Get rid of the nitty gritty: Automate the little things for big savings

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This article was shared by MOZ.

What you do a million times because it’s easy is a million moments you could have used for something else. The same goes for your employees. If you pick one small thing you do a million times and optimize it with automation, you’ll gain time for yourself and your team.

When I discovered Zapier, my mind was absolutely blown. I used it to automate everything from people being unable to get into our 24/7 access door to creating an entirely automated screening process for new hires. In this article, I’ll give you four concrete things I’ve done to help people excited about using Zapier:

  • schedule confirmation

  • message reminders

  • application automation

It can seem daunting at first, but if you start small, you’ll begin to see many more possibilities. And remember: Spending time on automation now leads to greater productivity and less stress later.

Zapier is a tool that helps you automate tasks between web apps. Our automatic workflows—which we call Zaps—send information from one app to another so you can stop worrying about copying and pasting and focus on more meaningful work. Check out this Zapier demo to learn more about how it works.

Take the first step: Automate something small

Learning new software can be intimidating, and learning one that can make all the software you already know come together in new ways is outright scary. Start small: is there one silly nagging thing you wish you didn’t have to do? Automate it.

Confirm a scheduled appointment

I started with confirming appointments in Calendly. In the bottom of my signature, I have a link for people to schedule a 30-minute phone or video appointment. It saves so much time going back and forth about scheduling, but I kept getting feedback that the scheduling party wasn’t confident it worked. Calendly sends a notice to me, but there’s no human contacting the person who booked the appointment to let them know. I used automation to fill that gap.

All I had to do was go into Zapier and add Calendly in my integrations:

An overview of a Zap showing "invitee created in Calendly" as the trigger and "send outbound email" in Email by Zapier as the action.

I set the email to send out, in my voice, from my email, that I had received their appointment request and it was scheduled! It took less than two minutes to set this up, and I’ve stopped receiving emails from people uncertain if their meeting is really booked.

Remove the mental load: Automate reminders

My human resources team has to send out a boring email twice a month: “Payroll coming! Check your staff’s hours, please!” And our head of marketing has to remind the team to submit things for our printed internal newsletter. With the click of a button, they never have to think about it again, and it still looks like they’re doing it themselves:

A screenshot of the overview of a Zap showing a Schedule by Zapier trigger for "every month" and an action of "send email in Gmail."

We pay people in our organization to get the job done well, not for taking up time with mindless tasks. It makes my employees happy, and it makes their work consistent, too.

Think big picture: Automate a process

Once you master automating the little things, you’ll start to see how automation can also improve the big things.

Take hiring new team members, for example. I love creating jobs for people, but the hiring process itself is draining. You have to review resumes, read cover letters, conduct interviews, evaluate qualifications, and more. It’s important to do right, but also takes time away from doing what you love instead.

We automated our application process by using Zapier to integrate Google Forms and the project management software Asana. Applicants apply through the form, using a secret code word we provide in the job description. The code word is our first check to see if they are thoroughly reading our information and genuinely interested in the position. If they miss it the first time, when they see us asking for it on the application, they can easily go back and look for it. Once a potential hire submits the form, we send it to a Google Sheet so Zapier can read the response.

If the applicant gets it right—and you’d be surprised how many just make something up—they are sent a competency test and added to our New Hire board in Asana so HR can monitor their process.

Our Zap also includes a delay step between the form submission and the next steps. This makes it look like humans are doing the work.

The overview of a Zap featuring a new spreadsheet row trigger and actions for Delay, Filter, Gmail, and Asana.

If they get it wrong, we politely decline them.

Zap overview featuring a new spreadsheet row trigger and actions for Delay, Filter, and Gmail.

These applicants don’t make it into our New Hire process, reducing the task and mental load for our HR manager. But because we’ve stored their information in that Google Sheet, we are able to retain their information for two years (or longer) as required by law.

Gone are the days of having to open an email, skim the application, review the resume, think about what you like and don’t like and wonder if you should schedule an interview. This system eliminates it all. We no longer do pre-screening interviews because once the competency is completed, we know if they pay close attention to detail and have the skills and experience we require. By the time we meet them, we’re usually ready to hire, and if not, we have great concrete questions to ask.

We have one more simple thing that Zapier helps with in this process. Within Asana, we have it set so the HR manager logs the stages the potential employees move through. If they mark the candidate with “Do not hire – Archive” it signals Zapier to automatically send them a personalized notice from us. The HR team doesn’t have to spend a lot of time on back-and-forth emails or cutting and pasting snippets. As soon as they place the candidate in that stage, the process is complete.

A Zap overview featuring an Asana trigger for an updated task in a project, and actions for Filter and Email by Zapier.

Now we’ve got an incredibly consistent hiring process that keeps it fair for everyone, processes that eliminate so much time and energy on all sides, and clear communication between our team and the potential hire. This helps us process hundreds of applicants efficiently and fairly, with nobody falling through the cracks!

Automate processes to improve your business

Once you get going, you’ll realize the incredible opportunities to improve processes that previously had to be handled by a human—whether yourself, a team member, or an assistant. The result is awesomely consistent business practices, happy customers, more money for you, and more money for the people that make your business run.

Take a chance on learning something new and become an efficiency superhero.

This was a guest article from Kristin Tara Horowitz, CEO of The Pad Climbing. She is always looking for creative ways to bring adventure, development, and self-confidence to more people through physical and intellectual experiences, she wants what she has learned to not be limited to those who hold it close. Want to see your work on the Zapier site? Check out our guidelines and get in touch.

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