How to write effective SOPs for your business

Documenting processes & systems with clear, concise, and logical steps

Good ole Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) – a necessary tool for any business looking to streamline their services, improve efficiency and have things running like clockwork.

As overwhelming as it may be to think about every single step that comes together to provide a seamless service (and document them), there are a few simple things to keep in mind when sitting down to write SOPs that will help you focus that thought process.

If you’ve managed to wing it this far without them, you’ll for sure be grateful for them in the long run as your business and teams expand.

For your teams and your customers a comprehensive, user-friendly set of SOPs will make life much more streamlined. With clear and logical steps SOPs will take the guess element out of daily operations, enabling consistent and measurable outcomes and a need for very minimal oversight.

Remind me why I need SOPs anyway?

SOPs are a blueprint for best practice. Particularly if you have a team running complex systems and processes.

Why?

You need to be sure that the vision in your head your team understands and can implement with clear guidance and instructions to follow. Having concise and logical processes written down helps to keep everyone on the same page.

You can’t be in all places at once, and do you really want to be? A great set of SOPs means that you can step back a little and trust your teams are following the correct procedures and taking care of business the way you want them to.

SOPs give employees tangible evidence of how they are doing and an understanding they are not being held accountable by just someone’s opinion.

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What do badly written SOPs look like?

One of the most common complaints about company SOP documents is how un-user friendly they are – how outdated the information is and how unclear and difficult to follow they can be when badly put together.

You’re aiming for them to be a working reference document – for this to work they need to be kept constantly updated, compliant and easy to follow.

How to write the most effective SOPs…

  1. Making sure to involve the right people from the get-go (the ones managing and involved in the processes). Run through the entire processes together from start to finish, recording the steps that you are taking as you go, in a format that you can tidy up later.
  2. Choose a format with your audience in mind, keeping it simple, in plain English and in a way that you explain in detail where needed (not assuming any prior knowledge).

For example, avoid the use of jargon and abbreviations without the full written definition. If you use a lot of abbreviated words a glossary of terms can also be helpful.

Visuals work. For example flowcharts, diagrams and screenshots of parts of the process ensures the reader is at the correct stage of the process as they follow along. Checklists can also benefit the process-driven learner who needs to see progression and boxes ticked as they go!

3. Compile and edit the document with all the information in a final format.

4. Review and ask for input. At this point you want to be sure you have not missed vital elements or failed to explain a point that requires more detail. Ask the teams that follow the processes and find out if it works for them.

5. Test them and make edits where needed. This is the most important stage not to be skipped.

TOP TIP: One of the best tests you can do is put your newly completed SOP document in the hands of someone new to the business and follow them round as they do things to see how self-explanatory they are. If they stumble or make mistakes at any point, take cue to rewrite these parts for clarity and you won’t go wrong.

6. Update them regularly or whenever there is a compliance and regulation change that needs to be adhered to.

Benefits of having a well-written set of SOPs 

Here are some topline benefits SOPs bring your business:

  • Cuts training time with new employees
  • Maintains consistency across your brand
  • Standardises business outputs
  • Reduces operational errors and improves customer experience
  • Meet legal requirements without question
  • Reliable and measurable results         
  • Establishes chain of command

Need help writing your SOPs?

As part of our dedicated service to you, we provide handbooks free of charge of the processes and steps taken with every complex project we take on for you.

Although this is not a comprehensive SOP of your entire business, it gives you a taster of how organised your processes can be documented, and our clients tell us that it’s an extremely useful document that helps them in training new staff up.

If you’re interested to learn more about what services we can support you with, click here for an overview.

Get in touch today, we’d love to know how we can help you and your growing business.

The Freelancer PA team.

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