For everything that needs to be achieved in an organisation, someone must say yes to it. 

 This could be everything from having the organisation’s annual budget approved by the board, to the processes involved from when an idea is hatched to when the finished product is released in the market.

 A good number of HR functions need approvals too, and many times, from people in other departments. 

What’s an approval workflow?

An approval workflow is an identified set of sequential tasks that help to complete a process. Each task allows other actors or approvers to share their input before the process is concluded.

In creating a workflow, it’s essential to specify what the goal is, break down the steps and tasks involved, identify everyone whose input is required, and of course, inform your team about the workflow so they can start to use it.

For example, a leave management workflow might have the following steps:

  1. Employee applies for leave.
  2. Manager approves/rejects leave application.
  3. On approval, the leave request is routed to the HR manager for final approval/rejection.
  4. The employee receives word on the final decision taken.

 How a business manages its approval workflow process determines how efficient its operations would be. Unfortunately, the approval processes in most companies are manual, meaning that HR functions might be slowed down or entirely stalled because a document is awaiting the signature/approval of a critical approver or because important information has been lost in countless email threads.

 However, with a defined and automated approval workflow, your organisation can standardise the processes around approval, ensure quality control, transparency, and speedy resolution of tasks across different HR functions.

What is an Automated Approval Workflow?

An automated approval workflow uses software to manage the identified approval process on a function or task. It ensures that tasks can follow a laid out sequence and help to give final approval on an action. By using an automated approval workflow, HR processes can be sped up, improved, and optimised.

With HR software like SeamlessHRMS, the HR unit can create approval workflows that automate recurring HR processes. The software can also remind approvers that a task is nearing its deadline or has become overdue. 

Disadvantages of Manual Approval Processes 

Manual approval management comes with a lot of inefficiencies. Unlike automated workflows, manual workflows do not have consolidated data storage. Instead, data is stored in different cabinets and file rooms, which can affect the effectiveness of a workflow, as HR professionals and others involved in the approval process have to make an extra effort to get the information they need to make decisions. 

 Alternatively, manual work processes can be managed using emails. This can be equally confusing and laborious for users.  Approval emails can pass unnoticed in the inbox, and email threads could confuse people who struggle to recollect the last action on the item and what the next step should be. Of course, approvers might even forget to review the approval request as they go about other pressing work activities.

 Other disadvantages of a manual approval workflow include:

1. Delay on tasks

Manually managing workflows creates many opportunities for delays, causing some tasks to slow down, stay undone, or remain forgotten.

Files or documents could get missing, approvers might forget to review the approval request, and several things could happen to slow down the process.

2. Work is disorganised

Organising paperwork, especially in larger companies, can be tedious, as documents stored like this are prone to damage, take up a lot of space, and make it problematic to retrieve information and historical HR data. 

3. Lack of security

Paperwork is more prone to physical damage and destruction than data saved on cloud-based software. Data hosted on physical paper and files are additionally vulnerable to alterations, making it challenging to manage an audit trail.

How Automated Workflows Improve Your HR Processes

 Below are some advantages of an automated approval workflow:

1. No paperwork 

Not dealing with paperwork is one of the most significant relief for HR departments that use an automated approval system.

2. Faster processes

One pitfall of the manual approval process is the lag due to redundancies. Redundancies refer to any steps in the working process of any structure that don’t contribute functionally or do not have to exist.

Redundancies could be steps in a process that offer the same result, yet are positioned at different areas of the workflow, leading to an inefficient use of time.

One example is the repetition of information to the person who takes on the next step in the approval workflow. Having to call or meet with the approver to give context on the action can slow down the process. 

With an automated workflow system, all of the actors can see the relevant information and context about the request/task, making it easier for them to do the needful without having to call anyone else.

As items move more quickly and freely within the workflow, work picks up speed.

3. Lower costs

One of the hidden costs of a manual workflow system is the use of paper. Paper is costly, and processing documents physically could be more expensive when the office factors in the ink used, hardware and effort, especially as various teams or office branches would need copies of forms to collect information. 

In direct contrast, using an automated approval system on an HR software like SeamlessHRMS means that users would only encounter online forms, usually hosted on the cloud, which anyone can fill from anywhere. By eliminating the need for printing several copies of a document, the automated approval system requires less paper and cuts cost.

4. Offers better coordination for remote work

An automated approval system is the perfect solution for approving your HR processes if your organisation works remotely. As business practices tilt more towards remote options, some of your colleagues will likely not be physically available.

 Processes such as hiring, confirmation, payroll management, disciplinary management, contract signing, performance management, etc. are better organised with an automated approval system.  

5. Makes work more organised

With an automated workflow to manage HR tasks, it’s easier for the initiator of the task and others involved to keep tabs and manage the process. 

Information relevant to the task is available in one place, and keeping on top of deadlines is easier, as the system sends notifications and email reminders at specific times and to the people involved, so there’s no need to do that manually. 

6. Improves scalability

As companies get bigger and employee size grows, the number of HR processes to be handled also grows in size and complexity.

This can stretch out your human resources department as it would become increasingly challenging to manage the approvals around HR-related processes for the growing number of employees.

With an automated approval system, more requests or an increased demand make no difference.

7. Helps with tracking and transparency

With a manual workflow, the initiator of the request or process would have to call, request meetings or send messages to other approvers to find out what the status of the task is. 

However, with an automated system, it’s easier to track the status of items, as the system logs every action taken on the task, showing what’s happening, where the bottleneck is, and what might be pending.

Additionally, this helps for transparency and accountability, because actions cannot be falsified, helping with quality assurance, and to minimise the probability of fraud or slowed processes.

8. Supports compliance

Using an automated system makes it easier to ensure company wide compliance to policies and even government regulations as touching certain HR processes.

9. Allows HR to focus on strategic tasks

With recurring tasks existing across various HR processes, using an automated system helps HR to free up their time so they can maximise their time and focus on more strategic tasks.


Automated approval processes are invaluable if your organisation wants to be run more effectively and remove bottlenecks in its operations.

SeamlessHRMS gives users access to HR software that offers an employee self service portal and automated approval workflow across various HR processes – two things that help the HR department save precious time.

Ready to take your organisation from outdated approval processes to a more innovative approach? Talk to us.