Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are like the rules in your favorite sport. Not everybody may like them, but they’re necessary to make the game enjoyable.
Socrates said, "Without rules, we are nothing but animals." The meaning may not be literal, but you get the idea.
Imagine a country where laws don't exist, and companies can operate without standard operating procedures. If you have watched the movie "The Purge," you may already have an idea of what the world would look like.
SOPs prevent chaos from descending hard in your business. They bring order and organization to your business processes. So, let's talk about how to avoid chaos in your business by developing your own SOPs.
What are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) & Who Uses them?
Standard operating procedures are documented processes that a business establishes to ensure that products and services are delivered consistently. SOPs are a set of instructions that guide employees on what to do in specific situations.
You want your employees to be more productive while complying with existing expectations and regulations. But that can only be achieved by filling the communication gap between upper management and employees.
SOPs form part of the many ways you communicate business goals and directions to your employees. It is more or less a form of an operating manual that aid your employees in navigating complex situations for a smoother running of your business operations.
The various examples of SOPs you can have in your business include:
Operational procedures – they guide employees on how to conduct or perform various tasks within the firm
Safety procedures - they contain your firm's documented procedures for keeping everyone safe in the workplace
Quality assurance procedures – they detail the various measures you take to guarantee the quality of your products and services.
Administrative processes- these procedures inform your employees of all the responsibilities in their respective positions
Compliant management procedures – they ensure your business processes, products, and services comply with the various legal and regulatory requirements.
Managing complaints – your employees will follow when handling customer complaints for better customer relationship management.
Product returns- these are very important when running an e-commerce store. They guide your staff members in handling any goods returned by your customers.
Content management SOP – you need these standard procedures if you plan to outsource most of your content from virtual assistants. The SOPs are vital in maintaining consistency in your brand communications.
But SOPs are not for your employees alone. They are equally important to your external stakeholders.
The standard operating procedures are also documentation to external stakeholders, informing them how everything works in your business. They inform various stakeholder groups of your business's compliance with the various operational practices and regulations.
For example, SOPs are why you feel confident that your car's airbags work without testing them. You believe the car manufacturer has conducted and complied with the various quality assurance tests and regulations.
Signs Your Business Needs SOPs
Standards operating procedures are a must-have for any competitive business. The following are warning signs that you need them right now:
If you are taking too long to onboard your new employees
If the current business processes are becoming obsolete
If your employees are taking longer than usual to complete certain tasks
If you have been experiencing workplace hazards
If your employees require regular guidance or supervision to perform certain tasks
Creating your business SOPs can be a tricky process. But it becomes easier to know what parts to include in the document.
Table of contents
Purpose of the SOP
Scope– remember to include your SOP's target audience
Roles of key stakeholders
Procedures – these are the actual standards you hope to establish
Any other additional materials
Benefits of Standard Operating Procedures
Now you know what SOPs entail, including when and how to implement them in your business. Next, we’re going to highlight the benefits or why you need these SOPs in your firm.
1. SOPs Help You Deliver Consistent and Quality Results
You have had moments when you have freaked out because one of your favorite brands changed its products and services. Even a small adjustment, like a change of packaging, may make you doubt whether the quality is still the same.
It is even worse when such changes happen to foodstuffs and beverages. If you are like some people, such small changes may even make you doubt your taste buds.
In most cases, your favorite brands or restaurant psychologically prepares you for these changes by informing you beforehand of their plans to make to their products or services.
Now imagine if no one informed you of the changes and it was just an unintentional error from the company. That is when real business chaos erupts, and you have to start contemplating solutions like product recalls. If you are a believer, you will start praying very hard that no lawsuit is raised against you.
You can avoid such situations by establishing SOPs. These procedures establish a system whose outcomes are consistent results with minimal errors.
Additionally, it becomes easier to detect quality errors in the earlier stages of production. Therefore, your project team will correct these errors before the final products or services reach your customers.
2. SOPs will Improve Your Employee Training and Onboarding.
Employee training and onboarding are important in promoting your business growth and performance. Employees are invaluable assets to your business and directly influence your firm's performance.
Therefore, investing in their training and onboarding is an investment in your business's bottom line. But again, you need to save on operation costs and improve your business processes.
That is the critical role SOPs play in employee onboarding and training processes. They are like the irreducible minimums containing the policies and standards procedures that must be followed in your business.
Your business still exists in a competitive environment. Therefore, your employees must understand their roles and responsibilities for faster decision-making.
Thankfully, the elements of your SOPs will effectively cover all the requirements for improved employee autonomy. For example, it will include details, such as responsibilities, accountability measures, procedures, and scope.
3. SOPs Improve Your Quality Assurance and Safety
The basic premise of SOPs is that they establish standards for doing things. The document standardizes your business processes, hence eliminating procedural conflicts in your business.
Your aim should always be to empower your staff members to make independent decisions. But again, you want to maintain a check that ensures their decisions are in your organization's best interests.
SOPs inform your employees of the expected outcomes. They also set the standards of the expected minimum quality standards, which extend to your vendors and outsourcing partners.
On the other hand, you also have to be wary of the external business environment, including political and legal influences. An important function of SOPs is to secure legal protection from external environmental influences.
Certain SOPs, like workplace safety procedures, are a regulation requirement from the external business environment. The minimum requirements contribute to a safer workplace, which is ideal for every organization's stakeholders.
SOPs protect you from legal liabilities from any business stakeholders. There is always the possibility that something may go wrong, and you will be thankful for being compliant with the required government standards.
4. SOPs Improve Workplace Productivity and Performance
Sometimes all you need is some order to inspire positive change in your business. SOPs establish structures in your business, inspiring productivity because of the clear system of doing things.
Never underestimate the roles, continuity, and fluidity of your business processes. Even automation of your business processes won't bear positive results if your SOP structures are non-existent.
Moreover, SOPs improve the independence of your business processes and structures. For example, you don't have to always rely on your website developer to maintain your e-commerce site.
You can request the developer to document the common fixes or research and document them. That way, anyone with the relevant authority can use the document to implement relevant updates and fixes.
Refine Your Business Processes Today
There you have it! Standard operating procedures can do your business a whole lot of good. Most importantly, they will help you establish consistency in your quality and improve efficiency in your business processes.
However, their success also depends on you having a streamlined business process to support the structure established by your SOPs. So, if you want to implement positive change, get in touch. We’ll help you audit and streamline your business processes while you focus on setting up your SOPs.