You may have heard of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), but you have some lingering questions that cause you to hesitate about putting them in place for your business. What are they and what do they do for your business? What information should you include in them? Do you really need them? Is it worth spending the time, energy, and money to have your processes documented?
Let’s answer those questions to help you gain knowledge and have a deeper understanding of SOPs so that you can decide if they are right for your business.
Q: What is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?
If you want everyone to follow the same rules and guidelines, you’ll want to have your processes documented. An SOP is a set of process instructions that details the step-by-step procedures for performing a specific task. SOPs are designed to achieve an expected and consistent outcome. This valuable tool outlines specific assignments and workflows in simple detail. This allows you and your team members to complete tasks and processes in a coordinated manner.
What does this mean for your business? Your operations will be streamlined and run smoother than ever. Regardless of who completes the job or how many people are completing the same task, it will be done right every time. Furthermore, nearly every industry today has regulatory requirements or industry best practices. SOPs increase compliance with your standards and practices. You can also expect procedural outcomes to produce services and products that maintain the highest level of quality and uniformity.
Q: What is the purpose of an SOP?
The purpose of an SOP is to provide written documentation of policies, operations, and standards. Industry secrets in your mind or the mind of a veteran employee are of no benefit when you begin scaling your business or the team member retires. What happens when policies are updated? Does your organization learn about the updates promptly to make the necessary changes? SOP development and use promote consistent execution through team members coming and going, business growth and expansion, and new or updated standards. By standardizing processes, you also gain a wealth of benefits leading to organizational success!
Having these documents in place fosters:
- Improved Communication: SOPs allow you to convey all of the information you need your team members to know in an easily digestible format. When they are well written, they also cut down on the need for your team members to ask several questions to figure out how to get the job done.
- A Reduction in Work Errors: Mistakes are reduced when clearly defined parameters and standards are outlined. This is great for efficiency and safety.
- Smooth Onboarding: SOPs allow you to onboard and train your new team members effectively, helping them to ramp up faster. They will have everything they need to do in their role outlined right before them, which also contributes to an easy transition into their position. Without the confusion or stress of not understanding what is going on, you can get ready for increased productivity as well as an increase in employee retention.
Q: What information should be included in an SOP?
Information that should be included in an SOP:
- A title for the process
- A Scope, including the purpose and why compliance is important
- Completion date and revision date
- Applicable roles and departments
- A glossary for specific language or acronyms
- The outlined steps to complete the process
The step-by-step instructions that make up your SOPs should be simple and easy to understand. They should but sufficient detail to allow someone with basic understanding to accurately and successfully complete the process. Vague or complicated wording should be avoided.
A clean and organized format with a standard font should be utilized for each SOP created.
To take into account the variety of learning styles of those utilizing SOPs, when appropriate, visuals should be included. Visuals can be in the form of checklists, flowcharts, photos, and videos. Their use can increase understanding and retainment. It minimize the need for questions to be asked, and overall, enrich the SOPs for all.
Q: Why do I need SOPs?
SOPs can prevent common workplace challenges, and contribute greatly to workplace improvement by increasing efficiency, reliability, safety, and predictability.
- Efficiency: SOPs allow your team members to follow simple instructions to get a task done the right way, at the right time. At the same time, when they understand their role and feel comfortable doing it, this too drives solid efficient work.
- Reliability: If you have temporary or permanent team members or you lose an important, seasoned employee, SOPs are there to ensure your processes are always there for you. Everybody can follow the procedure in step by step format to complete tasks reliably. Without SOPs in place, it’s easy for employees to forget or make missteps, slowly causing the quality of your product and services to dwindle.
- Safety: By following safety standards that are clearly defined and written, your team members will do their jobs safely and in a safe environment. Thus, you won’t need to worry about injury or harm to your team members, the clients you serve, or your company as a whole.
- Predictability: SOPs minimize variations in products and services and maintain quality giving you the peace of mind that comes with positive, predictable results in products and services. This leads to quality products, higher customer satisfaction, and in turn, the longevity of your business.
Now you know what SOPs are, their purpose, what to include, and why you need them in place. The value of quality SOPs for your organization cannot be overstated. In conclusion, many benefits are waiting for you, get started today!
Still have questions about SOPs for your business? Contact SOPHeroes today for assistance!