Solvo Global

How to Write Detailed Standard Operating Procedures from Scratch

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Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are a necessity for businesses large and small. It outlines how processes and procedures essential to your company’s daily operations are to be performed.

Often providing step-by-step instructions on multiple components of a business, SOPs provide a guide for efficiency and consistency. When properly written, they reduce miscommunication and errors that can undermine your business practices.

The ultimate goal of your procedures is to keep team members on the same page. This is crucial as employees transition into new positions and new employees come on board.

If it is your first time creating SOPs, it may seem like a daunting task. In a way it is, but in the end, the time spent will be well worth it for the success of your business. In this article, we will walk you through the process of writing Standard Operating Procedures. So if you’ve been tasked with writing SOPs, whether for your company or someone else’s, keep reading to learn more about what should be included when writing SOPs from scratch.

Standard Operating Procedures are Specific to a Business

Standard Operating Procedures documentation is not a one-size-fits-all document that you can download from a template website. Your SOPs need to be specific to your business industry, size and structure. It also needs to reflect your goals and desires for the type of culture you want to build.

Although it is a professional and oftentimes technical document, it reflects rules, positions and the overall operations unique to your company.

A business with ten thousand employees will not operate the same as a business with ten employees. Although you may offer the same services, your SOPs will be uniquely different. 

When gathering information for your document, focus on what your business has to offer and how you want to see it operating. Your business SOPs will be essential to your operations and will grow over time as your business grows and your experiences shape your culture.

What is Included in the SOPs?

There are many components to a SOPs document. There are no rules on the number of pages, sections or words. Your document can be as in-depth or simplistic as you want it to be. It all comes down to the messaging and style in which you want to present the information.

The following are the most important components of any SOPs and the reasons why they should be included. 

In the beginning stages of writing your SOPs, you may not think of everything. As you get into writing the document, things you never considered will come to mind. At those moments you will need to consider their importance to the operation of the business. 

Operational Compliance

Standard Operating Procedures compliance chalkboard

Outlining compliance topics is vital in your standard operating procedures. You should:

  • Create a section on this topic alone 

  • Review industry standards 

  • Review your information technology and how you would handle data security impacts 

Understand how you will satisfy compliance requirements and then explain them in layman’s terms so readers fully understand. 

Other general compliance issues include:

    • Benefits – who gets them and who does not, eligibility rules, etc.
    • Harassment – definitions and penalties
  • Hiring, evaluations and termination processes
  • Holiday and overtime pay – specify days observed and when OT is permitted
  • Payroll – specify pay schedules and dates
  • Worker’s compensation – rules on how to apply

Once you have these worked out, it’s time to get into topics like safety, licensing, permitting, risk assessment, and other technical components of compliance.

Displacement

Displacement We Have Moved Sign

There may come a time when your business is displaced. This happens for various reasons and generally is out of the business owner’s control.

If you’re in a facility not owned by the business, there is a chance that you can become displaced. Or you could find yourself at a point where you need to expand out of your current location into a larger space.

Whatever the reason you need to move from your place of operations, be it temporarily or permanently, there has to be a contingency plan. By having a standard operating procedures manual in place, you’ve already given thought on how to handle the situation.

It will not only show where your employees will report to, especially in the case of an emergency displacement, but it will provide other valuable information.

Communication

Standard Operating Procedures Communication Call List

Start out by having an emergency number that employees will call in the event the building is not accessible. There needs to be a message with vital information that is updated as things change.

For a planned displacement, decide if employees will be notified in writing, via email, an all-staff meeting, or some other method.

With today’s technology, you can utilize text messages. There is also the opportunity for employees to work remotely until a stable office is set up in a physical location.

Downtime

Standard Operating Procedures Power Outage Sign

Downtime deals with power outages and the inability to access computer servers or specific software. 

Not only do you need protocols in place to address your employees but also your customers and your industry partners. Some outages are temporary, while others can last for days. 

Included will be any back-up systems you may use and who is responsible for dealing with the issues. This can include contact information for utility companies, the software manufacturer, or the person or company responsible for your technical infrastructure.

The SOPs will list the designated roles responsible for making external calls. It provides a clear chain of command and responsibility when people know their roles during emergencies.

Environmental Concerns

Hazardous waste materials in containers under water

Although your business may not be directly related to environmental industries or policy-making, you could be directly impacted by environmental issues. 

These issues could involve:

  • A chemical spill
  • Dumping of hazardous waste
  • Recycling
  • Disposal of ink cartridges
  • Cleaning up bodily fluids

As an employer, you are charged with the safety of your employees. So, your company needs to adhere to governmental rules and laws.

Natural Disasters

natural disaster

Natural disasters can take many forms. Every business should have a plan for unforeseen natural occurrences. Depending on the geographical region your business operates out of, you could deal with hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, or wildfires.

Your SOPs will include how the business will operate leading up to, during, and after a natural disaster hits. These include:

  • The designated staff that are required to be on-site or on-call
  • Emergency evacuation procedures.
  • How to secure the structure, equipment, vehicles, etc.
  • Emergency call-in number
  • How to communicate with employees
  • Who is responsible for sending out such communications
  • Human Resources issues and responses related to a natural disaster
  • Employees’ pay during a natural disaster

Other things to consider are your insurance protections during the temporary or permanent loss of your physical structure. How will the business perform until insurance kicks in and the relocation of your offices?

Production Goals

Goal setting is essential in every aspect of life. As a business owner, you want to have clearly defined goals for your company. These goals, whether one year or ten years out, should be outlined when writing the SOPs. 

Goals can be a part of a mission statement that also lays out the values the company wants to exude. This becomes important because it not only gives you a roadmap for where you’re heading, but it also shows your employees the vision for the business.

In writing production goals for each department within the company, you set the tone for productivity and efficiency.  

Safety

Safety hats of all colors

In this section of the SOPs documentation, you’ll discuss safety in the workplace. The most vital components of this portion involve employees that work with heavy machinery and those who drive company-issued vehicles.

You’ll talk about licensing, access to driving records, and training. 

In addition, safety flows out to every department in a business. People can injure themselves with a stapler or by picking up a box of copier paper.

Outline for your employees who’s to be called when furniture or equipment has to be moved. When and who should call for an ambulance? What should an employee do when an injury leads to blood exposure?

Scheduling

standard operating procedures scheduling

Hours of operations will go on your SOPs as well as scheduling. Multiple departments may have different hours. A business that operates beyond eight hours a day will have shifts. 

Scheduling needs to be intentional to ensure full coverage during business hours. It is also important to have adequate coverage to maintain production quotas.

While outlining shifts, consider if there will be shift differentials in hourly pay. How are employees expected to call-in or communicate with managers or Human Resources, outside their regular business hours?

Training

New hires are typically greeted by the company through orientation. This is a session put on by HR to introduce new team members to the company’s policies and procedures. Although many do not distribute the SOPs manual to employees, they do get a brief overview of what is contained in it. 

The training sessions new hires receive should be outlined in the manual, as well as any other ongoing training. These sessions should be related to the actual roles they will be performing. You may also include other courses that help strengthen the culture of the workplace environment.

Create a Team

Collaboration is a key factor in completing a project that encompasses a lot of information that will impact your business. The writing of the standard operating procedures for a company is an undertaking that should not be handled alone. Even if your business only has a few employees, you should get some assistance with this formidable task.

For organizations with more than one department, ask for insights from those who know how things are done in their areas. This will ensure that you don’t miss important steps. A business owner may also learn a lot about how things are being done, which he or she may not have been aware of. 

Most importantly, with the added help, you can delegate responsibilities and get the project completed much faster. 

Create an Outline

Now that you have a good idea of what goes into the SOPs, the next step is to create your outline. The outline is to help you organize information and stay on track.

There is no magic order of how information should appear. You could start with what is most important, place items in alphabetical order, or group them based on the subject matter. 

It is okay to have a topic header followed by subtopics. Graphics are always a good way to keep people engaged when lengthy text is involved. You can also use infographics if it will help bring cohesiveness to the order of your daily operations. 

Once you know where you’re going and have everything you need, it’s time to put all the information together.

Select a Format

Next, you’ll want to create a format for your SOPs. Your format goes beyond how the information will appear in the manual. The format includes text fonts, color schemes, graphics, and the form in which the manual can be accessed.

In the digital era, there is no need to have printed copies tucked away in a binder, and pushed to the back of a bookshelf. The SOPs now come as a digital file housed in an online portal or intranet.

Included in the format or layout, you need to have a heading with the following:

  • Company name
  • Creation date
  • Modified date
  • Contributors
  • Reviewed by
  • Approved by

Following the headers, insert your purpose and table of contents.

Know Your Audience

In writing SOPs, it is essential to know your audience. This will drive the level of language used and how technical the information needs to be.

Also, consider how likely your employees are to seek out the SOPs to answer questions. This will play a part in how you format the manual and what graphics are included. 

Bringing It All Together

You now have the steps to creating Standard Operating Procedures for your business. This makes the process easier and your goals clearer. If after reading this article you still aren’t sure about how you can get the job done or need help, it’s okay. There are services available to create the perfect SOPs to fit your individual needs.

Are you looking for assistance with SOPs documentation? Contact us to learn more about  SOPs and our other business services we have to offer.