A workflow consists of a sequence of connected steps. It is a depiction of a sequence of operations, declared as work of a person, a group of persons, an organization of staff, or one or more simple or complex mechanisms.
Whether you are embarking on a new agency management system or you have been using your current system for a number of years, it is vital that you have well defined and thoroughly document workflows. The workflows pull together your standards, procedures and all of the systems needed to sell, market and service your business.
For example: If your agency uses a separate document management system from your agency management system, then the steps for attaching and managing the documents in the document management system will be incorporated into the workflows where appropriate.
In most cases, agency staff is most concerned about the best way to get their everyday work done. It is crucial that you take the time to do real work in your systems and define the workflows for using the systems and other processes. This is the best way for your staff to know exactly how you expect them to get the work done. Each workflow should be tested by a user that does not normally do that process. Thus, if a step is missing, they will not be able to go forward until the step is defined and added to the workflow.
How do you currently train new staff members? In most agencies I don’t find a training plan or well defined and documented standards, procedures. This is your “Bible”. A new staff member with previous agency experience, can do a lot of self learning with a well defined and documented “Agency Bible”.
However, you must continually refine this document. Rules change which affect how work needs to be done or may change your agency standards. A great example of this is that the New Mexico Insurance Department recently issued new rules around the ACORD 25 (2010/05) Certificate of Insurance. The changes to the form itself and to the rules issued by the department of insurance required that my client agency review and update their standards to comply with these changes.
Additionally, your systems are likely to have changes. You and your staff should always be looking at how do I make the process leaner? You need to squeeze out as many steps and as much time in the process as possible. You need as much time as possible in each day to be interacting with your client and being the champion for your client in the marketing and claims processes.
Here is a recap of the important steps in the documenting and maintaining of your workflows:
- You need to have each workflow defined and written based on actual work as it is done in your systems.
- Have people others than those writing the documentation test each workflow. This will validate these new workflows and find identify any missed steps or errors the workflow might containin the workflow.
- Make the workflows available in electronic format to the staff.
- Review and revise workflows whenever there are changes to department of insurance rules, insurance carrier processes, system updates, etc.
- Take every opportunity to squeeze the excess out of current workflows.
I can hear some of you saying, I hire intelligent, self-starting people. They don’t need standards, procedures and workflows. People cannot read your mind on how you expect their work to be done and how you expect the agency’s client to be taken care of. If you want your office to run smoothly and you want everyone to be able to find information, use it effectively and want everyone to be able to find what they are looking for, you MUST have well defined and documented workflows. You must train your staff, communicate your expectations and let them know that these processes will be followed.
What are your questions about how to define, write or implement standards, procedures and workflows? I look forward to hearing from you.