With the final phase of the British summer upon us it’s easy to think of holidays and being opportunistic with taking a long weekend if the weather forecast is looking promising.

Before I lose you with my optimism, let’s pretend that I have complete faith in the accuracy of our meteorologist friends at the BBC.

For many employees, applying for leave is a laborious and inefficient task. Depending on the number of approvers and their availability, the process can take several days (assuming the paperwork makes it all the way through without being misplaced).

What this leaves our employees with is uncertainty and inflexibility (should the forecast for sun switch from Friday to Monday).

The message here is not just about a more efficient experience for employees, but the business cost of administering what is a requirement for every business.

The total opportunity cost of managing a common process like leave management can be significant. Annual leave is fortunately a right and hence a predictable activity that needs to be managed within an organisation.

Even if this process is managed with bespoke spreadsheets, if we consider the average employee has 20 days of annual leave per annum, and probably takes this across 5-6 blocks – your leave process is run 1,000 times per annum for a medium sized organisation with 200 staff. I will assume that there are no mistakes or half days requested to avoid scaring those who have not yet worked out the true business cost.

The reality is likely much worse. Even just taking a single day off requires the same overhead to gain approval and process.

Enter sick days, time off in lieu and you hopefully get my point.

Again making assumptions, but I think it’s reasonable for the process to take about 10 minutes for the initiator (fill out the form, walk to the appropriate internal contact to deliver), and for the approver(s) to pick up the form and process. It’s likely more for multiple approver stages so Ill round up the overhead to be about half an hour of lost productivity for a single leave request.

Back to the maths… 5 requests per annum x 30 minutes per request x 200 employees.

We just hit 500 hours / 12 weeks processing time for our leave management.

There is a better way!

A simple switch from paper based forms not only converges on the ideal of a paperless office but can reduce the business overhead of participating in processes.

Through automating delivery, reminders and follow-up, and reducing questions to HR about outstanding leave balances, you could realistically reduce the overhead by 2/3.

Suddenly that 8 week cost saving per annum is looking quite appetising!

Through the use of SharePoint and a workflow product like Nintex Workflow, you can achieve a rapid return on investment for your organisation.

Whilst this example focuses on leave management, the same paradigm applies to other examples like expenses, on boarding (starters/leavers), or even help desk systems.

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