To ensure that your employees do the right things, and for your organization to succeed, an operations manual is essential. Manuals concentrate on ‘how to do things’ and lay out every process in explicit stages, i.e. by developing a standard operating procedure (SOP) for each activity.
Without clear step-by-step SOPs, manuals full of “waffle,” “legalese,” and “prescription” won’t assist your personnel to perform a better job or grow your company. Additionally, according to statistics, organizations with formal onboarding processes have an average employee retention rate of 69%.
Having well-documented SOPs can be an essential component of effective onboarding and employee training programs, leading to improved employee retention and overall business success.
If you want to create your own SOPs, keep reading to learn how.
Pick a Suitable Format
Before you begin writing, examine the different formats for writing an SOP and how to best structure and deliver it to the personnel who will use it so that you communicate successfully.
Keep in mind that those working directly with customers can learn best from concise, easy-to-follow instructions accompanied by photographs and visuals for rapid reference, while those working in administration and law can be more at ease with detailed, properly structured pages of text.
Formats for SOP designs vary widely and may include:
- Well-structured narrative;
- Instructional lists with bullet points or numbers;
- Images showing each stage;
- Instructive visuals, etc.
Make a List or Diagram of All the Steps Involved
Before you can write individual SOPs, you must first determine all of your company’s processes and how they relate to one another. Otherwise, you can overlook little but crucial details that are essential to your success.
Take, for example, the case of omitting the steps of removing the wheel and jacking up the vehicle from a normal operating procedure for replacing a car tire. It’s true that these procedures are elementary, yet without them, your SOPs would be incoherent and useless.
By drawing out some basic flowcharts, you can quickly determine which tasks need their own standard operating procedure, which is already covered by another SOP, which might benefit from a more refined SOP, and where an SOP is needed but is missing.
Describe in Detail the Process You’re Attempting to Develop
Select the first standard operating procedure you’d want to develop, now that you know which processes need them and the major steps involved in each.
Writing standard operating procedures in the same sequence in which they occur in your business will help you think things through logically, include all the relevant details, and connect one procedure to the next.
First, make a list of all the things you need to do to complete your chosen procedure or sketch it out, so you don’t forget anything. A solid starting point for creating a standard operating procedure is to make a list of the most important stages involved in each operation.
Think About Who Will Be Reading Your SOP
The easiest method to get your point through according to the demands, role, amount of experience, technical expertise, literacy, etc., while writing a standard operating procedure is to first identify your target audience.
You need to make sure that the language, tone, structure, and degree of information in your SOPs are accessible to the people who will be utilizing them.
You can’t get your message over in an SOP if you don’t know who you’re talking to. If your new standard operating procedure is excessively complicated or condescending, it can cause more confusion than it solves and irritate your team.
Type Up a Rough Draft of the SOP
Now that you have an idea of what you want to write about, you can begin drafting the first official version of your SOP. Keep this text-based and ignore design concerns for now.
Finish the Final Draft and Layout
Finalize your standard operating procedure by following these steps:
- Request expert feedback on final drafts.
- Make changes depending on their comments.
- Insert into the desired structure.
- Review the final draft for errors in language, spelling, graphics, layout, and design.
- If your SOPs relate to other materials, be sure to make those materials accessible.
Publish and Update the Manual
After your SOP is complete, it’s important to disseminate the information and monitor employee compliance. Check your manuals and procedures for accuracy on a regular basis, at least once a year, and make any necessary changes. Your team’s trust in your SOPs could suffer if even a single part of the handbook is no longer valid.
SOPs can be a very useful way to standardize procedures and guard against mistakes. They can also help you save time that you can put to better use elsewhere. Once you start using an SOP for each of your company’s processes, your business will run more smoothly, and you’ll have more time to do other important things.
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