You have a lot of processes but none of them are written down.  You sat down next to your employee and trained them on how to do their job.  A week goes by and you notice steps are being skipped and they keep asking you the same questions.  Does this sound familiar?  If so, you are ready for some SOP’s in your life.  SOP’s are critical to any business, especially businesses that are scaling, growing, and / or hiring.

What are SOP’s?

SOP is short for Standard Operating Procedure.  Standard Operating Procedures outline the steps needed or required in order of when it needs to be done.  SOP’s can be a detailed and robust as you want and the length of the SOP will vary greatly based on the complexity of the process and how many steps are involved.

SOP’s can be developed for any department or industry.  The actual steps may be different but the concepts and best practices are are applied to create easy to follow SOP’s remain the same.

If there are common mistakes or issues that often occur during a process, you can add a checkpoint within the SOP to check for that item. For example, the shipping department keeps getting customer complaints that their order is missing items.  Instead of continuing to do the same things, you can add in a step which requires order verification and sign off before printing shipping label, etc.  This risk mitigating step will help improve quality, customer satisfaction, and increase employees’ accountability.

What are SOP’s used for?

SOP’s are used to train employees on a certain task, job function, or process.  Depending on the complexity, SOP’s may be broken down into multiple individual SOP’s.  If your only employee calls out sick or quits without notice, you will wish you had some SOP’s in place.  

Why are SOP’s important?

Helps Ensure Consistency

Standard Operating Procedures help ensure that processes are done consistently in order to achieve the target end result.  When you go to Starbucks to get your favorite coffee drink, you know that it will be made the same way across various Starbucks locations and essentially taste the way you expect it to.  Starbucks baristas are trained on how to make drinks and follow steps and add the specified ingredients, this helps ensure consistency.

Improved Product Quality

SOP’s also help improve product quality.  When you have an SOP, you can easily add steps to address any product quality issues.  For example, if a jewelry store rings and the gems fall out, the jewelry company can update their SOP to either change the way stones are added to rings so it is more secure and / or they can add a quality check step to try to verify the stones are in securely.  This will result in a product with better quality because the stone does not fall out of the ring.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

When product quality improves and things are done consistently and correctly, there will be less complaints, issues, returns, etc and as a result customers, both internal and external, will be happier. 

Faster Employee Training and Ramp Up Time

SOP‘s are a great training tool.  It provides employees with the tools they need to succeed at their job – the job steps are literally outlined for them.  If anyone needs a refresher or has a quick question, they can refer to the SOP’s.  SOP’s make it possible for employees to train themselves on how to do something.