What Are SOPs and Should I Have Them?

SOP refers to Standard Operating Procedure. An SOP is a manual or guideline that provides instructions on the proper steps and requirements to perform a task. SOPs provide a brief description of the task, include relevant information, what department it applies to, and usually who is responsible. While a specific person or position may be responsible for performing the task, an SOP includes step-by-step instructions so that any qualified person can perform the task if necessary.

What are the benefits of an SOP?
Having SOPs allows your company to perform procedures in the event the person responsible is unable to do so. They’re very useful for helping perform maintenance on systems and equipment, auditing your processes, and also to assist you in staying compliant with current laws and regulations.

SOPs can help improve your standards of quality and time. When a process is outlined in a step-by-step format, the person working through the process knows exactly what needs to be done, how to do it, and where to find additional information or tools needed to complete the process.

Having all the steps in place allows for better quality control because the likelihood of something being skipped or forgotten is limited, and when someone is unfamiliar with a process, an SOP can save trial-and-error time. SOPs help remove the burden of someone trying to complete a task or having to pull another person off their duties to assist.

SOPs are also a very useful tool when training personnel. Allowing new hires or personnel new to a position follow an SOP to perform a task, helps the employee learn the process quicker and have a better understanding of how and why the process is set up the way it is. It also helps employees learn about other positions and coworkers as they see who is responsible for each step or piece in a process.

An SOP can also help a company provide a feasible defense in the case of litigation. By having step-by-step processes in place, a company can show they have provided a proper platform for learning, organizing and performing tasks assigned to employees.

Auditing your processes with an SOP is a valuable way to validate them. By auditing or following an SOP, you ensure all steps are performed…and perhaps find a way to combine, eliminate or reorder the steps, which in turn improves your quality control and time factor. One way to check your SOPs is to have an employee who is not familiar with a process follow an SOP and see if they get the desired outcome or find it confusing.

Update your SOPs
Remember, it’s important to keep your SOPs updated! Creating an SOP and not updating it as processes change, undermines the usefulness of the SOP. Not keeping up with new or different steps in a process wastes time, and could potentially cause outcome errors, safety concerns resulting in employee injuries, and even causing the entire process to fail. It’s a good idea to go over your SOPs on a yearly basis, or as new employees or equipment is introduced in the workplace, to confirm the step-by-step instructions are still effective or if they need to be updated.

Creating and updating an SOP can be somewhat laborious, but the result can save a company time and money—and what company doesn’t like to save money?!

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