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How to Automate Leave request and Approval process for SMEs using No-code Tools

In SMEs, time is crucial, but manual processes often hinder productivity. Automating leave requests and approvals eliminates errors and bottlenecks, addressing issues like delays, misunderstandings, and manual tracking. Automation provides a solution by bringing transparency, accuracy, and consistency to the process.

Nelson Marteleira
Designer & Nocoder

Navigating the intricate web of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) demands a vigilant eye for resource allocation and operational efficiency. It's within this dynamic landscape that we find a common yet often unaddressed challenge: managing employee time-off requests.
In the following discussion, we'll delve into the everyday importance of automating Leave requests and Approval processes for SMEs, grounded in real-world scenarios. 

Through the lens of no-code tools, you can simplify and streamline this task, saving valuable time and effort. Here, we'll uncover practical solutions that resonate with businesses genuinely seeking smoother operations without extravagant claims.

Understanding the Leave Request and Approval Automation Process

In the realm of SMEs, time is of the essence, and manual processes often hinder efficiency. Automating leave requests and their approval becomes crucial, as it eliminates the bottlenecks and potential errors associated with traditional methods. 

Challenges such as miscommunications, delays, administrative burdens, compliance risks, and even employee dissatisfaction are commonplace. Automation provides a solution by bringing transparency, accuracy, and consistency to the process.

Here are a few tasks that are commonly involved in leave request and approval processes, and how automation, through the use of no-code tools, can enhance efficiency.

How automation can improve some typically leave request tasks

📌Also read: How To Automate Field Operations For SMEs Using No-Code Tools

Exploring No-Code Tools

No-code tools have revolutionized the way SMEs operate. They simplify the process of leave requests and approval automation for SMEs by offering a user-friendly approach to integrating different applications, ensuring transparency, and reducing the risk of errors in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

  • Zapier - effortless workflow automation: Zapier connects applications without coding, automating tasks seamlessly. For instance, when an employee submits a vacation request via Google Forms, Zapier notifies the manager, initiates approval, and updates a shared calendar.
  • Make - complex workflow made easy: Make excels at handling intricate leave approval workflows. For instance, it can notify HR and managers when a vacation request is submitted via Typeform, while updating Google Sheets for tracking.
  • Microsoft Power Automate - seamless Office 365 integration: Power Automate is tailored for Office 365 users, streamlining leave’s approval. It triggers SharePoint workflows, sends Outlook notifications, and updates shared Excel files when an employee submits a request via Microsoft Forms.

Quick demo explaining how to create a Power Automate flow to seek manager approval for leave requests

Step-by-Step Guide to Automating Leave Request and Approval

10 Step Guide to Automating Leave Requests

1. Understand current processes:

Gather information about the existing leave request and approval processes within your company. Identify key stakeholders involved, current communication channels, documentation practices, and pain points.

2. Map out workflow:

Visualize the workflow of leave requests from submission to approval and beyond. Identify all the steps involved, decision points, and interactions between employees, managers, and HR/administrative staff.

3. Identify company needs:

Determine the specific needs and requirements of your company regarding leave request and approval processes. Consider factors such as company policies, regulatory compliance, team dynamics, and existing technology infrastructure.

4. Select the right no-code tool:

Research and evaluate different no-code automation tools available in the market and choose the one that best aligns with your company's needs. Look for features such as form builders, workflow automation, integration capabilities, and user-friendly interfaces. Tools like Zapier, Make, or Microsoft Power Automate are excellent choices.

5. Design Workflow Automation:

Use the selected no-code tool to design the workflow automation for leave requests and approvals. Create forms for leave submission, define approval workflows based on company policies, and set up notifications for stakeholders at each stage of the process.

6. Integrate with Existing Systems:

If applicable, integrate the no-code automation tool with existing systems such as HR management software, calendar applications, and communication platforms. Ensure seamless data flow and synchronization between systems to avoid duplication of effort.

7. Customize Approval Rules:

Customize approval rules within the no-code automation tool to reflect company policies and hierarchy. Define criteria for automatic approval, escalation paths for unresolved requests, and exception handling for special cases.

8. Test and Iterate:

Thoroughly test the automated leave request and approval process in a controlled environment. Solicit feedback from stakeholders and make necessary adjustments to optimize the workflow for efficiency and user experience.

9. Training and Deployment:

Provide training to employees, managers, and HR/administrative staff on how to use the automated leave request and approval system. Ensure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities within the new process. Deploy the automated system company-wide.

10. Monitor and Maintain:

Continuously monitor the performance of the automated process and gather feedback from users. Address any issues or concerns promptly and make refinements as needed to ensure ongoing effectiveness and efficiency.

By following these steps, you can successfully automate leave requests and approval processes using no-code tools, streamlining operations, reducing manual effort, and improving overall productivity within your company.

Benefits and ROI

💰 Cost Savings

Automation significantly reduces manual labor costs associated with managing vacation requests. According to research by McKinsey, companies can save up to 30% on administrative tasks by implementing automation.
By eliminating the need for manual data entry, paperwork, and communication, businesses can allocate resources more efficiently and redirect savings towards strategic initiatives or employee development programs.


Automated leave request processes streamline workflows, leading to faster approvals and reduced downtime. Research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicates that automated systems can reduce the time spent on leave management tasks by up to 50%.
By digitizing and standardizing the process, employees can submit requests with ease, and managers can review and approve them promptly, minimizing delays and ensuring smooth operations.

"85 percent of employers that use automation or AI say it saves them time and/or increases their efficiency"  - SHRM Research Explores Use of Automation and AI in HR

📈 Increased Productivity:

Automation frees up employees to focus on their core work responsibilities rather than administrative tasks. By automating leave request processes, employees can devote more time and energy to value-added activities, leading to higher job satisfaction and overall productivity.

🔁 ROI (Return on Investment):

Depending on the size and specific needs of your SME, the ROI from automating leave request processes can be substantial. By reducing administrative overhead, minimizing errors, and improving compliance, automation delivers tangible cost savings and operational efficiencies that contribute to long-term business success.

In summary, by leveraging automation technologies, businesses can streamline operations, enhance employee satisfaction, and focus on driving growth and innovation.

Quote from “Unlocking The Power of Automation to Optimize Business Shared Services”, International Data Corporation

Real-Life Case Study

Let's dive into the journey of SME Success Inc., a 75-employee-strong SME that utilized no-code automation to streamline their leave requests and approval process, shedding light on the real-world advantages of embracing technology for common HR challenges.

🎯Challenges Faced

  • SME Success Inc. grappled with an increasing workload associated with vacation requests, often leading to time-consuming delays and manual errors.
  • The absence of a centralized system made tracking approved vacations challenging, resulting in scheduling conflicts.

💡Solutions Implemented

  • Tool Selection: Choosing Zapier for its user-friendliness and compatibility with existing software;
  • Custom Workflows: Creating a tailored automation process where employees could submit vacation requests through a dedicated Google Form;
  • Approval Automation: Upon request submission, Zapier automatically routed it to the relevant manager for approval, eliminating manual steps and updating a shared Google Calendar with approved vacations;

🚀 Results Achieved

  • Reduced Approval Time: Approval times for vacation requests were slashed by 50%, leading to quicker responses and improved employee satisfaction;
  • Efficiency Gains: The HR team now devotes less time to manual data entry, enabling them to focus on more strategic HR tasks;
  • Employee Satisfaction: Streamlined processes and fewer scheduling conflicts resulted in happier, more productive employees;
  • Cost Savings: Reduced manual effort translated into significant cost savings for SME Success Inc.

SME Success Inc.'s experience exemplifies the practicality and real-world effectiveness of no-code automation, demonstrating how even a modestly sized enterprise can significantly enhance operational efficiency and employee satisfaction by automating leave requests and approval processes.

Best Practices

Continuous Monitoring

  • Regularly assess your automated system for issues and adapt as needed;
  • Implement monitoring tools to track key metrics such as request processing times, approval rates, and user satisfaction levels;
  • Maintain flexibility to address changes in your organization's requirements, such as updates to leave policies, ensuring that your automated processes remain aligned with business needs.

Feedback and Training

  • Encourage feedback from users to ensure ongoing satisfaction with the automated leave request system;
  • Actively listen to user feedback and prioritize enhancements based on their input;
  • Provide comprehensive training and resources for staff to ensure proficiency in using the automated system. Offer tutorials, user guides, and interactive training sessions to empower employees to navigate the system effectively and maximize its benefits.

Security and Compliance

  • Prioritize data security and compliance with relevant regulations; 
  • Implement robust security measures, such as encryption and access controls;
  • Stay informed about industry compliance standards and adhere to legal requirements and industry best practices.

Tool Updates

  • Stay current with updates in your chosen no-code tool to leverage new features;
  • Evaluate new features to determine their potential impact on your workflows;
  • Monitor tool performance after updates and promptly address any issues that arise to ensure smooth operation of your automated processes.

By implementing these best practices, you can optimize your automated leave request processes to maximize efficiency, user satisfaction, and compliance with security and regulatory requirements. 


For Small and Medium Enterprises, operational efficiency is paramount. This article has elucidated the pragmatic approach to automating Leave Request and Approval using no-code tools, emphasizing their practicality for SMEs. We've discussed the importance and challenges, and examined specific tools, such as Zapier, Make, and Microsoft Power Automate, in real-world scenarios.

By adhering to best practices, you can ensure system reliability and compliance. The resulting benefits are clear: enhanced efficiency, cost savings, and improved employee satisfaction. In summary, the value of automating Leave Request and Approval for SMEs is evident. Utilize these insights to streamline your processes and enhance your SME's efficiency. The moment is opportune to embark on this transformative journey.

💡Interested in optimizing the employee evaluation review?

Go through this article and learn the benefits of automating this process using No-Code tools.

Nelson Marteleira

Nelson is the co-founder NoCode Institute. He is an experienced NoCode specialist and developer with a solid portfolio. Nelson helps bring ideas to reality.

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