Does your business lack organization around basic tasks? Do your employees lack initiative and could benefit from being more independent? Are you wondering what you can do to improve your growing business?
If you answered yes to the previous questions, implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs) can be what you need to solve your problems.
SOPs have been driving the most important business processes for years, and help bring some much-needed organization to your company.
We’re going to give you a crash course on SOPs. You’ll learn what they are, how they benefit your business, and how you can start writing some SOPs of your own.
What Are Standard Operating Procedures?
A standard operating procedure is a set of written instructions that can describe how to perform a task or activity. They’re in-depth steps that could be followed by anyone and should leave very little ambiguity around what needs to be done.
An SOP is efficient, to the point, and can be used to organize nearly any work task you can think of. People use them to help their business with operations, business development, finance, legal affairs, and more.
The Purpose of SOPs: 7 Benefits of Writing Standard Operating Procedures
Now that you know a bit about what SOPs are, we can take some time to talk about the benefits of having an SOP. Businesses in any industry benefit from using an SOP, but some business owners are hesitant to invest in creating them.
Having an extensive network of SOPs eliminates disorganization from your business, improves operations, and much more.
Once you see the benefits of having SOPs in your business, you’ll wonder how you’ve gone so long without them.
1. Promote Positive Change
Do some of your employees complain that they’re confused about what they have to do at work? Have managers mentioned that they’d like more structure around promotions? Do you want a way to ensure that things are being done well?
The right SOPs help promote the change people want to see at the office. They’re meant to improve the way things are done at work, and they can be easily changed when it’s called for.
When you write an SOP, you’re giving people the efficiency, reliability, and predictability they need to succeed. When there are fewer questions about how and why things are done, people can start performing the way they’ve always wanted to.
2. Produce Reliable Results
Consistency is the key to running a successful business. Companies may sell different things, but overall, they rely on the consistency of the products and work they produce so their customers stay satisfied.
When you write SOPs, everyone is following a standardized procedure to produce results. It leaves little room for error and is designed to produce consistent results.
If there aren’t procedures in place, it’s easy for employees to forget key steps, make mistakes, and slowly lower the quality of what you produce.
When you have an SOP, you’re setting yourself up for success. You’ll reduce room for error and make sure you’re providing the best end results for your clients.
3. Improve Employee Training and Management
When you have standard operating procedures, you make hiring and retaining employees a lot easier.
New employees use SOPs to learn important things about your business. They’ll be able to understand how often processes need to be done, what it takes to complete a process from start to finish, and how everyone in their department plays into the process.
This can be a tool that helps them get up to speed on their own time and take the pressure off you. You’ll be able to spend fewer hours training, and give everyone on your team more time to let the new employee get used to things.
Overall, the SOP acts as a guide that helps everyone on your staff improve their work and ensure that everything is running correctly. You can remove the ambiguity from some tasks, and make the desired outcomes of tasks very apparent.
Employees will be able to be more productive. This can help you save money on overtime fees for extra work and can reduce the possibility of errors in the work they produce.
4. Find Gaps
You’d be surprised at how many business problems you can solve when you carefully write down your procedures. When you take the time to write down the way people do things, it gets a lot easier to see where you have gaps in service.
You may find that you’re forgetting an important step in the billing process that could improve your records.
It’s possible that writing down steps to your employee onboarding process could show that you’re leaving out important information about operating procedures.
See how many things you change about the way you operate once you take the time to examine how you do things. You never know what you can find when you write everything down.
5. Increase Safety
Employee safety is important for every business. Regardless of what industry you’re in, you want to make sure that you’re doing whatever you can to make the workplace safe for your employees.
An unsafe environment can do more than just result in injured employees. Equipment or merchandise could be damaged, or in some cases, customers and clients could get hurt.
You won’t have to worry about any damage to your business, your customers, or your employees. When employees follow an SOP, they’re following procedures that are proven to be safe and efficient.
Writing an SOP can also help you with compliance. Having the proper SOPs in place can help ensure that it’s easy for your employees to follow compliance procedures, and keep you from getting fined.
6. Improve Efficiency
Take some time to think about how much a simple question in how to do things can delay a business decision.
A contract may not get signed because someone isn’t sure who has the final say. You could lose out on hiring talented employees because someone in HR doesn’t know who can approve the salaries for new hires.
SOPs can eliminate a lot of questions that can slow down important business decisions. When you have an SOP for your most important tasks, you make it easier for your employees to follow directions and get things done right the first time.
7. Standardize Customer Service
If someone were to have a complaint about a product or your service, do you know exactly how it would be resolved? Companies that don’t have SOPs could find that their customer service is lacking when they need to solve a problem.
An upset customer may not get contacted because there are no procedures about proper follow-up times. Requests for service could be lost because there are no procedures in place to let people know about new customer service inquiries.
This ties into what we said about reliability. It doesn’t just produce the right results for customers, it also helps ensure that employees are doing the right thing for your customers.
How to Write Effective Standard Operating Procedures
When you write a good SOP, you can improve hiring, increase profitability, keep your customers happy, and overall better your business. Now that you know how your business can benefit from SOPs, let’s dive into what it takes to write one.
A good SOP should be brief, easy to understand and contain steps that are simple to follow.
We just outlined how important an SOP can be for running your business. You’re going to want to make sure that everything you produce is as helpful as possible.
When you’re thinking about the first SOPs you want to draft, remember to keep these tips in mind.
Don’t Assume Anything
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when you’re writing an SOP is the assumption that the reader is familiar with a step or concept that isn’t explicitly stated in the document.
When you’re writing an SOP, it’s better to over-inform than to provide too little information. When you leave certain things out, you could be setting a future employee up for failure.
Glossaries can be very helpful when you’re creating your SOPs. People can use them to easily learn more information about certain concepts, and it will keep you from making SOPs too long and information-heavy.
Test Before Your Write
If you want to write an effective SOP, you won’t just focus on recording the current task process as is. You should take the time to test out your steps before you make them any part of an official process.
Walking through the process you create can make it easy for you to see how things are currently working, and if there’s anything you can do to improve things as you go forward.
You may find that something you assumed was well known should be documented in the process. It’s possible that you make a discovery that shows an entirely different direction you need to go with an SOP.
Involve the Right People
You’re making a big mistake if you only involve managers in the SOP writing process. Writing an SOP should be a group effort, and you’ll want to make sure that you have the right people involved in the process.
Make sure that you have someone that has an intimate familiarity with the task you’re outlining in your SOP. They’ll understand exactly what needs to be done to successfully complete a task, and could have suggestions on ways to improve it.
You’ll also want to make sure that you have a skilled writer that’s an expert at communicating difficult concepts.
Remember, an SOP is only helpful if people can understand what’s written. Someone that understands how to write well and communicate can be the best person to handle creating SOPs.
Include Plenty of Visual Aids
An SOP shouldn’t be a long document that’s full of text. You want an SOP to be informative and concise above all else, and using imagery can help you create a good SOP.
Infographics, actual pictures of objects or processes, and reference videos can help easily communicate difficult concepts. They can back up the words you write, and make the content you produce more powerful.
Using imagery can also help make your SOPs more accessible to people. Some people are visual learnerst hat process information better from visual aids as opposed to written material.
Set Time for Periodic Review
Writing SOPs isn’t a one and done type of activity. If you want to make your SOPs effective and ensure that they’re reflecting the most important information possible, you’ll want to take time to periodically review them.
Change is a natural part of the business world. Procedures that you rely on today will have to change over time so as to stay effective.
It’s good practice to review your SOPs at least once every year to ensure that they’re up to date. Some businesses may want to make the reviews more frequent and could recommend bi-annual or even quarterly reviews of important SOPs.
Getting your employees involved in the review process can make it much easier and effective.
Encourage employees to point out any inconsistencies they see in SOPs and consider getting observant employees involved in the next round of revisions.
Improve Your Business with Detailed SOPs
Standard operating procedures can do a lot of good for the average business. Anything that can help train new employees, improve important processes, and deliver better customer experiences is something a business should do.
If you’re ready to implement positive change at work, we’re here to help. Contact us today so we can talk about the best way to help your company.