You are determined to be the best in your business. To function with efficiency, quality, and uniformity. Be are ready to slash any hint of inconsistency or miscommunication. You can be a well-oiled machine. But how? 7 Best Practices for Standard Operating Procedures
What is an SOP?
An SOP is a step-by-step set of guidelines that outline how a process is completed. By writing down the practices that guide day-to-day operations, you can increase productivity. Create an SOP for each channel of your business and behold the new and improved version of your company!
An SOP outlines who is responsible for a specific task and how to complete it. This helps your employees understand the scope of their positions, provides role clarity, and provides guidance in correct process execution.
There are many other benefits to having SOPs. Let’s discuss some of the big ones.
Consistent Use of Best Practices
By writing out the principles that guide your operations, your team will utilize the most up-to-date processes to complete a task. Regardless of who is responsible for completing the task, it will be done the same way, the right way, each time.
Furthermore, when industry best practice changes, the SOP changes right with it, leading to quicker adoption and implementation. It also means that your company will avoid using any outdated processes down the road.
Efficient Onboarding & Training
With SOPs in place, onboarding and training become streamlined. This means maintaining consistency in work across departments, teams, and functions.
With clear and concise guidelines, new hires can be brought up to speed with their responsibilities with little room for misinterpretation. They also know where to turn when there is ambiguity or simply forget some of the steps to a particular task.
Having SOPs readily available so that employees can access them in a self-service manner also increases employee satisfaction, leads to higher retention rates, and reduces turnover. A win-win for all!
Sustains Industry & Organizational Knowledge
By writing SOPs to cover industry standards as well as organizational “tricks of the trade,” you are giving your business continuity and longevity. If an integral team member who has been with you for 20 years decides to retire, their institutional knowledge and insight will not leave with them.
You will maintain the ability to replicate processes no matter who is actually fulfilling the job. You will also reduce the risk of non-compliance with industry regulations and keep alive what makes your company stand out from others!
Wow! This sounds great, but you may wonder, ‘Where do I start?’ Excellent question! Use the following best practices, and you will be well on your way to creating effective SOPs and reaping the benefits.
Include your team in the conversations and creation of the SOPs. Ask questions and gather input from them. Why? You want to get the most out of your SOPs. By collectively building them, you will have a more well-rounded, all-encompassing set of procedures to cover everything your business is about and how things should go. You will also be well on your way to successful team adoption of the SOPs, as your team members will be able to see the benefits when they are included in the process. This fosters a smooth transition to the actual use of your SOPs.
The Need for Practicality
Creating SOPs for a perfect world is unrealistic and difficult to translate into real action. Make your SOPs practical and relevant. A great way to do this is by utilizing the step above: include your team members in the creation process to build actionable steps that truly reflect the guidelines and tasks present in your organization.
Keep It Simple
Break tasks down into steps and use simple language to outline them. Being too wordy or attempting to use complex word choices will cause the SOP to lose value. Your goal is to create something anyone could read and understand the task and how to do it. Don’t forget about utilizing checklists and flowcharts! These are powerful tools to break down larger pieces of information into easy-to-follow steps. Go for simple and straightforward, and you will drive success every time.
Clean & Consistent
Do not underestimate the power of clean formatting with consistent language. Several pages of large paragraphs may prove too difficult to follow. Utilize bullet points and numbered lists to give your SOPs a clean, visual appeal. You may decide to use a pre-built template. Either way, be sure that all your SOPs follow the same formatting to keep them consistent and easy to follow.
All of your organizational SOPs should also use consistent language throughout. This will help reduce confusion and misinterpretation. For specific industry terminology, feel free to define the words in the SOPs for clarity.
The use of pictures and videos can really bring your SOP to life! Remember, many people are visual learners. By including visuals, you enhance each person’s ability to grasp the information you are trying to convey.
- Use good quality visuals, including high-resolution images. Opt for crisp and clear.
- Highlight essential points to draw attention to their importance with call-out boxes, various colors, or icons.
- Include a video to reinforce a complex process but keep it short and to the point.
Prior to building out the SOPs for your organizational processes, you want to designate a specific location for them.
- Using paper SOPs as they are outdated and can be easily lost or damaged. They also will change over time and need to be updated (we will get to that next!).
- Scattering SOPs in different locations. SOPs prove ineffective if they are too difficult to find!
- Saving them to a specific device. If the device goes down, so do the SOPs.
Your team members should know where to look to find the information they are seeking. So you will want somewhere safe and easily accessible. For example, a software tool with cloud storage can be a great place for all your SOPs.
Over time, your SOPs will need to shift and change with industry standards or with the way your company runs. To avoid outdated processes being utilized, ensure your SOPs are regularly updated and accurately reflect how you conduct business. Help your SOPs grow with you by taking the time to review them and make necessary changes.
Building SOPs for your business will lead to improved efficiency, consistency, and productivity.
Follow these best practices, and you can look forward to SOP success!
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