Standard operating procedures – why does a business need them?
Even when your employees are well-trained and well-intentioned, without clear instructions they will each have a different idea of how things should be done. The risks, in this case, are multiple: that the tasks will not be performed in the best way, that results will be variable and difficult to predict, that multiple errors will occur, but also that the correct way of performing certain tasks is known by and depends on one person, who will be difficult to replace. If you allow this to happen in your business, you can face productivity issues, delays, and financial losses.
How can these dreaded scenarios be avoided? If you expect all employees to follow the same rules, then you need to make it clear what those rules are. And the best way to do this is to document the company's internal processes into standard operating procedures.
For those who are looking for a more efficient way of organizing their business, we have prepared a simple introduction to standard operating procedures and their main benefits, that apply to any company, no matter its size.
What are standard operating procedures?
Standard operating procedures are sets of instructions that document a company’s internal processes. By applying these instructions, the company ensures that the services and products it delivers are in accordance with internal and law-established quality standards and operational practices, and that the employees are given equal treatment, while they know their rights and what is expected of them. Procedures are typically created and managed by specialized personnel or, more simply, with the help of a procedure management system.
Procedures are essential when you want your business to operate in a coordinated, productive manner and with a reduced risk of error. If it is not clear to you how a simple, easy-to-implement procedure should be written, the plan and the downloadable template in this article will help you. If you are not convinced that your business needs procedures, you can read more about their main benefits in the following sections.
Procedures communicate to employees everything they need to know about their work and about the company
A well-written set of procedures clearly communicates the company's rules, standards, values and benefits to employees. Thus, employees gain a clear vision of the company, integrate more easily and quickly into its culture, and become more efficient, because they are able to:
- quickly understand how to carry out their activity concretely and correctly;
- work with less supervision and guidance;
- act in accordance with the rules and objectives of the company and with the legislation in force;
- use already tested and effective methods and solutions to carry out tasks and solve problems.
Implicitly, the time spent on tasks or lost on inefficient communication, the risk of errors and the resources spent to repair mistakes, are reduced, increasing the company's profitability.
In addition, if you use the SOP management application, employees can quickly learn about any changes that affect their work. The automatic notifications save you time as they eliminate the need to communicate with each employee individually, or to rely on the communication between employees. You can consult a list of benefits and the user manual for more details on why and how the SOP application can be useful for your company.
Procedures help the company implement its policies
Let’s think for a moment about the onboarding policy within a company, and the procedures that can help in its implementation. Every company wants to make sure that new employees have a positive onboarding experience and that they get all the information they need so they can get started as quickly as possible. In order for the onboarding process to run smoothly every time, regardless of the people involved in its implementation, you will, at least, need operational procedures related to:
- Preparing documents before the employee’s first day of work
- How to welcome the employee (sending a welcome email, organizing a meeting with the rest of the employees, etc.)
- Granting access to information essential to the employee’s activity (important information about the company, rules of conduct, access to documentation, digital tools and passwords, etc.)
- Agenda of the first day/first week
- Creating a list of short and medium-term goals.
Don't forget that these activities will impact the new employee’s perception of the company, so you want them to be carried out as smoothly as possible. Well-written procedures support a well-organized onboarding process, boosting employee engagement and retention. This will be the case, of course, for other policies and processes.
Procedures help businesses avoid losing critical information
Employees who leave are a familiar element to all companies. An employee's departure does not only mean that the company must find a replacement, but also ensure that the new employee goes through a proper training process. This can be easily carried out through procedures.
Also, many companies have that one employee with many years of experience, possibly in various roles, who knows all there is to know about policies and procedures, and whom the company relies on to pass on critical information to other employees. But the risk of that information being lost when this employee leaves, in turn, is quite high.
By ensuring that everything is documented in procedures, you no longer risk losing critical knowledge when your employees leave. In addition, through the SOP application, this knowledge is kept safe and always within reach of employees.
In the long run, clear information shared through procedures helps any company avoid issues such as:
- Confusion and conflict between employees regarding optimal problem solving
- Applying solutions that lead to mediocre results
- Ineffective communication
- Waste of time and resources
- Lack of productivity.
Standard operating procedures are not a miracle solution – they will not absolutely guarantee either great performance, excellent results, or huge profits. However, they are an essential step towards these goals, as they will ensure that your employees are qualified, that you have a structured system and effective processes in place, and that you create a motivating company culture.