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22 February 2018

Creating an onboarding workflow in 2 hours


Are you looking to improve your onboarding process? In this post, I’ll explain how to work together to set up an onboarding workflow in just two hours.

As a consultant, I often get to help organizations improve their onboarding processes. I’ve noticed that onboarding, in many cases, is organized separately for each department. IT, Facilities and HR often have their own processes and checklists. That’s a shame. A shared workflow can save a lot of hassle and takes little time to set up. My customers need just a two-hour session to make a first draft.

(By the way, do also check out this post from my colleague Martijn Poll on how to better collaborate on onboarding across Service Departments.)


Step 1 of anything should always be preparation. There are two things to keep in mind when scheduling an onboarding session:

  • Get the right people. Make sure to invite people who know the current onboarding process and are authorized to make decisions. Nothing is more annoying than hearing “I’ll have to ask” or “That’s not my decision to make” during this session.
  • Gather the required information. Ask the people you invite in advance which tasks they have regarding onboarding and what information they need for these tasks. For example: what kind of access card should someone get? Yes or no to a leased car? Which size should their workwear be?

During the onboarding workflow session

This is how I plan the session:

Question 1. Which tasks need to be performed?

At the beginning of the session we map the tasks for each department. First, I show the standard workflow below and ask: is this correct?



Example of an onboarding flow in TOPdesk

This example workflow is based on our experience at various organizations and gives a good overview of the tasks in an organization’s onboarding process. But it’s not a blueprint for all organizations, it’s more a starting point to take stock of your current setup. We discuss: which of these onboarding tasks don’t you do? And which tasks do you do but are not in the example?

Question 2. What is the duration of each task?

When we’ve identified all tasks, I ask: what is the duration of each task? It’s not about the time you need to perform your own task, but the time you need to close it. Requesting a leased car can take just five minutes, but if you know you need to wait a week for a response, the duration should be at least a week.

Question 3. Who performs which task?

We then map who needs to perform each task. In some cases, it’s enough to just name the department, but in other cases you need to be more specific. Some examples: creating a login account is something everyone at IT can do, but only a few people can assign permissions for confidential folders, and only the application manager can configure application x.

Question 4. What are the interdependencies?

The next step is to look at the order of the tasks and the interdependencies. You often see that HR first needs to create a personnel file, before other tasks can start. It is exactly this type of interdependency that makes it important to record realistic durations at question 2. When you make a tight schedule and a task at the beginning of the process is closed too late, the entire schedule is overrun.

Question 5. Which tasks are required and which are optional?

Finally, we decide which tasks are always needed in the process and which are optional. Think of things like: each new employee needs a new AD account, but not everyone gets a lease car. The list with optional tasks is used at the start of the onboarding process to discover what exactly needs to happen, so you aren’t faced with surprises later in the process.

Workflow done. What now?

If everything goes to plan, you have your workflow on paper. Now, you only need to do a couple of things to start using it.

  • Record the workflow in a central location. In Excel or a service management tool, for example.
  • Determine when you’re going to start working like this. It doesn’t really matter when you begin, as long as employees have plenty of time to prepare and ask questions.
  • Communicate the new workflow to the teams. Inform HR, Facilities and IT colleagues about the new workflow. Tell them where they can find the workflow and how they can use it, when you want to start working with it and who they can ask questions.

As you can see, creating a workflow is not that difficult. You just need to take some time to determine how to set it up. Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments!

And for some more inspiration on better onboarding (and beyond) check out consultant Wes Heemskerk's really cool guide to mapping out and improving  your service desk customer journeys.

Read the 10 steps to map your customer journey

Nienke Best

Nienke Best, Product Manager & Team leader facilities expert group