantly more meaningful and more efficient. What was an hour plus meeting is now 20-30min max. That’s 20 hours saved across our US team members per week.

You know you’re ready for workflow automation when…

As a company scales in people or in customers, processes that were once easily done manually can consume large amounts of time and productivity. Some signs are completely obvious while others are not. Here are some telltale signs that you’re ready for workflow automation: 

Collecting information from employees is “more work than it’s worth”

Creating and sending a form is hard enough, getting responses is even harder. There are many steps to creating and sending in the first place. Asking the right questions, finding the right tool, collecting the right emails, and so much more. Then making sure you get it sent and that those people respond can be just as much or more work than setting it up. You need to remind and pester until you collect enough data. Once you have that data, you need to be able to interpret it and do something about it or with it.

Luckily, Assembly automates who, what, when, reminders, and gives you access to review and interpret response direction in the platform. Use our workflow builder to build any form you need to collect the right information from the right people at the right time. 

Information is hard to find

This is one part lack of structure and another part lack of organization. Workflow automation isn’t necessarily the silver bullet to solve your fragmented information issues. However, if you rely on a sophisticated and structured approach to your workflow automation, it can help reduce or resolve the issue. 

For instance, we’ve all been there – a colleague months ago sent us a document or spoke in daily standup or in a meeting. We can’t for the life of us find that document or information anywhere in Slack, Google Drive, or our email. In fact, we don’t even remember where it’s stored, so we’re searching anywhere and everywhere we can only to come up empty handed. It’s likely lost to cyberspace and now we have to interrupt our colleagues' day to see if they still know where it is. Instead, in Assembly, each workflow is built with a purpose and structure to make each workflow specific and meaningful (unlike a Slack or Teams channel where anything can be shared). Assembly’s flows can be customized for 100s of use cases that fit your specific workflow needs. 

Choosing the right workflow automation tool

Organizations tend to look for tools that solve an immediate problem they have. When they have a problem, the assumption is that some software has solved it. Someone (IT, HR, Ops, etc) goes off on a hunt to find the 3-5 best. They go through a procurement process and loop in decision makers that are trying to solve that one problem. 

This can create many problems later in an organization. You end up with 10s or 100s of tools that are single solutions to problems and now you have a fragmented information system. 

While productivity, recognition, communication, or whatever the problem is of the time is a good primary reason to seek for automation, there are many department and team specific benefits as well. Choosing the right platform can extend automation to many areas of the business and not limit to the one known problem of the time. After all, organizations change week after week and month after month. New needs arise all the time. It’s better to plan for the future than to continue buying new tools for new problems. 

We recommend taking time to determine your organization’s goals and perhaps your manager’s and employee’s goals as well. It will save you more time in the end. Here’s how you can find the right workflow automation software for your business:

Talk with and listen to your employees and managers

Find out if your managers or employees are suffering from any manual processes that might be resolved by automation. Things like one on ones, daily standup, team retrospective, manager feedback, and more. 

Let them see or play with the tools you’re considering. Any workflow automation tool worth buying should enable non-technical and technical people to adopt and use the tool with ease – remember, the goal is to save time. 

Can you, employees, and managers easily create many workflows within the same platforms without navigation and information discovery becoming a problem? 

Can you easily interpret and access the data that the workflow is generating? Is the dashboard or report intuitive? 

Do the prompts and reminders encourage participation properly? 

Asking and answering questions like these before buying can save you money and time. More importantly, it can also help you get employee buy-in which matters more than you know these days. 

Customization of your workflows

User experience and employee buy-in is important. Equally important is your ability to customize workflows to match your requirements and needs. It’s wise to first understand the likely customization your teams might need from their workflow automation software. Do they need to be able to customize timezones? Do they need to be able to ask different types of questions (scale, multiple choice, etc)? Knowing the level of customization and adaptability you and your team or organization needs from automation software can help you make the most informed decision and ask the right question when you’re ready to get a demo. 

Don’t forget to consider accountability & transparency

You don’t know what you can’t see or track. If your tool or the one you’re vetting isn’t capable of tracking or storing information to make it readily accessible, we recommend you pass. It will do very little to enhance your company’s efficiency and accountability. 

A big part of creating accountability and transparency is to empower employees and managers with workflow automation. By empowering employees and managers, you can keep the pipeline moving and help them become more productive and efficient which compounds the value of your workflow automation tool.

Now that workflows are automated and stored in one centralized tool, all that information is readily discoverable by team members when they need it.

Nice to haves vs Must haves

Every company, department, and team has its unique needs. Doing an internal audit of each department and team can be an extremely effective discovery process to quickly identify needs. This includes interviewing and/or surveying your employees and managers to discover what processes are taking them the most time. From there, you can work together to prioritize the most important workflows. Here are a few questions that might help you isolate workflows that are ripe for automation: 

  • What systems or tools are the most costly for your team?
  • Which tools require the most manual work?
  • Are there certain things you’d automate given a technical resource?
  • What manual processes do you wish you could automate?
  • Do any workflows rely on paper or an extremely manual approach?
  • What projects do teams wish they could tackle without IT/technical assistance?
  • What projects or processes take the longest to build or complete?

Get started with Assembly workflow automation

Once you’ve completed your audit or have an idea of what you’re looking for from a workflow automation tool, you can shop for potential solutions. Start your research with Assembly today. You can browse our solution areas or get a more detailed look at the types of templates we provide out of the box (you can always build your own too). 

When you’re ready and want to learn more about how Assembly can help you and your team manage automated business processes – schedule a customized demo here.

Browse our Free Employee Recognition Guide

Get the foundational knowledge on creating an employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and helps them feel valued.

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Employee recognition guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Assembly SOC 2 compliant?

Yes, at Assembly, security is a top priority. Each quarter, we have ongoing security work that is everyone’s responsibility. While we maintain a strong security posture, it was important for us to prove to our customers that we do everything we claim to do. This led us to pursue a SOC 2 Type II report that would provide evidence of our compliance with industry gold-standard security practice.

What's the ROI for employee recognition?

There is study after study showing that employee recognition leads to increased engagement. This in return creates an environment where employees are happier and more motivated which increase productivity and reduces voluntary turnover significantly. In order to filled critical roles, companies tend to spend nearly twice the value of an annual salary. Assembly is an investment in your employees that supports your bottom line.

Does Assembly offer longer-term contracts?

Yes, we will offer contracts for companies with longer-term agreements to help larger customers have more certainty around future costs.

The minimum agreement term is a 12-month subscription.

Does Assembly offer onboarding support?

We do! Any new customer needing further support to get started with Assembly to ensure you're set up for success can request custom onboarding support. These one-time services start at $5,000. Improving your employee experience is about much more than just using our amazing software; it’s about transforming your business to create a workplace that people love. That’s much easier to do with the personal support and advice from our passionate people experts.

Is there a free version of Assembly?

Yes. We offer a completely free plan for up to 50 team members. This plan is intended for teams or organizations that are looking to get started with an employee engagement tool. Keep in mind, this plan is limited in features.

All customers can open an Assembly account for free and get started without a credit card. Then you can change plans as necessary.

How much do rewards cost?

At the time of redemption (when your employees exchange their points for a paid reward) you'll pay face value. If a reward is a $10 Amazon gift card, your cost will be $10. All paid rewards are billed for on a monthly basis.

The good news is that you don't have to pay for rewards upfront because we only charge you when points are redeemed, not when they're earned.

Does Assembly offer discounts?

We offer discounts or educational or charitable organizations. In order to secure a discount, you'll first need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

For all other organizations, we are willing to consider longer-term agreements in exchange for discounts. To set up annual plans or longer, you will need to book a demo with a customer support specialist.

How do I cancel my plan if needed?

If you're on a month to month plan, you can go here and cancel anytime. If you're having concerns or need help setting up your account for success, you can always book a demo with a customer support specialist.

If you're on a longer-term custom plan, you'll need to reach out to your customer support specialist to cancel your account or email us at support@joinassembly.com.

What customizations are available?

Great question! You can customize your core values to match your organization's to boost and track alignment. You can change your currency from the 🏆 emoji (our default) to any emoji of your choice. You can swap our logo for your own. You can also set up company culture rewards such as, "Lunch with the CEO," "Buy a book on us," and so much more!

Who can give or receive recognition?

While we recommend a peer to peer set up where anyone in your organization can give or receive recognition, you can set up Assembly however you want. If you need to limit the people who can give or receive recognition, that's perfectly fine and can be done from your Admin, here.

What integrations are available?

Assembly connects to the tools your employees use every day to offer an easy, seamless experience with minimal change management.  

Assembly has integrations with HCM/HRIS systems like ADP, Google, Office 365, and Slack. We also integrate with communication tools like Slack and Teams so you and your employees can access Assembly wherever they work now.

What's your average adoption rate?

That depends on the company's permissions set up. That said, over 90% of the employees on Assembly's platform are recognized on a monthly basis. That means nearly every employee across all of our customers are receiving regular recognition from their peers, managers, or leadership. We're extremely proud of this.

Must rewards be set up to use Assembly?

They are not required. You can use Assembly without having rewards set up. However, we don't recommend it if you intend to have a high adoption and usage rate. You can always keep the costs down by offering internal culture rewards that are fulfilled by you internally.

Are points required to use Assembly?

No, you can remove allowances from anyone or everyone. It's up to you but we do recommend using points whether they're worth a real dollar value or not. Companies that use points have a much higher engagement rate even if those points don't exchange for real dollars.

Could find the answer you are looking for?

Please schedule time with an expert and we will help you to get all your questions answered