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How to Automate Equipment Requests for New Employees and Remote Workers

How to Automate Equipment Requests for New Employees and Remote Workers

Do you need an easier way to process employee equipment requests? 

By adding automation to your request and procurement processes, you can ensure that all your employees have access to the equipment they need to be productive in the workplace

This includes new starters, who may require a list of hardware and office equipment on their very first day. With many employees still working from home, an automated equipment request platform can also help your remote staff work safely. Regardless of geographical location, these remote employees can easily request equipment such as lumbar support chairs and standing workstations, and have it shipped directly to their home address. 

In this article, we’ll be using Microsoft Power Automate, Microsoft Forms, and Outlook to create an automated request and procurement system. With this workflow in place, requesting equipment becomes as simple as completing an online form. Your busy HR department can then approve or deny each request, simply by reading the automated email and clicking a button. 

What we’ll be building

In this tutorial, we’ll be creating an “Equipment Request” form, using Microsoft Forms.

Your employees can use this form whenever they need to request a piece of equipment. For employees who are working from home, we’ll create a field where they can enter their home address. This allows you to ship equipment directly to the employee’s home, potentially saving you a considerable amount of time. 

When the employee clicks “Send,” Microsoft Forms will display a “Your response was submitted” message. This ensures the employee knows you’ve logged their request successfully.

Whenever an employee submits a request, Power Automate will extract all the relevant information and send an email to the nominated individual or department. For example, you might send these emails to your HR department, or use Automate’s dynamic content to forward each request to the employee’s specific manager or supervisor. 

This individual or team will receive the email, and can then either approve or deny the equipment request. The employee will automatically receive an email, informing them of the outcome. 

These emails are fully customizable. For example, your denial email might include a Microsoft Form where the employee can re-submit their application with more information, or you might include a shipping number in your approval emails. 

How to create an equipment request form, with Microsoft Forms

The first step is creating the equipment request form. You can customize this form to collect the information that matters to you, but to keep things simple we’ll be requesting the employee’s contact details, and some information about the equipment they require. 

  1. Log into Microsoft Forms
  2. Select “New Form.” This launches Microsoft’s form editor. 
  3. Select “Add New.”
  4. Make sure the “Questions” tab is selected. 
  5. You’ll typically want to add some fields for the employee’s contact information. For each field, click “Text,” and then enter the label that you want to display above this field. For example, I’m creating fields for the employee’s name, and email address. If the employee in question is working from home, you may want to request their home address. This allows you to ship the requested equipment directly to their home office. Unless you have a specific reason not to, you’ll typically want to enable the “Required” slider for all the fields in your form. 

  1. Next, you may want to specify this employee’s department. Since your organization has a list of predefined departments, you can request this information as multiple choice. Select “Option” and then use the subsequent controls to add all of your departments.

  1. If your employees can choose from a variety of equipment, you may also want to provide a list of equipment categories, for example Additional Monitor, Laptop, Home Office Chair, or Docking Station. This can also be useful for indicating the kind of equipment that your employees can request.
  1. Finally, you may want to create a text field where employees can add some information to their request. For example, they might include a link to the exact model of office chair they require, or provide an explanation about why they need a replacement docking station. To create this text box, select “Add New > Text.” You’ll typically want to enable the “Long answer” slider as this gives your employees more characters to work with. 

This is the basic information you’ll typically require for any employee equipment request. However, you can add more fields or multiple choice questions, depending on the information you require. 

You can test how your form will appear, by selecting “Preview.” You can also check how this form will appear across desktop and mobile devices, using the buttons along the top of the screen. Once you’re happy with the results, it’s time to take your form public. 

Adding a Microsoft Form to your employee portal or website

You can add a Microsoft Form to your website using a QR code, link, or embed code. This step will vary depending on where you’re planning to display your form, and your chosen embed method. However, as an example let’s look at how you can embed this form in your WordPress website: 

  1. In Microsoft Forms, select the “Share” button. 
  2. In the panel that appears, select “Embed.” This should reveal an embed code.
  1. Click “Copy.” 
  2. Log into your WordPress dashboard. 
  3. Navigate to the page where you want to embed your equipment request form, and open that page for editing. 
  4. Find the area where you want to display your form, and add a “Custom HTML” block.
  1. Paste your embed code into the HTML block. 
  2. Publish or update this page, as normal.

Your equipment request form should now appear on your website. 

Now, your employees can request hardware and office equipment, by completing this form. 

How to automate your equipment approval workflow

In this section, we’ll create a workflow that extracts the information from each submitted form, and then emails it to a nominated individual or team. We’ll also create two emails that will be sent to your employees, depending on whether their request gets approved or denied. 

  1. Log into your Microsoft 365 account
  2. Select the “Power Automate” app. 
  3. In the left-hand menu, select “Templates.” 
  4. Search for the following template: “Start an approval process and send email on Microsoft Form submission.” Select this template when it appears. 
  5. Read the description, and if you’re happy to proceed then click “Continue.” Power Automate will now open this template for editing. 
  6. Let’s start at the top, with the “When a new response is submitted” field. Open the “Form ID” dropdown, and select the Microsoft Form we created in the previous step.
  1. Next, move to the “Get response details” box. Open the “Form ID” dropdown, and select your equipment request form. 
  2. In the “Start an approval” section, you’ll need to specify the email of the person who submitted this form. You can pull this information directly from Microsoft Forms, using dynamic content. To open the dynamic content menu, click to place your cursor inside the “Requestor” field. This will open the “Dynamic content” dropdown. 
  1. You’ll now need to extract the requestor’s email address. This step will vary depending on how you set up your Microsoft Form, but for me it means selecting the “Responder’s email” value. 
  2. In the “Start an approval” section, you’ll also need to specify the approval type. Sometimes, you may want to share equipment requests with multiple people, for example your entire HR department, or the employee’s direct supervisor and your financial officer. If you require sign-off from all these people, you can select “Everyone must approve.” Alternatively, if you require approval from a single person only, select “First to respond.” You can then enter the email address of everyone who will receive this equipment request. 
  1. At this point, you can also provide several canned responses that the HR department or individual can add to their automated email response. For example, you might give the reponsder the option to choose between “approved,” “approved, pending more information,” or “denied, but please resubmit your request in the next financial quarter.” 
  2. You can create a custom response by selecting either “Custom Responses – Wait for all responses” or “Custom Responses – Wait for one response.” You’ll then get access to all the additional options you need, in order to create an automated response.
  1. After entering this information, you can create the email that’s sent whenever a request is approved. You’ll need to start by specifying the employee’s email address. Here, we’re going to use dynamic content, so click to place your cursor inside the “To” field. This will open Power Automate’s Dynamic Content menu.
  1. You’ll now need to retrieve the value the employee entered into Microsoft Forms. This step will vary depending on how you created your form, but for me this means selecting the following value: “Get response details: Responders’ email.” 
  1. After entering this information, you may want to customize the text that appears in the approval email.
  2. Instead of sending the same auto-response to every employee, it may help to include some dynamic content. For example, you might include a list of all the equipment the employee has requested. You can pull this information from their Microsoft Form submission, by selecting “Add dynamic content.” You can then search for the field where the employee was asked to provide this information. For my form, this means selecting: “Please provide more information about the equipment you require.” 
  1. Once you’re happy with your approval email, you can move onto the “If no” box. You can now create the email to send whenever a request gets denied.
  1. After creating your emails, you can verify that your flow is set up correctly using the “Flow Checker” and “Test” tools. Assuming there’s no issues with your workflow, your automated employee request platform is now ready to use. 

Want more Power Automate workflows? Check out our step-by-step guide to building an automated work hours tracker for your remote workers.

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