Most times when a company is starting all the vital decisions are taken by the CEO or the management team. As the company grows in its size, this form of decision-making may no longer be feasible as it can limit the capacity of the company to grow at a faster pace. The CEO or the management team can no longer afford to be involved in every aspect of the company’s operations or make decisions in the appropriate timeframe. In such a situation, SOP would take over as the governing guide. SOPs are needed to ensure the team is operating in a formalized and coordinated process which not only increases productivity but also reduces the risk of errors.
An organization’s day-to-day activities may consist of many tasks that need to be performed to deliver the expected outcome or results. If these tasks are not defined, how the task is done may vary depending on who does the task or any other external conditions. If the organisation’s operation requires you to follow certain rules while performing day-to-day activities, you must communicate these rules within the organization. The best way is to document them.
What are Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)?
Standard Operating Procedure is a documented guide that details the day-to-day activities that an employee needs to perform to ensure services and products are delivered consistently every time. SOPs are usually put in place in an organization to ensure that processes follow regulations and operational practices and document how tasks must be completed. These consist of step-by-step instructions on how an employee must complete a task and the expected outcome or result after the task is completed. They may also include flowcharts to visually represent the workflow, helping employees better understand the process.
Need for an SOP
Let’s look at some of the reasons why we need an SOP:
Creating an AOP might be a time-consuming task, however, once created SOPs help save a lot of time in operational activities. If the same task is to be performed by different employees, there might be inconsistency in the completion timing. However, if the rule and guidelines for performing the tasks are documented, it streamlines the workflow, ensuring employees complete the task in a set amount of time.
Ensure the safety of employees
Performing a task without any guidelines might increase the risk of adversities. SOPs help eliminate any risk exposure and ensure all safety guidelines are properly followed.
Ensure compliance standards are met
SOPs put measures in place that ensure employees follow all the relevant laws, policies, and regulatory measures as required by industry compliance standards and regulatory norms. SOPs also serve as defence documents in the case of any litigation or accident exposure.
SOPs make the work of managers easier as they are no longer required to communicate to each employee the guidelines that need to be followed for a specific role. They also eliminate any doubts or questions concerning the task that needs to be performed as employees can refer to the SOP anywhere anytime.
How to Write an SOP
Here we put down the key steps that need to be followed to create a robust standard operating procedure document:
Generate a list of all business processes
The first thing you need to do before you start with an SOP is to identify and make a list of all the tasks that need to be performed to produce the product or services delivered by the business. You will need to conduct a survey or reach out to the employees in each function to define the tasks they do daily. Once this is done, you can review it with the managers, and look for any redundancies.
Choose a format for the SOP
If your organization already has an SOP in place, then you can refer to those documents as a template. You can choose to document an SOP as a checklist, flow charts, workflow diagrams, or a combination of it all.
Know your Audience
This is important to create an SOP document as the better you understand the point of view of your audience the more relevant your document would be. Identify the size of the audience, their experience level, the level of knowledge they have, the past processes they are used to, etc.
Collaborate with the employees
SOP needs to be written with the end-user that is the employees in mind. It is important to collaborate with the employees during the creation process of the SOPs so that you can better understand the current challenges and pain points faced by them. Their feedback and suggestions would be valuable to create a more relevant and useful SOP.
Get down to writing
Once you have gathered enough data points, you can use a document editor and start adding your notes. You can add screenshots, screen recordings, images, flow charts, and videos to make it more interactive and engaging. This will boost the engagement levels with the SOP as the employees would find it easy and interesting to use. Once you are done writing, you will need to review the document with the managers and employees to gather their inputs and feedback. This will be a good time to decide who will be responsible for updating the document periodically and decide on periodic review meetings to update the document.
Once you have created the document, you have come to the most essential part of the process: distributing it among the employees. It is important to store the SOP in a place that is easily accessible to all the employees in the organization.
Make it a living document
SOP creation might seem like a one-time process, however, that is hardly the case. SOP is a dynamic procedural document that needs to be regularly updated as systems and workflows within an organization are prone to quick changes and evolution. This is why it is important to periodically schedule meetings to review and update the document so that it stays in sync with the current workflow and system within the organization.
Your Retail Coach (YRC) is a retail consulting and eCommerce outsourcing company offering a wide range of services in retail offline, retail eCommerce, and retail omnichannel catering to a multitude of industries. With the enormous experience that YRC has accumulated over the years by working with international eCommerce brands, YRC can help hire, establish, or reform your current organizational structure to enable continuous communication flow within the company. YRC will spend time analyzing your business process and ensure optimization of the business processes and roles, validating if all the defined roles are necessary and contributing to the organisation’s wider goals. YRC is one of the best among the market leaders in organizational strategy consulting with a depth of capabilities, breadth of capabilities, and maximum client impact. YRC has played a pivotal role in shaping up successful and sustainable eCommerce businesses with aligned leadership and purpose-driven organizational culture.