Getting started with HR process mapping
Est. Read Time: 3 min.
It’s fair to worry that the moment you introduce the term “process mapping” into a meeting with your peers, you’ll see vacant stares, glazed eyes, and a glimmer of fear cross some faces. The idea of process design and mapping HR process workflows can be daunting, and most people are unfamiliar with how to get started. But it doesn’t need to be a scary exercise, and can be one of the most effective ways to get everyone on the same page around how a process works in HR—and how it could be better.
HR process mapping: why it matters
If you’re looking to document your processes, you’re likely starting the project for one of a few reasons:
- You’re getting ready to go through a big project to transform HR or a part of HR
- You’re new to your organization and think this is the best way to get to know how things work (you’re right!)
- Something is broken and you need to start to figure out how to fix it
- Someone (maybe even the little voice inside your head) told you it was the right thing to do
Whatever your reasoning, mapping out your processes is a great place to start any new HR project. It provides you with insight into how things happen today. Who are your actors? What are their actions? And what are the outputs of the process? This gives you a chance to explore new ways of working—finding a new path from A to B that may provide an opportunity to improve efficiency, effectiveness, compliance, and/or your employee experience. Whatever the goal, digging into the process can provide both you and your stakeholders a tremendous amount of insight into the right path forward.
Getting started with HR processes mapping
Many start by looking for a launchpad—Googling for process map templates or core HR processes—but the best possible way to get started is with a conversation among your team. Get everyone talking about how things work, what they like, what needs to be fixed, and how they think you can make it better—and you can bet money that everyone you ask will have an idea on how to make it better!
But which HR processes should you begin with? The core? The ancillary? If you’re not sure of the goal at hand, choose the processes that offer you the best opportunity to make an impact or provide the greatest insight into HR’s operation at your organization. For larger transformation projects, or those with an expected set of outcomes, consider building a prioritization matrix first.
Mapping your HR processes
Once you’ve identified your scope for documentation, it’s time to build. Process mapping can be made easier with a formal toolkit, if that matches the way you think. But Lucidchart and Microsoft Visio only provide you with a visual representation of the workflow—one way of looking at the process. As a companion to these visuals, it’s often easier to think things through in lists or a spreadsheet.
Step 1: Gather the right stakeholders. Start by bringing your stakeholders together: each actor along the critical path in the workflow, each recipient of some piece of data, and each downstream participant who has some skin in the game.
Step 2: List each process and its triggers. Begin the conversation and get it all out on the proverbial table. Or, better yet, into a spreadsheet. Identify the initial trigger(s) and input(s) that make the process necessary.
Step 3: List all possible steps. Create a list of all the steps people take along the way. Don’t worry about getting the precise order correct—you can always adjust things later. It’s more important to keep the conversation flowing to make sure that no one leaves out an input, output, or step of the process.
Step 4: Put the steps in order. Now, organize everyone’s thoughts by putting the steps in order, using main “must always happen” steps and secondary “might happen, depending on the condition” steps. This helps narrow down your critical path and dependencies along the way. But it’s still just a jumble of thoughts without any context or connection, right?
Step 5: Consider the facts. Once you have the steps down and everyone is aligned, start to collect some supporting data. Who or what triggers that step? What is the output of the step? Who is responsible or accountable for, consulted about, or informed by the step? Picture the process in a linear fashion and treat it like an assembly line. If a person or step is missed, the rest won’t work.
Step 6: Evaluate and refine. Run through the process a few times together and shake out the gaps by inspiring people to take ownership of their steps. Pieces they take for granted or manage by rote will surface and you can hone the documentation further until you have a finished output.
Now, whether you translate that to a set of swimlanes, build it out in an automation engine, or just use it as a reference for your playbook, you’ve mapped your process. The most important thing to remember is that it’s never complete. You should always be open to coming back to this documentation to explore new opportunities to make things stronger, better, and faster, aimed at providing a superior employee and stakeholder experience.
HR process mapping lays the necessary groundwork for process automation. In our eBook, The Key to Strategic HR: Process Automation, learn which HR processes you should start with first when introducing automation:
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About Ryan Higginson-Scott
Ryan Higginson-Scott is an accomplished innovator in the world of global people operations. With nearly 20 years experience across all HR functions, he has led diverse and award-winning teams in a broad set of industries - including higher education, corporate retail, high tech, biotech/pharma, and hospitality - always focused on enabling a powerful and rewarding employee experience. Balancing the need for process, policy and compliance, with the goals of sustainable growth and agile operational efficiency, Ryan is an advocate for continuous, data-driven feedback, and iteration on all fronts. He has shared his experience through guest contribution to well-known HR blogs and podcasts, and leads employment-related workshops with several area non-profits. He is a believer in HR disruption and a vocal proponent of any technology that seeks to reconsider not only the how, but also the why behind the way we operate in HR. Today, Ryan lives in the Boston area and leads Global HR Operations at Fuze, Inc.