The constant, consistent search for perfection

Process documentation needs to include a few basic elements to be a useful management tool.

A great approach has the person who is responsible and accountable, the person who has the authority, be documented first and foremost. It’s not just having a nice flowchart with objects and arrows. You’ve got to know who is responsible for that, who can change it, and who is accountable to deliver on it.

Next, you have to define the deliverables. What is this process’s output? What do you want to come out of it? What is the time cycle of that process? How long is it going to take? How long should it take? What are you going to do to measure that? You have measurements. You’ve got to put metrics around every process and know your expectations for error rates, turnaround time cycles, number of units going through, cost, and many other different specific measurements.

Last but not least, there needs to be a way to address improvement. If you don’t have that process map and those numbers to look at on a monthly basis or weekly basis, you can’t take a good hard look at it and improve it. Whether you remove steps, change steps, add tools or try to make the process more efficient, you need to work toward improvement.

What do you get out of good process documentation? Enterprise risk management is overlooked in process. A good process is part of that, the key to building a sustainable operating and business model is to look at it holistically. You have to say to yourself, “I am managing the risk of the entire organization. What happens if I don’t do well at this basic task or if I am unable to sell more business?” You have to look at it in the totality what you are trying to do to your company.

It’s often overlooked, and in the HR services industry we find many people who just simply don’t have it, won’t invest in it or haven’t put a culture in place to say that process documentation is important or use it as a tool for all of our conversations about how to improve the business. It has to be a constant, consistent search for perfection. You have to make it part of the culture to pull out the process docs, look at them, talk about them, and look at the measurements. It has to be ingrained in the company.

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Spend dollars on what is “more right” for your customers

Spending dollars on what’s “more right” for your business and your clients is a concept that you really have to get your head around. We often get impassioned about something and, as a result, really want to spend money to improve it. The problem is, if a client isn’t willing to pay more for whatever it is you’re willing to spend that money on, then you really have to question whether there’s a better use for that money. Is there profit there?

For example, while I was sitting right there in the seat you’re probably sitting in, we needed to spend more money to ensure uptime during open enrollment and it was going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. If I had listened to my internal management team, we absolutely would have spent that money because it was a critical time for us and for our clients. A client will leave if they’re unhappy.

What happened is, I sent our field folks out to talk to the clients. We wanted to talk about contingency planning with them if this should occur even though we’re not expecting it. What we came back with was that our clients were happy with having a phone-in enrollment or a on-site enrollment should they come into a crunch time where we knew there was going to be possible responsiveness issues on the server. We looked at the costs of what that was going to be compared with the costs of upgrading our servers and it turned out we saved hundreds of thousands of dollars that way – all because we asked the right questions:
Do we need to be “more right”?
Do we need to be “more better”?

That is not good English, but it is a helpful concept for this idea.

You always want to link everything you’re going to spend to either additional revenues, retention of revenue or reduction of costs to serve, and you want to put a likelihood of the occurrence to that and then ping it against data and facts as often as possible. If you can’t do that, don’t improve it.

At Cognet, when we engage with the client and look at processes, etc., we always link the work we are doing to one of these things:
Are we helping improve revenue? It may be a new product or service.
Are we helping with retention? It may be a quality issue.
Are we just helping with the cost to serve? – Are we lowering it so you can spend dollars somewhere else.

And if we can’t link it to that thing, we don’t do the work. That’s how important it is to us; that’s how important it should be to you.

How does CogNet help HR services deliver client value?

Cognet delivers value in many ways. I think one of the biggest ways we do it is that my partners and I have personally walked in your shoes. For the last 20 years I have been an executive in the PEO space and the broader HR space in general. So I think our understanding – a keen understanding – of what you go through in a day helps tremendously. How we run the business, what we offer and how flexible we are to your needs are all qualities driven by that understanding.

In terms of Cognet specifically, we have a highly educated workforce that is very process driven. More importantly we do things the client’s way. That flexibility means not questioning you or making you fit into what we think the way you should be and that definitely is a plus for small business owners.

An example of that is we had a client who wanted us to do a data entry job where we were populating disparate systems, something many of you are probably familiar with. But what we noticed while we were doing that is that we were populating disparate systems off of different forms and the data was different on those forms. So we went into analyzing it for a little bit and then came up with a solution of how we could scrub the data before we actually input it. That actually solved the problem. It wasn’t a data entry problem at all. The problem was that the data going in was wrong. So even though at the end of the day on that one it was less work to Cognet on that particular function, we solved the root cause. We earned business from that client on many other processes and it was win-win for everybody.

Our value is that we understand the space, we are very flexible to what you need to do. In all cases we do it cheaper and in many cases we can do it better. So let us help you with that.