As you’re building your business, hiring new employees, and accelerating growth, putting systems and processes in place to make scaling easier will become non-negotiable. That’s where standard operating procedures (SOPs) come in. But why are SOPs important, exactly? In this article, learn what an SOP is, why you need them, and how to go about creating them for your organization.
What is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?
A standard operating procedure is documented step-by-step instructions that guide employees in a company through performing specific tasks. An SOP provides processes, policies, and standards that ensure an organization’s uniformity and consistency in services.
SOPs make tasks repeatable and ensure that everyone is taking those actions uniformly. They also remove the need for relying on a particular employee’s knowledge to complete a specific task.
You can create SOPs for just about anything — from how you post about your company on social media to how you reconcile transactions and manage your bookkeeping.
Why are SOPs Important?
Having to put the time and effort into creating SOPs might not be at the top of your to-do list. But here’s why standard operating procedures deserve your attention.
1. SOPs Help Maintain the Company’s Knowledge
It may seem like a waste of resources and time to document processes if your team performs all necessary tasks with ease and consistently without the help of any external guides. However, have you considered what will happen if the manager who handles everything leaves the organization? They’re going to take all of that knowledge with them, leaving you in a tough spot.
It is, therefore, essential to document every piece of knowledge in an SOP regardless of your employees’ expertise. Documentation of job processes allows your business to continue operating normally despite employee attrition brought on by retirement and resignation. In addition, your team will know what to do if a person is on leave, sick, or takes another role.
2. They Improve Communication
Communication is critical to the success of every business. Any misunderstanding on how a task should be done leads to wasted time and resources. An SOP is a reference for managers. It helps them give clear directions to their employees on various tasks. In addition, it reduces the chances of miscommunication and misunderstanding since it has detailed steps for every task.
3. SOPs Help in Training New Employees
Clear instructions and guidance are essential for bringing a new hire on board or training existing employees on new responsibilities. Documented procedures are a vital toolkit to ensure people get the information they need quickly and clearly.
Using SOPs ensures consistency in training, so all employees learn the processes in your company in the same manner.
4. They Improve Efficiency and Productivity
Having a poorly mapped procedure in your organization results in a waste of time and resources. SOPs provide a clear path that enables your team to perform tasks efficiently.
In addition, the guidelines in SOPs help employees to accomplish more work with less effort. Following clear procedures makes your employees more confident and increases efficiency in your company. In contrast, poor workplace procedures can lead to frustrated and unproductive employees.
5. SOPs Help You Maintain Quality and Consistency
Have you ever asked yourself why a particular food joint serves quality meals every time without fail — while others just can’t seem to keep up? Consistency is the key to achieving quality results in every business. Using SOPs in your business allows everyone to produce consistent results, leaving little room for error.
Moreover, guidelines ensure quality is never compromised under circumstances such as employee change or new management. Without established procedures, employees may forget the necessary steps, make errors, and gradually decrease their output quality. Your customers expect your products and services to be of a certain minimum quality. With defined processes and procedures, you can provide an optimal customer experience each and every time.
6. They Encourage Safety
Workplace safety is essential in every business. An unsafe environment may lead to damage to work property, and in some cases, your employees can get hurt. SOPs provide clear guidelines to employees on performing their jobs following operational, safety, health, and environmental rules.
For instance, your employees might be required to wear protective gear when handling hazardous materials.
7. SOPs Help in Performance Management
You can use SOPs to assess your employees’ work performance based on the work provided to them. Since your employees follow standardized rules and processes and complete tasks the same way every time, it becomes easier to evaluate their performance.
4 Tips for Creating a Standard Operating Procedure
SOPs are a crucial part of the success of any business. Therefore, designing a good SOP involves several measures. The following are some tips to create a solid standard operating procedure for your business.
- Identify your audience. Knowing your audience is critical to creating an effective SOP. You should consider if you are writing for new hires or existing employees.
- An SOP should clearly define each step. Having clear and actionable steps helps to eliminate confusion about what needs to be done. Ideally, you should be able to hand an SOP over to any employee and make it easy for them to copy the steps and reproduce the expected results.
- Choose a format. An SOP should not be composed of lengthy and compact paragraphs. You can write your SOP in various formats to make it easily understandable. For instance, you can use bullet points, infographics, and flow charts.
- Seek input from various stakeholders. Having employees collaborate with you when writing an SOP is essential when designing the guidelines. It will be easy to write a standard operating procedure if you know the challenges your employees face.
Having standard operating procedures has many potential benefits for your business. An SOP can help you improve management, safety and communication, quality, and overall business efficiency. Creating SOPs for your employees will keep everyone on the same page and ensure processes move forward efficiently.