It is quite extraordinary how often a small change of approach could have a major impact on the way an organisation operates.
A few years ago I was engaged by a multinational bank which had a rather urgent problem. An external audit had found that their employee exit procedure was… inadequate, to put it mildly. The previous calendar year had seen a number of instances where employees had been terminated (read fired) and still had remote dial-up access to the bank’s systems for up to two days after!
It goes without saying the bank viewed this failure very seriously indeed. Disgruntled ex-employees had access to sensitive and confidential customer information for a number of days after they’d been walked off the premises. It was blind luck that had kept them out of the newspapers.
After a review of their business process we found one rather glaring deficiency. Here’s how the ‘as is’ process worked. See if you can spot the problem.
After giving the employee notice of termination, the employee was accompanied to the bank’s human resources department for an exit interview. On conclusion of the interview, the (now ex-) employee was asked to hand in their access card, and escorted off the premises by security.
After the employee had left, HR would complete a set of paper forms (seven pages long), put it in a manila envelope and send it to IT via internal mail. Once IT had done their part, they’d tick the first item on the checklist (the seven page form’s coversheet) and send it off to another department (probably payroll, or property) for further processing. And so on and so forth. In all, that manila envelope had eleven stops to make before ending up back at HR, where they could file it and forget.
It would be overstating it to say we were surprised at the way their process worked, but we thought we saw room for improvement. On further discussion, it emerged the bank had a fixed policy that all things legal had to operate off the back of a physical piece of (signed) paper.
After many conversations and reviews with their internal audit team and management, they agreed to trial an electronic approach to processing their employee terminations.
The results were spectacular. From start to finish, their employee exit process went from an average of 18 business hours (just over two business days) to 32 minutes. No-one was working any harder, but the huge gain in efficiency could be attributed to three simple factors:
Going electronic: Going electronic accounted for about 35% of the efficiency gain. It goes without saying that routing tasks electronically would make them arrive a lot faster than delivering them in hard copy.
Automation: A number of steps were equivalent to simple data entry tasks, and were automated. This accounted for about 20% of their efficiency gain.
Asynchronous processing: The biggest contributing factor, responsible for 45% of the efficiency gain, was caused by the fact that the eleven employee exit tasks could all be completed at the same time. Instead of providing them with the electronic equivalent of a manila envelope – which would require the tasks to happen in sequence, one after the other – we delivered all eleven tasks to their rightful departments at the same time, and they were completed concurrently.
The bank ended up with a process which completed while the exit interview was still in progress. Human Resources submitted an “initiate exit interview” task, which was immediately delivered to all the relevant departments then, as the interview continued, HR could see which tasks had been completed, as they were completed.
It is important to note our solution was not only a technical one. The conversations we were able to have as process consultants helped management (and audit) recognise the value of an electronic approach in the first place.

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