HR Workflows: How to Create Effective Processes (+Examples)

HR workflows

HR transformation automates manual repetitive work involved in managing employees, tracking employment-related paperwork, and staying compliant with government labor regulations. But, as your company scales up, you’ll find yourself doing an increasing amount of HR quality management work manually, despite the fact the grueling bits have been automated away.

Otherwise, how do you validate the data your employees submit is accurate and the processes they’re following are efficient and driving business outcomes? How do organizations enable employees with the right contextual onboarding, training, and support to adopt core HR processes and achieve HCM transformation success?

Questions like these are where HR workflows come in—they help you customize your HR technology tools to fit your needs, reduce manual overhead, and simplify the HR experience for your employees and HR controllers.


What Is an HR Workflow?

HR workflows are designed to streamline and automate various HR processes, ensuring efficiency, consistency, and compliance with policies and regulations. HR workflows cover various activities throughout the employee life cycle, from recruitment and onboarding to performance management, leave management, benefits registration, time-off requests, and offboarding.

Examples of HR Workflows

The best way to understand how HR workflows function is to profile a few examples in practice.

In this section, we’ll explore real-life examples of HR workflows, breaking down the steps and processes organizations use to manage various aspects of human resources. These examples will provide a clear understanding of how different HR workflows operate in practice, offering insights into the daily routines of HR professionals and showcasing effective strategies for tasks such as onboarding, offboarding, training, and data security.

1. Recruitment and onboarding

Recruitment and onboarding workflows are critical to the employee life cycle, starting from the moment an employee commences the application process until they’re embedded within an organization.

For instance, in the recruitment phase, workflows may begin with the creation of a job requisition and posting of job openings on various platforms (LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster). Applicant’s information is collected through an applicant tracking system (ATS), and once a candidate is selected, the workflow transitions into the employee onboarding process which includes document submission, training sessions, and company integration.

2. Offboarding

The goal of offboarding an employee after they’re dismissed is to ensure continuity, disable their access to internal systems, and conduct exit interviews (if they’re resigning voluntarily) to understand their motivation and possibly counteroffer if they’re a critical staff member.

A real-life employee offboarding scenario could start with an employee submitting a resignation notice. The workflow would then automatically inform HR, IT, and relevant managers, initiate exit interviews, implement a succession plan, and guide the employee through returning company property and completing necessary paperwork. Access to systems would be revoked systematically to maintain data security.

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3. Employee training and development

Employee training and development workflows are designed to enroll employees in relevant training programs, track their progress, and collect feedback on the training process. In practice, the process might look something like this: after an employee expresses interest in professional development, they might get suggestions for best-fit courses to complete or even be enrolled after automatically after a HR decision maker signs off.

4. Payroll processing

Payroll processing workflows involve calculating and distributing employee salaries and benefits. To execute them, the HR department needs to review submitted time sheets, approve attendance records, and verify tax deductions and contributions. This ensures compliance with labor laws and payroll schedules, reduces errors and ensures employees are paid on time.

5. Leave and absence management

A typical leave management workflow would start with an employee submitting a leave request to HR via email or a designated absence management tool. They specify the type of leave  (vacation, sick leave, maternity, etc.), date and duration, and attach any necessary supporting documents (medical statements, if applicable).

The responsible HR decision maker gets notified (automatically), reviews the request and either approves or denies as necessary. Then, they notify the employee on the status of their leave request, and explain their decision and any retroactive changes they made (e.g., if the employee’s department would need them on short notice, they might be asked to stay on-call for overtime pay).

Moving forward, preset integrations with the team’s calendar may adjust forthcoming meetings and tasks to reflect the employee’s absence, while payroll will record the absence to ensure accurate calculations of paid and unpaid leave.

6. Performance reviews

Performance reviews are often a major challenge for HR teams. Workflows have been built using HCM systems, but since end-user employees and people managers only go through this process one or two times a year, they often forget how to complete their performance review – or do so incorrectly. This leads to poor workforce performance data that slows down yearly raises, budgeting, and other people-related issues.

HR Workflow Challenges

While HR workflows using HCM and HRIS systems are designed to empower employees and automate manual processes, often they are poorly adopted due to a variety of reasons. This includes challenges such as:

1. Inefficient process integration

For the best outcomes, you need to integrate your disparate HR processes and build if-then workflows that automatically trigger once a specific condition is met. For instance, you can use tools like Zapier or even custom scripts to automatically:

  • Invite new hires to your company’s Slack once they complete the onboarding process
  • Initiate the offboarding workflow, disable an employee’s access to internal tools, company-owned hardware, and send an automated message to relevant stakeholders (IT, HR, Security) to verify.
  • Send out a recognition message via email/Slack and offer a gift card on an employee’s anniversary.
  • Set up an exit interview when an employee submits their resignation.
  • Send workers reminders to get recertified (if their certification lapses) and restrict access to sensitive tools until they comply.

Integrating these processes eliminates thousands of hours of repetitive manual work and helps HR managers focus on rare edge cases. So, if they’re not in place, you might be unable to deliver the employee-friendly experience you desire, not to mention the financial and legal liabilities your organization might face if some compliance task falls through the cracks.

2. Enabling HR tech end-users with contextual onboarding and training

HR technology platforms like Lattice, Gusto, Workable, and Rippling eliminate repetitive work involved in most HR workflows—they’re designed to be employee self-service portals by default so that employees can navigate the onboarding process, enroll their personal details, and manage their internal data from an employee portal.

But, depending on your employees’ level of technology savvy and the intuitiveness of your HR platform, they might face a steep learning curve trying to navigate the application UX.

As such, you’ll need contextual cues, in-app guidance, and job aids to highlight UI elements, validate form field entries, walk end-users through complex processes, explain why a user might be encountering an error prompt, or just walk them through your self-serve HR platform at their own pace. Without such a solution, your employees will have to rely on guesswork for confusing tasks and you might have to verify details and correct them in the backend manually.

With a digital adoption platform (DAP) like Whatfix, enable your end-user employees, people managers, and HR admins to fully adopt HR workflows with in-app guidance.


Provide contextual end-user HCM onboarding with in-app Tours, Task Lists, and Flows to help them quickly understand how to set up their profile and accomplish core tasks like requesting time-off or updating personal beneficiaries. Provide real-time support with Smart Tips, Pop-Ups, and more to make company announcements, remind employees of deadlines like benefits registration, and nudge HCM end-users to take specific action like completing a performance review.

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3. Providing moment-of-need support

Employees will require real-time end-user support for complicated processes that are done infrequently – or for just a little support at key moments in processes. Maybe they encounter issues with their company-issued device, or have questions about company policies, such as leave policies, code of conduct, or remote work guidelines; or, perhaps there’s a significant safety concern or a security issue.

As your organization scales, these issues might grow from coming up once every couple of months to several instances a week. Consequently, you need to have mechanisms that can address these concerns promptly or at least allow workers to access self-help resources at their own pace.

A digital adoption platform (DAP) like Whatfix, enables employees with in-app support with Self Help. Self Help automatically crawls your internal wikis, SOPs, training, and onboarding resources, HR process docs, company policies, and more, curating them into one searchable resource center that overlays your digital workplace’s applications and provides real-time support.

4. Handling employee data securely

HR departments collect lots of sensitive employee information that can be misused if they’re accessed by bad actors, such as:

  • Biodata and demographics: Name, date of birth, gender, address.
  • Employment Information: Job title, department, hire date, employment status (full-time, part-time, temporary, etc.), employment type (permanent, contract, etc.), work location.
  • Financial details: Bank account numbers, SSNs, non-disclosure agreements, tax form (W-4, W-2, etc.)
  • Compensation and Benefits: Salary/wages, bonuses, benefits information (health insurance, retirement plans, etc.), deductions (taxes, insurance premiums, etc.), and allowances.

Most of these data types are covered under regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), GDPR, and California’s Consumer Privacy Act that regulates the collection, use, storage, and disposal of personal information and stipulates fines and penalties for their misuse.

5. Adapting to remote work dynamics

When all your employees are working out of a physical office, it’s easier to onboard them in person, collect their personal data, ensure they have the learning and development resources they need to succeed, and track their historical performance.

But, a remote-first culture where everything is done via Zoom/Slack changes the dynamics for a lot of those interactions.

For instance:

  • Remote work blurs the lines between work and personal life, leading to burnout and stress.
  • Ensuring compliance becomes significantly more complicated when you have employees/contractors based across the globe whose home countries might have confusing, conflicting labor regulations that you might violate without even knowing it. Likewise, you might need to offer your international employees localized benefits and pay them in their local currency, which will require entirely new workflows to accommodate.
  • You’ll need to redesign your asset management workflow and find a way to issue devices to remote/hybrid employees, help them get setup, and recover your devices after they resign or are terminated.

How To Design Effective HR Workflows

Designing effective HR workflows is more of an ongoing, iterative process than a task you check off a list: your goal should be to take stock of your existing HR infrastructure, discover opportunities to automate repetitive, manual tasks, and use contextual guidance tools to coach your end-users as they navigate your HR technology tools.

1. Understand and map current processes

Your workflow redesign efforts need to start by documenting existing processes, identifying key stakeholders, steps, and pain points, and appraising the processes in question to determine whether they’re fulfilling their objectives successfully.

2. Define clear objectives

Next, you need to define the problems you’re trying to solve, such as improving efficiency, onboarding new hires faster, eliminating hiccups from your payroll process, or ensuring you’re in compliance with relevant regulations. Specifying these objectives will help you align your organization’s day-to-day operations with these internal policy changes.

3. Leverage automation

At the process mapping stage, you’d have observed numerous opportunities for automation within your HR setup. For instance, you might be looking to—

  • Streamline the applicant tracking process from end-to-end so that recruiters can post job ads to multiple platforms with a few clicks, send automated responses to applicants, and schedule interviews on autopilot.
  • Generate automated performance reports and enroll employees in performance improvement plans once their internal ratings fall beneath certain benchmarks.
  • Automatically enroll employees for benefits upon employment.
  • Calculate and deduct taxes and other withholdings and issue compliant electronic pay stubs.

—all on autopilot. In many cases, all you’ll need to do is connect different software platforms in your stack using their native integrations. In some others, you might need to build custom connectors using APIs from across your HR stack.

4. Create documentation and SOPs

For each HR workflow that requires direct human input, you need to develop detailed process documentation and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that outline the steps, roles, responsibilities, and decision points for the process in question. Organize and store these documents in a company intranet or internal wiki. Enterprise companies can enable their digital workforce with in-app support tools like Whatfix to create frictionless employee experiences and drive HR business outcomes.

5. Provide contextual guidance

The goal of contextual guidance is to gently nudge users towards useful features, help them navigate your HR processes, and intuitively communicate the next step to take at every stage of their interaction with your HR workflows. To achieve that, there are several tools and tactics you can use with a DAP like Whatfix, including:

  • UI tooltips that provide brief explanations or hints when users hover over certain elements.
  • Interactive UX hotspots on the user interface that highlight key features or actions.
  • Progress indicators to show users where they are in the onboarding process.
  • Contextually relevant buttons that explain what they’re supposed to help the user achieve. For example, if they are setting up their profile, have a button that says “Edit Profile” or “Add Photo.”
  • Guided product tours that walk users through the major features of the HR system, highlight important features with interactive walkthroughs, and explain their significance in the onboarding process.
  • Inline validation messages/error prompts with Field Validation
  • Interactive help widgets that offer context-specific guidance, links to tutorials, or FAQs related to the current task.
  • Animated tutorials that visually demonstrate how to perform specific actions or navigate through the HR system effectively.
  • Smart in-app notifications that alert users to important updates, deadlines, or new features. These notifications can also include links to relevant resources or training materials.

Instead of bombarding new hires with information and having them read endless pages of boring SOPs, contextual guidance builds the knowledge they need to know into their HR interactions. That way, your employees can learn on a need-to-know basis without feeling overwhelmed – providing anytime performance support.

6. Implement a pilot and gather feedback

A pilot program will help you test out your newly designed HR workflows with a limited subset of your workforce so you can observe it in real time, and understand how effective it is and how it affects your employees’ productivity.

At the implementation stage, you need to:

  • Choose a diverse and representative group of users to participate in the pilot. This group should include individuals from different departments, roles, and levels within the organization.
  • Explain the changes being introduced, the expected duration of the pilot, and the specific tasks or processes that will be affected.
  • Conduct training sessions to familiarize users with the new features and workflows.
  • Regularly monitor the progress of the pilot by tracking user interactions with the system.
  • Encourage participants to provide real-time end-user feedback during the pilot. This can be facilitated through a digital adoption platform (DAP) like Whatfix, which builds in-app surveys to collect end-user feedback with multiple feedback templates across formats like NPS, post-training surveys, new feature requests, and more.
  • Act promptly to address any issues or challenges identified during the pilot. This might involve bug fixes, clarifications in training materials, or adjustments to the workflow based on user feedback.

7. Track end-user behavior and usage to identify areas of HR workflow friction

Our fourth point under “Implement a pilot and gather feedback” demands that you track your HR workflow pilot program throughout its lifetime to understand how it handles in a sandbox environment.

More than that, you need to keep collecting quantitative feedback even after you roll out these HR workflows to the rest of your workforce, in order to ensure you smoothen out any rough edges that might cause friction.

  • Develop structured surveys to gather feedback from your employees. Include questions about the ease of use, perceived value, and any difficulties encountered. Use rating scales and open-ended questions to get better answers.
  • Conduct one-on-one interviews with employees (especially after onboarding and during offboarding) to delve deeper into their experiences. Ask about specific pain points, areas of improvement, and suggestions for enhancements.
  • Analyze end-user behavioral data and patterns to understand how users are interacting with your HR systems and their contextual processes. Identify areas where users may be struggling or where they are particularly engaged. Combine this data with your qualitative end-user feedback to validate and test critical HR process friction points.
  • Compare key metrics from the enhanced workflows with baseline data from the previous workflow. Look for improvements (or declines) in efficiency, user satisfaction, and any other relevant performance indicators.
  • Use the gathered feedback to iterate and refine the HR workflows. Implement changes that address user concerns and enhance the overall experience.
  • Document all feedback, insights, and changes made during the pilot. This documentation will be valuable for future reference and can inform decision-making for broader implementation.
  • Continue HR workflow optimization through end-user feedback and behavioral data, and build a data-driven improvement plan for your HCM and HRIS processes to drive productivity.

With Whatfix, organizations can monitor end-user behavior across internal applications, including HCM, CRM, and ERP systems to identify friction areas, map optimal workflows, test new processes, and more. Use Whatfix’s in-app surveys to collect end-user feedback to combine with your end-user usage data to create optimal technology experiences and processes that enable your employees.

Drive HR technology adoption and enable end-users with Whatfix’s end-user analytics, contextual in-app guidance, and moment-of-need support

Ultimately, most HR technology tools are as challenging to master as they’re effective—their most transformational features have a steep learning curve that might take some learning and getting used to. Otherwise, you might use them for years without maximizing your ROI.

That’s where Whatfix comes in: Whatfix acts as a second brain for enterprise software tools and helps your users navigate learning curves faster and get the help they need on-demand with contextual in- app guidance. On your end, Whatfix Analytics gives you an unfiltered overview of how your users interact with your HR technology tools so you can strategize and resign your HR workflows to work as intuitively as possible. Use this as a flywheel to continuously improve your technology workflows to create better employee experiences to enable end-users and drive HR business outcomes.

To learn more about Whatfix, schedule a free demo with us today!

What Is Whatfix?
Whatfix is a digital adoption platform that provides organizations with a no-code editor to create in-app guidance on any application that looks 100% native. With Whatfix, create interactive walkthroughs, product tours, task lists, smart tips, field validation, self-help wikis, hotspots, and more. Understand how users are engaging with your applications with advanced product analytics.
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