Standard Operating Procedures

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are not just a formality. They are the backbone of any organization, ensuring everyone works in a coordinated process. By minimizing the risk of errors, they create a secure work environment where everyone is part of a team.

What are SOPs?

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are a company’s documented processes to ensure consistent delivery of services and products. These procedures are important to demonstrate compliance with regulations and operational practices and document how tasks must be completed within an organization. SOPs provide standard guidelines for team members to complete a process and contain written step-by-step instructions for specific, complex, routine business tasks. They help employees perform tasks correctly by breaking down how to perform a task with clear instructions on what to do and how to do it.

As a company grows, the CEO or management team can’t make all internal decisions in an appropriate time frame or be involved in every aspect of the business. In this instance, SOPs take over and act as the governing word. They also serve as an effective way to communicate changes in the way a business operates to employees.

The requirements and format for SOPs vary from industry to industry and depend on the type of activity an organization is undertaking or the regulations by which the business is governed.

Why do you need SOPs at your organization?

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are essential guidelines for businesses to establish a structured quality system. SOPs do not necessarily guarantee exceptional performance or outcomes but are critical in ensuring qualified employees and motivating company culture. In their purest form, SOPs support the right people in the right environment.

Standardizing processes and documenting formal SOPs can significantly improve productivity and reduce costs. However, not every organization will benefit from this kind of standardization, and it is up to the business owner or manager to decide if it’s worth investing time and resources into teaching employees through SOPs. Nonetheless, SOPs are an effective business tool as they communicate the correct way of carrying out an activity within the organization.

Training and Onboarding

One of the most significant benefits of SOPs is that they help document knowledge, which can be used for employee training and onboarding. This is particularly useful for companies that aim to establish efficient and consistent workflows, especially in industries that face a high employee turnover rate or a shortage of skilled workers, such as manufacturing.

SOPs are an effective tool for training and onboarding new employees. By breaking down the SOP into specific instructions or checklists, employers can provide on-the-job training to new hires and help them acclimate to the company’s processes. This can be especially useful in ensuring that employees thoroughly understand their roles and responsibilities, regardless of their tenure.

When employees are clear on their responsibilities and know the steps required to perform their tasks efficiently and effectively, their job performance will improve. This can reduce company time and resource waste and prevent employee frustration. Uncertainty around processes can also lead to costly delays and errors.

Moreover, SOPs can enhance employees’ autonomy by reducing their need to constantly check with their supervisor for guidance on approaching a task. With an SOP, they have a step-by-step guide that they can refer to anytime.

Thorough SOPs can also serve as training documents, teaching users about the process for which the SOP was written. They can be used to provide standardized training to new employees and retrain existing employees.

Having a set of time-effective and cost-effective SOPs containing every process and procedure can streamline training and management. It can help build your employees’ skills and institutional knowledge, help them grow into their roles, and hold them accountable at every turn.

SOPs also ensure that everyone on your team knows what to do when someone goes on holiday, takes sick leave, or takes another role. This can prevent confusion and delays in projects and keep the workflow smooth.

In conclusion, whether you are onboarding a new employee or training an existing employee, transparent and accessible SOPs can save you time, energy, and resources and prevent organizational failures. Transparency and accessibility can make a new employee’s training experience positive, setting them up for long-term success. That can help your established employees achieve consistency faster, perform better, and step into their autonomy by knowing what’s expected of them, ultimately maximizing output and production.

Safety and Compliance

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are a vital set of guidelines companies rely on to ensure their employees follow the operational, safety, health, and environmental regulations. Prioritizing production over safety, health, and the environment can lead to costly consequences. To avoid accidents, legal issues, and fines, SOPs provide employees with the necessary tools to comply with company and government mandates. Training employees in all aspects of their jobs is better than risking accidents, fines, and litigation.

It’s worth emphasizing that detailed, step-by-step SOPs can reduce the chance of human error in any process. While it’s impossible to eliminate all risks, clear and tested SOPs can generally make a process safer. However, keeping the SOPs up-to-date and as straightforward as possible is critical.

Moreover, a company must keep track of procedural changes and incorporate them into its SOPs. Consider SOPs as a living document requiring regular updates and even parts discarded over time.

Lastly, well-crafted SOPs ensure that a company complies with government regulations and demonstrates its good-faith intention to operate correctly. Failing to create and implement proper SOPs will signal to government regulators that your business is not serious about compliance.

Consistency and Quality Control

Having Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place can help prevent inconsistencies, which can lead to increased costs and a poor customer experience. A well-written procedure provides clear instructions for performing a task.

By following these instructions, team members can reduce errors and improve accuracy. SOPs also help ensure that processes are completed on time and without interruption.

Finally, SOPs are critical in maintaining quality control of processes and products. Consumers expect products that meet consistent standards, and SOPs help standardize products and ensure their quality.

Productivity and Performance Accountability

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) provide a well-defined path to getting things done. When your team follows these procedures, they become more productive and confident. SOPs also enable you to set benchmarks for measuring their performance.

However, sometimes, things can go awry, like when a process takes longer than expected or produces unexpected outcomes. In such situations, you have two options as a leader: reward creative approaches or hold employees accountable for not following the procedures.

To assess your staff’s performance effectively, it’s essential to ensure that they adhere to SOPs and are not just doing things the same way they always have. Additionally, some employees may require additional training after the new SOPs have been implemented. Accountability is critical, and it helps to keep everyone on track.

SOPs can also serve as a checklist for co-workers, who can use them to reinforce proper performance and show they care about their colleagues. When outlining the correct procedures in an SOP, any co-worker can use it to coach another and help enhance their work skills.

Succession Planning

Succession planning is a technique companies use to transfer leadership roles to other employees or groups of employees. This ensures a seamless and uninterrupted flow of business operations even after key personnel move on to other opportunities, retire, or pass away.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are records of the how, why, and when of steps in an existing process. They are a factual basis for revising the process or equipment when necessary. As people move from job to job within or between companies, unwritten knowledge and skills disappear. Well-maintained written SOPs can preserve the best experience that can help new workers when older ones move on.

Creating a business playbook (also known as a company playbook) is one of the simplest ways to document your SOPs and make them readily available to every team member. A business playbook consolidates all your policies, procedures, SOPs, and processes in one accessible location for everyone.

A practical business playbook should include four main components:

  • A company profile that tells your company’s story, what you stand for, and how you got there.
  • Team members and their roles, responsibilities, and contact information.
  • Company policies.
  • Company processes and procedures (SOPs and more).

Democratizing your procedures for the entire company instead of allowing a few employees to monopolize that knowledge is another way of demonstrating your company’s commitment to transparency and cultivating a company culture of trust.

Indeed, the right-hand doesn’t always need to know what the left hand is doing. However, when it comes to SOPs, the goal is to get the necessary information and how-tos in front of the employees who need them.


Remember, not every process requires an SOP. While documenting SOPs may seem tedious, the long-term benefits and return on investment (ROI) make it worthwhile. By establishing clear SOPs and making them easily accessible to everyone, you can achieve consistency across the board. Your team can benefit from improved employee efficiency and productivity, encouragement of autonomy, and streamlined initial and ongoing training.

All new or established employees need access to resources and tools that can help them perform their responsibilities to the best of their ability. Empowering employees to do their best work boosts the