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During a program to improve delivery effectiveness, line and project managers were surveyed to establish which activities caused them most problems. The outstanding problem related to recruitment of project resources at project start-up.

Client contracts required very fast ramp-up and the recruitment process was bureaucratic. Line managers also reported how distracting and irritating getting new employees started could be. Recruitment as such was not the problem; the issues were in getting permission to recruit, and then getting the new recruit up-to-speed quickly.

An early discovery was that a number of executive and personal assistants had their own new employee task lists on a sheet of paper in their desks, unbeknownst to the others. They had discovered that this was the only way to be sure to cover everything that had to be done and that their bosses were expecting them to make everything ‘happen’, as if by magic. On the list were tasks like: get building pass; add to payroll; get PC; allocate desk; get company LAN ID; get intranet security authorisation; get mobile phone; arrange parking space, register for new employee seminar, etc.

I ran a workshop for people who were regularly involved in tasks related to new employees. The first point of interest was how many people had to be invited.

By this time it was obvious that there was no process, just a list of unrelated tasks to be done by different departments, each requiring different approvals and managed by different people. The new employee manager had to bring everything together every time and often omitted one or two tasks resulting in hold-ups.

Using the working group for input, a dedicated small team defined a workflow for the ‘add new person’ process. This required give and take amongst the group as traditional functional lines became blurred as the process emerged, but there was quick recognition that everyone’s working lives could be improved.

Once the process was defined an executive process owner was identified and approached to be the sponsor in the executive team. The executive was advised that she would become the manager of the process and would carry the responsibility for making sure everything was done on time, regardless whether the delay occurred within her department or elsewhere. In support my team would implement a web-based workflow system that would route electronic forms as necessary by email, and would flag delays automatically.

I then presented a request to the executive to replace upwards of a dozen authorisations with one front-end executive sign-off that covered all subsequent requirements to get the new person up to speed. This appealed to the executive team because it tied in with their headcount and budget control activities.

To secure the new front-end approval the hiring manager would have to check off everything a new person would need on the approval form. This meant that everything required was identified as soon as possible instead of as late as possible. Those who had to undertake tasks could get started immediately instead of finding out the day after they were meant to deliver.

Once the workflow was defined, before we started the system build, we ran a dummy system based on manual emails.

What we did not expect was that the email system immediately took over as the de facto system, because everyone knew who was doing what and they were collaborating. The upfront approval meant they only had to wait for each other, not for managerial approvals and hold-ups that had always been the major cause of delay.

So we had a semi-automated system up and running without further effort, and at very low cost. The system monitoring tools were not there, but everything worked so much better that those involved could deal with any issues amongst themselves. The building of the web-based workflow system is another story!

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