Growing businesses have their own way of operating processes. A predefined document including how to carry out repetitive tasks will allow employees to focus on what matters the most. It works as a guidance for the employees and a log of processes for the business. Regardless of what kind of business you run, it is important to know how to write a Standard Operating Procedure. In this blog, we have written all the steps for writing an effective Standard Operating Procedure with examples.
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What is a Standard operating procedure (SOP) anyway?
Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is a document that contains step by step information regarding one core and repetitive process of your business. This process is documented for future reference, increasing efficiency, and standardization purposes. SOP works as a guideline for your employees’ daily tasks providing them a direction in case they get stuck.
What SOP do you want to create? Look for repetition in your processes. For example, if you are a marketing agency, creating an ad campaign for a client will be a repetitive process. This process includes steps like:
- Identifying the target market,
- Brainstorming ideas,
- Writing a draft,
- Creating designs,
- And much more.
When you create an SOP, you write each of these steps down in detail.
Don’t worry. We will see what all details you need to list down in the steps sections of this blog. Before that let’s understand the benefits of having an SOP.
Why is it important to write a Standard operating procedure (SOP)?
SOP is the documentation of your business process. It helps everyone from the executive level to the founders of the company. When the SOP is made accessible to everyone, anyone can go back and look at it for solving their process-related issues. Here are 4 major reasons why should you have an SOP:
SOP helps you create a standard procedure for implementing daily tasks. You do not have to worry about things getting mismanaged if the procedure is followed thoroughly. Even if there is a mishap, you can quickly refer the document and understand where the problem occurred and solve it.
2. Helpful for new employees
It becomes a tough task to explain to a new employee how things work in detail. You can give them an overview and expect them to slowly learn and adapt from their experiences. When you have a Standard Operating Procedure, you can make them go through it. This will save both of your time. Due to the extensive detailing in the document, employees will understand your process from head to toe. It helps you deliver an effective employee’s onboarding experience.
3. Reduces inter-departmental authority issues
If there are discrepancies and gaps in the process, there are chances that your business will suffer from inter-departmental quarrels. There will be confusion on who is responsible for the particular part of the process and who has more authority which will make your processes slow. That’s the last thing you want. Creating an SOP will guide your employees in the right way of completing the processes.
4. Increases efficiency of the task
It goes without saying that documenting your SOP in a standard format will increase the efficiency of your task. The employees involved in this process will get the exact task with all the sub-tasks that they are supposed to do in a chronology. As they know their priorities and chronology of the tasks, there would be no productivity leaks and they will be able to focus better.
For example, let’s say you have created an SOP for your change request process for your IT department. When your IT guys start the process, they will have a direction from where to start, whom to contact, and what is the end goal of the task. This would assure your team doesn’t waste time vaguely thinking about completing a process.
These were some amongst many that you’ll see after writing a Standard Operating Procedure.
Steps for writing a standard operating procedure (SOP)
We have reached the main part of the blog. Here are the steps to write an effective standard operating procedure.
1. Prepare a goal🎯
We would like to take the classic target example to explain this
Imagine 2 scenarios, one where you are asked to throw a dart on the wall vs second where you are given a dartboard.
In the first scenario, you will just throw darts at random spaces. While if the dartboard is given, with every dart, you will get better at aiming.
That is why defining a goal is the first step in writing an effective SOP. You must have an end goal. When you have an end goal, you can measure it against your output with any of the process performance metrics.
For example, if you are creating an SOP for your hiring process, your end goal might be to reduce the time to hire, decrease collaboration gaps or to hire efficient candidates as per the job requirements. This goal will help you to track the progress of your business processes in the future.
2. Select the format
This would start giving a structure to your SOP. There is no one standard format for writing an SOP. You can choose from several formats available online. Here is the format of SOP you can use as an inspiration and customize as you want which fit your specific requirement:
3. Gather the involved stakeholders
Include all the people who are going to be a part of this process while creating the SOP. They are directly involved in this process on a daily basis. Be open to discussion and listen to their needs and suggestions on improving the process. Also, define the authorities, responsibilities, and scope of the SOP with all the stakeholders. There will be times that one person would be involved in multiple processes. There should be no vague or hidden rules on what they should prioritize first. It is important that you make it clear with everyone.
4. List down the detailed process
This is the most important step to write an SOP. Write down the step-by-step process and spare no details. We must include everything from start to finish. Let’s continue the previous example of the hiring process. Write down all the steps such as:
1. Recognizing a vacancy
2. Creating an open position section on the careers page
3. Designing the page (details about designing, colors, elements)
4. Writing the content for the page
5. Creating an ad (Promotion channels detail)
6. Collecting CVs and Resumes of the candidates
7. Filtering the candidates (Include details regarding the criteria of filtering like min. 2 years experience or skilled in a particular programming language)
8. Scheduling interviews according to their preferred time. (Include details of who will take and moderate the interview)
9. Collect feedback on the candidate
10. Discussion with the HR team
11. Sending the formal offer letter
This is how you will list down the steps of the selected process. Simulate the process in real-time while you are writing to assure that you don’t forget anything.
5. Ask for a review
Give a copy of the document to each of the stakeholders and ask them to proofread it. This will help you identify any mistakes or gaps that you might not have noticed while preparing the document. You can also ask someone totally alien to the process to read it and review it as they will help you identify the confusing parts of your SOP.
6. Implement the SOP for a test
Do a trial run of the Standard Operating Procedure to find out how accurate and efficient is the SOP that you have created. It may come as a surprise but you will find a lot of problems when you implement it for the first time. It happens because we forget to keep in mind human errors like distractions, fatigue, or lack of communication. Add solutions if you see these problems. For example, if you see that an employee forgets to report to the supervisor, make an automated follow-up/ task reminder for them.
7. Finalize the SOP and evaluate
Once all these steps are completed, take signatures of the concerned people and finalize the SOP document. Congratulations, you just created an effective SOP. Now all you have to do is sit back patiently and observe. Evaluate the efficiency of these SOPs with the metrics that you had kept in mind in the first step i.e. “preparing the goal”.
Best practices for writing effective Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)
1. Build for Flexibility
Flexibility is the demand of the new workforce. If you have created a Standard Operating Procedure for your employees, don’t be too rigid. Trust your employees and give them control as far as it achieves the end result. Flexibility will inspire your employees to work harder and smarter. Now, out of all the time, we are seeing the increase in remote work and dynamic workplaces due to the pandemic. 9/10 employees say flexibility in working and schedules boosts their morale.
2. Train your employees
Just creating an SOP is not enough, if your employees cannot put it into practice. Train your employees along with the SOP. This would help them gain a better understanding of the processes that you have developed. It would also help you improve your processes as you get in direct touch with the stakeholders involved in it.
3. Revision History
Revision History AKA version history is the summary of all the changes done in your document. It would help you understand the development of your processes clearly. Keep a few blocks empty for adding future revisions in your SOP. This would be a log of all your experiences and results that you achieved after developing the Standard Operating Procedure.
4. Automate your SOP
Automating your SOP on a process automation platform so that you don’t have to take follow-ups and keep checks on tasks. They would directly get a notification on what they are supposed to do with the priority of work on their systems. But if you think the process automation platforms out there are heavily-engineered, flowchart oriented, and slow, we think the same way. That’s why we are on the mission of creating Fasproc, the fastest process automation platform out there. You can join our beta list to be the first one to know when we launch.
Processes are at the core of every business. Creating a standard operating procedure will make sure you understand your business processes well. As fast process automation is getting a priority, you will need to create an SOP and automate your processes to enhance your workflow. If you have any doubts regarding how to create a Standard Operating Procedure, let us know in the comments down below. We would love to help you with your process automation expertise.