Microsoft SharePoint Guide For Your HR Department: Approval Workflows

illustrated arrows connecting blocks

Want to take the busywork out of getting something approved by multiple staff members? Learn to set up an approval workflow in Microsoft SharePoint using this step-by-step guide.

Tired of tedious, repeated processes occupying your precious workday hours? You may be able to take them off your plate for good, thanks to Microsoft’s automation functionality. 

One of Microsoft SharePoint’s most useful capabilities is its workflow feature. Workflows allow you to automate tedious processes that follow simple and repeated steps. 

Whether you need to get a document approved, or request feedback, or even collect signatures, you can set it up so that Microsoft SharePoint does a majority of the work for you, so you can focus on more important matters. 

In this first installment of our Microsoft SharePoint Guides, we’ll walk you step-by-step through the process of implementing an approval workflow.

What Is An Approval Workflow And When Should You Use It?

This basic workflow allows you to get approval on a document from one or multiple parties. 

Whether it’s the latest draft of a key memo, a later iteration of marketing collateral, or some other sort of content that needs “the OK” from higher-ups and other team members, this workflow will eliminate all the tedious steps you would normally have to take to get it done.

How Does An Approval Workflow In Microsoft SharePoint Work?

The approval workflow allows you to automatically send documents for review to specific members in your organization. Upon receiving the document, they will have five options available to them:

1. Approve: This approves the document in its current state and either sends it to the next person in the workflow, or returns it to the initiator for completion if they are the last person in the workflow.

2. Reject: This rejects the document, which can end the workflow or move it to the next step, depending on how you configure it to do so (see below for instructions).

3. Cancel: This will cancel all tasks for the person currently assigned in the workflow, and then move the process to the next person in the order.

4. Request Change: This creates a new task for the person indicated. After completing the task, an email notification will go to the person whom you are requesting. If the “Request Change Form” field is left blank, then the change request will be sent to the person who started the workflow.

5. Reassign Task: This assigns the task from one person to another person.

How Do I Create An Approval Workflow In Microsoft SharePoint?

1. Create A Document Library: You start by creating a document library and naming it as needed, whether that’s related to a specific project, department, or topic.

2. Upload Documents For Approval: Next, add the documents that you will need approved.

3. Attach Approval Workflow: To attach a workflow to your newly created document library, click the “Library” tab, and select “Workflow Settings” from the ribbon.

4. Apply The Workflow: In Workflow Settings, select “This List”.

5. Add Workflow: Select “Add a workflow”.

6. Set Up Your Workflow: Under the “Add a Workflow” page, fill out the following fields:

  1. Workflow: Select the workflow template that suits your purposes — in this case, select “Approval-SharePoint 2010”
  2. Name: Name your workflow to match your document library.
  3. Task List: Select “New Task List”
  4. History List: Select “Workflow History“, or, if you want to create a new history workflow then select the “New history list“.
  5. Start Options: Configure how the workflow can be started — for a manual start, check “Allow this workflow to be manually started by an authenticated user with Edit item permissions“. To require permission to start, select “Require Manage Lists Permissions to start the Workflow“. For an automatic start, select “Creating a New Item will start this workflow“.
  6. Click “Next” to proceed.

7. Workflow Settings Page 2: Fill out the following fields to complete your workflow:

    1. List Your “Approvers”: Here you need to add all personnel from whom you will require approval for documents in this library.
    2. Order: Decide whether the approval will be handled serially (one at a time), or in a parallel fashion (all at once) among your approvers.
    3. Request: Set the message that will be sent to assigned personnel in the workflow.
    4. Due Date: You can set a due date for all tasks, if you require one.
    5. CC: You can configure the workflow to notify associated personnel when the workflow starts/ends.
    6. End: You can also configure the workflow to either end on first rejection, or on document change. That allows you to eliminate unnecessary steps, if a single rejection would mean the document needs to go back to the author.

8. Completion: Once you click “Save” on the workflow settings, an email will be automatically sent to the person to which the first task is assigned. You can track the process of the documents in the library you set up in step 1. 

How Do I Check The Status Of An Approval Workflow In Microsoft SharePoint?

1. Click the “Files” tab.

2. Click “Workflows” on the ribbon.

3. Select the “In Progress” text, listed under the title of your library & workflow.

4. Under “Approval Workflow Status“, you will see the task status of that particular item. It will show you who it is assigned to, as well as the history, detailing who has already seen the document.

Need Expert Assistance With Microsoft SharePoint?

Setting up an approval workflow doesn’t have to be complicated, but it’s OK if you’re not sure how to take advantage of everything that Microsoft SharePoint has to offer. 

Vision Computer Solutions can help:

  1. Book a Microsoft SharePoint consultation with our team.
  2. Tell us what you’re trying to achieve with Microsoft SharePoint.
  3. Let us show you how to optimize your Microsoft SharePoint processes.

Read More

What Are the Benefits of Microsoft SharePoint? 

TechTalk Detroit Podcast: What Are the Benefits of Microsoft SharePoint? 

Human Resources Automation: 3 Ways to Use SharePoint Workflows