How to Diagram Your HR Business Processes

4 min read
  • Human Resources
  • Process Automation

Recruiting and onboarding new employees, evaluating employee performance and processing leave requests are just a few of the functions performed by a typical human resources (HR) department. All of these processes involve documents that need to be accessed and reviewed by multiple people.

Automating these traditionally manual processes can increase productivity and cut costs. However, it is vitally important to first diagram your business processes to ensure that they are as simple, logical and consistent as possible.

What is a business process diagram?

A business process diagram is a roadmap for implementation—it outlines the expected outcome of a particular process and provides a concrete starting point for automation.

Diagramming a business process:

  • Makes it possible to look at the big picture and take into account all types of potential scenarios.
  • Identifies and eliminates redundant or unnecessary steps.
  • Helps you research and understand the process so that you can see how it can be changed or improved by automation.
  • Produces a visual aid that everyone can agree on.
  • Helps you reduce upfront errors and prevent unnecessary changes down the road.

Before Girard Securities, a full-service broker/dealer, implemented an automated workflow, the firm spent three days mapping out its existing business processes on a whiteboard. “We sat down with representatives from every department to map out their processes and agree on the best way to automate them,” explains John Barragan, COO. This whiteboarding session allowed Girard to see what parts of the process could be automated and what tools would be best for the job.

There are three steps to diagramming a business process:

1. Create an initial diagram

An initial diagram is a general overview of what the stakeholders think the business process looks like. Creating this diagram requires you to sit down with stakeholders to establish the initial, high-level steps in the business process. This is the general diagram you will be modifying throughout the diagramming process.

For example, in the case of a hiring process, the stakeholders will be HR professionals and department managers. Here is an example of an initial diagram for a hiring process:


2. Gather the additional requirements and identify improvements

Gathering requirements consists of obtaining information about the business process from stakeholders, such as the HR professionals and department managers mentioned earlier.

During the requirements gathering phase, you may discover that employees don’t follow established procedures or that the current office workflow is exceedingly frustrating. You can also find out how tasks are actually completed as opposed to how they are supposed to be completed. For example, the HR assistant might be contacting the candidate’s personal references after the last interview, even though company policy states that references should be contacted after the initial call.

Answer these questions during requirements gathering:

  • What is the overall goal of the business process?
  • What triggers the start of the process?
  • What signals the end of the process?
  • What are the activities in each step and who is involved in each activity? (This includes HR  Automation professionals, employees from other departments and any external users such as job applicants.)
  • Are there any alternate steps in the process? (For example, if the department manager is on extended leave, who else can interview the candidate?)

Make sure you establish and agree on specific terminology when questioning users and have them explain ambiguous phrases.


  • “File” can mean a single document or a packet of individual documents.
  • “Sharing” a document can mean emailing it, saving it in a network folder or transporting the hard copy.

Some other commonly used terms include:

  • Bring in/store
  • Can/cannot access
  • Review
  • Receive
  • Notify
  • Process

By clarifying terminology, you’ll identify areas of improvement that might otherwise be overlooked. For example, you might find out the “review” phase of the hiring process requires an HR professional to make multiple copies of a resume and application, call stakeholders when their feedback is required and mediate between stakeholders.

After detailing every step of the HR process, ask yourself:

  • Are there any steps in the process that seem redundant?
  • Is there a certain part of the process that can be reconfigured to be more efficient?

Don’t be afraid to make changes to the current process! When Amy Johnson, Systems Administrator at Hanover County, was automating her first business process, she spent more time diagramming the process than actually creating the automated workflow. During the mapping stage she found that it is ok to change or revise current processes in order to make workflows as efficient as possible. “Sometimes you may think that the process works one way, but in reality, there are certain steps you may have skipped.”

3. Incorporate the additional requirements into the diagram

Once you’ve gathered the requirements, incorporate them into your diagram by adding more steps, deleting others and modifying existing ones. Don’t make assumptions on little things such as the format of a date field—a diagram is useless unless it is detailed, correct and comprehensive.

Show this diagram to the stakeholders and end users to make sure your diagram is accurate and complete. Revise the diagram until everyone is satisfied with the final version, but make sure that you keep the goal of the process in mind the entire time. Remember that the final diagram should achieve this goal as efficiently as possible.

The final diagram of the hiring process is much more detailed than the initial diagram:

Once you have a detailed diagram, it will be much easier to translate HR business processes into automated workflows because you’ve made sure they are efficient, straightforward and account for everyone involved.

Once you’ve diagrammed your business process, it’s time to automate it. Get your free Ultimate Guide to HR Automation.

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