6 ROI-driving reasons to automate off-cycle approvals

By Published On: June 26, 2024

You may imagine that off-cycle adjustments don’t happen frequently enough to merit automation. But you already know how much effort goes into the approval process for promotions, internal job changes, salary adjustments, bonuses, and other ad hoc changes. You might be surprised at just how much time (and money) you can save by streamlining these processes, and you’ll assure fewer errors, greater transparency, and better compliance with internal and external governance at the same time.

Traditional approvals are slow and unwieldy

For most companies, off-cycle approval processes remain manual and paper-based. A manager submits a form to human resources to review and pass through the chain of command. It’s slow. No one knows where it got lost or stuck. Requests can languish for days or weeks in an inbox before you start to hunt down the problem.

Automation drives benefits for everyone

Taking the approval process online and automating your workflows delivers advantages across HR and the whole organization:

  1. Greater speed and efficiency: Automation significantly reduces the time it takes for approval requests to move through your required steps. Digitally triggered notifications and reminders keep the process keeps moving forward and alert you to any delays.
  2. Improved accuracy and consistency: With your business rules in place, an automated system enforces consistency across departments, managers and cases, ensuring that all necessary information is included and that approvals follow the proper sequence. This can significantly reduce the risk of errors or omissions.
  3. Transparency across the organization: Off-cycle requests impact areas beyond HR and individual departments—automated systems help you ensure that finance professionals and executives are included in the workflow to keep budgeting and planning on track. What’s more, automated systems provide clear visibility into where a request is in the process, who is responsible for the next step, and any reasons for delays, so managers and HR can track progress in real time and respond to any queries from the employee.
  4. Streamlined communication with payroll and other systems: Your automated approval system can be readily integrated with other business systems such as payroll and HRIS platforms. That way, changes involving financial elements remain up to date across all relevant systems.
  5. Compliance and audit readiness: Armed with a clear approval trail detailing who signed off and when, you’re better prepared to demonstrate that you’re meeting compliance and regulatory guidelines. Because all approvals are documented, everything can be easily retrieved during an audit.
  6. Identifying patterns and issues: Off-cycle compensation changes should be the exception, not the rule. Reviewing the data from your automated solution can help you understand why changes are happening outside your normal review cycles, so you can spot trends such as key employees getting competitive external offers. This puts you in a better position to plan for your business and keep strategic talent in place.

What to look for in an automated off-cycle approval system

A high-performing, automated approval platform will generally support every step in the process.

  • Request form completion: A manager or HR team member can initiate the process by completing an online form. Multiple form types or a single flexible form should be available to support different requests such as salary increases, promotions, bonuses, or internal transfers.While many organizations use a Google Form or online PDF for this process, these options don’t provide automatic routing, apply business rules, or allow auditing. In some cases, corrections and updates can’t be made without starting over.
  • Intelligent routing and visibility: Once a form is submitted, it must be sent through managers, executives, and various departments for acknowledgement and approval. Automation is especially valuable for requests that involve multiple approval levels, and for providing HR with a clear view of how far a request has progressed.A well-designed approval workflow will be able to route to an individual or team—in sequence, if needed—and allow the administrator to add or remove steps as appropriate.
  • Triggered notifications and reminders: Rather than simply arriving in someone’s inbox, automated notifications should alert the next reviewer when a request is ready for them or when a form is returned to the originator for changes. If a recipient does not act within a specified time, reminders can be sent to keep the process moving.
  • Integration with payroll and HR systems: Your system should continue to reduce effort by interfacing with payroll and HR records once final approval is granted. This minimizes the risk of errors and ensures timely updates.
  • Final confirmations: Once the approval process is complete, your system should be configured to notify the originator and employee of the outcome. You might want to attach a personal message congratulating a person on a promotion or increase, too.

How to make automated off-cycle approvals work for you

Automating the off-cycle adjustment and approval process is an easy way to increase efficiency and accuracy in a fast-moving job market. This is precisely why CWS Software created DataEnvoy, a purpose-built solution for this very specific void in the compensation management process. Well-designed and providing support from initiation to payroll integration, DataEnvoy is flexible, readily configurable, and intuitive.

Leverage technology, not your overstaffed HR team, to handle these sometimes-complex workflows and free your HR pros for more thoughtful, strategic work.

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