Just your basic SOP!

This post originally appeared as a guest post on Small Business Fundamentals.

What are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)?

One of the most useful systems to streamline your business is having a Standard Operating Procedures manual.  It is a working document (accessible to all staff) that provides detailed instructions on specific recurring work processes.  It communicates who will perform the task, what materials are necessary, where the tasks will take place, when the task must be performed, and how the person will execute the task.

This forms the backbone of an organization.

Standard Operating Procedures should be designed to achieve specific results.  Management must decide what business goals will be achieved through better management with SOPs and how those goals will be measured.

The purpose of SOPs is to assist employees in the daily operations of the workplace and to ensure that critical company policies are followed.  It provides written documentation of best practices.  It also provides the foundation for

  • Job descriptions
  • Employee training
  • Corrective action and discipline
  • Performance reviews

Why does a small business need Standard Operating Procedures?

  • It provides the basis for communication.  Employees work better when they are well-informed, able to perform their jobs autonomously, and are able to feel effective in completing tasks.  Management can feel confident that daily operations are running smoothly.
  • It provides clarity.  It decreases errors and mistakes, conflict, and enhances the feeling of fairness and equity in the workplace.
  • Because of its clarity, it reduces training time, provides direction, and improves work uniformity.
  • It protects employers in areas of potential liability and personnel matters.  A SOP ensures that all employees have access to those policies.
  • It maximises smooth operations.  The ideal is that the SOP will ensure that employees know the policies, rules, regulations, and standardized methods for accomplishing specific tasks and goals.  It also makes it possible for the work to go on when key personnel are not available.
  • It promotes consistency and reliability within the workplace to maintain quality control and assurance.

A few points to consider when compiling Standard Operating Procedures

  • In order to ensure that the Standard Operating Procedures address the goals of the organization, a needs assessment should be conducted to find out which policies and procedures should be included.
  • Standard Operating Procedures should be written as clearly and simply as possible.
  • Various formats can be used to enhance clarity.  For instance, you can use simple steps, hierarchy steps, graphic images, or flow charts.
  • The level of detail in SOPs should provide adequate information to keep performance consistent while keeping the procedures from becoming impractical.
  • Drafts should be made and tested before a SOP is released for implementation.
  • Make the document rigid enough to document the rules of the organization, but flexible enough to be able to be followed easily.
  • Get the input of the staff that actually do the job.  People are much more likely to accept and use a SOP if they feel a sense of ownership in it.

Revision of Standard Operating Procedures

Once the SOP has been approved, a schedule should be set for reviewing it.  Every SOP should be reviewed annually, or, at a minimum, bi-annually to make sure that the practices and policies are still relevant and have not changed.

Does your business have Standard Operating Procedures in place?  Do you need to revise your documentation to make is more up-to-date and relevant?  Contact Virtual Productivity Solutions to get your business processes mapped out.

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