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Standard Operating Procedures: What They Are And How To Write Them

two managers working on standard operating procedures on a white board with sticky notes

Whether you’re starting a new business or trying to improve an existing one, you need your own set of standard operating procedures to make it run efficiently.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the concept of standard operating procedures, show you why you need them in your business, and give you tips for writing the best procedures possible.

Standard Operating Procedures Defined

female manager showing her employees a the standard operating procedure

A standard operating procedure (a.k.a. SOP), sometimes referred to as standing operating procedure, is a set of step-by-step instructions compiled by an organization to help team members carry out complex routine operations.

These instructions help achieve efficiency, maintain quality output, and preserve uniformity of performance while, at the same time, serve to reduce miscommunication and minimize failure to comply with industry regulations.

Why You Need Standard Operating Procedures

two entrepreneurs brainstorming

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your business doesn’t need standard operating procedures.

Yes, you’ve trained your employees and they’re good at what they do, but even the most skilled professionals — think surgeons and airline pilots — still use an SOP checklist before, during, and after their jobs.

If they can benefit from such a list, your team members can too.

Here are several reasons why you need step-by-step instructions in your business.

1) Consistency

With an SOP in place, you ensure that no matter who is assigned to a specific task, that person or team will complete the job the same way every time.

2) Efficiency

If you allow your employees to approach a task any way they choose, it will take them longer to complete that task and their efficiency will suffer as a result.

Putting a standard operating procedure in place tells them how to proceed from start to finish, streamlines the process, and helps them accomplish more in less time.

3) A Safer Workplace

One often-overlooked benefit of incorporating standard operating procedures into your workflow is that they create a safe workplace.

With a checklist “in hand,” you know your employees won’t miss important safety concerns that could endanger the individual, coworkers, and even customers.

How To Write Your Own Standard Operating Procedures

maps on a wall

1) Compile A List Of Common Tasks

Write down every task your employees perform during their workday — from operating the time clock to cleaning the bathroom to providing customer service over the phone.

Some tasks may not need a checklist, but listing ALL of your team’s responsibilities will ensure that you don’t miss one or two important ones.

2) Decide On A Format For Your Instructions

Standard operating procedures can range from step-by-step instructions (e.g., a numbered or bulleted list) to flowcharts (a.k.a. workflow diagrams, business process mapping, or business process modeling).

You’ll need to decide on the format that works best for your employees and the business as a whole.

3) Compose The Procedures For Each Task

Once you’ve settled on a format, compose the standard operating procedures for each task.

Keep in mind that this isn’t the last step in the process. The instructions you create at this point are only the first draft. You’ll likely need to make revisions after the next step.

4) Get Input From Your Employees

This is an essential component of creating the best SOP possible.

Why? Because your employees are the ones who actually perform the job. They have insight into the process and the task itself that you may have missed or never even considered.

Take the time to go through the instructions with your team, get their input, and make any necessary changes.

5) Update Your Procedures At Least Yearly

At least once per year, review the SOP documents for each task and meet with your team again to determine if there’s a better, easier, more efficient way to get the job done.

Keep Everyone On Task With The Right Software

Sling's scheduling software

One of the best ways to keep everyone on task — and working according to standard operating procedures — is to incorporate scheduling and communication software (like Sling) into your workflow.

The powerful suite of tools within the Sling app can help you:

  • Make procedures and instructions available to your employees anywhere, anytime
  • Keep your team members on task throughout the day
  • Organize work hours
  • Facilitate communication within your business
  • Streamline the clock in/clock out procedure
  • Simplify the scheduling process
  • Track labor costs
  • Remove the difficulties in finding substitutes

A unique and powerful feature of the Sling app is its connection to the Cloud. In the past, managers stored SOP documents in a filing cabinet within the office proper.

Employees had to request access to that hard copy or, at the very least, take time out of their work to physically go to the filing cabinet and search for the appropriate piece of paper.

Now, Sling makes it possible to store instructions, checklists, diagrams, and any other standard operating procedure documentation in the cloud.

That means your team can pull up the necessary information from their smartphone or other mobile device anytime, anywhere. They can have in their hand in a matter of seconds what it used to take several minutes and a trip to the filing cabinet to find.

Connectivity of that caliber significantly reduces wasted time.

Sling's messages feature

Then, with Sling’s Messages feature, you can communicate more efficiently from a single platform instead of trying to coordinate multiple apps and contact channels.

You can send messages to groups or individuals, keep everyone informed, and build a better company culture — all in real-time.

And the Newsfeed feature lets you share news efficiently with everyone on your team at the same time.

You can set up pages to distribute information to specific groups of people within your team, post updates (with files, pictures, and videos), and even create your own social space.

All of that within the same platform where employees come to check their schedules, clock in and out, and find the information they need to do their jobs better. That’s a powerful tool to help you manage your workforce and run your business better.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit GetSling.com today.

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