Standard operating procedures – known as SOPs – are policies that are in place within a company so that everyone knows what actions need to be performed when certain situations occur. They make sure that everyone knows what their individual responsibilities are while also keeping teams, departments, and the business as a whole on the same page. They are usually divided up into different departments such as SOPs for accounting, administration, sales, marketing, and so on.
Standard operating procedures can do more than ensure your employees are prepared for any eventuality. Having clear communication and established procedures can increase the value of your business; both by helping your business grow and by showing investors and customers that you have a plan for whatever happens in the future.
3 reasons you need to establish SOPs
You already know that establishing SOPs is important, but you may not be aware of why. Listed below are three very good reasons why you should establish standard operating procedures for your business in detail. These are not the only reasons, but they are three of the most important.
1. They provide a basis for consistency and promote quality assurance
The first good reason for setting up SOPs for your business is that they ensure task consistency no matter who is performing them. For example, a new employee should be able to handle any given task that has been well defined as competently as an experienced employee. If you do not set these standards, then the quality of a product or service can vary depending upon the person working on it, which is not how you build brand consistency.
Every business has common tasks that must be handled regularly. In order for you to provide a consistent experience to your customers or clients, you need to have standard operating procedures in place. Imagine if you had no SOP for customer complaints. That would mean that when someone made a complaint, the way their complaint is handled would depend upon the individual customer service representative who took the call or received the email. Three different representatives might handle the same complaint in three different ways.
If you do not create well thought out SOPs and improve them as needed, your business will not be able to develop the reputation for excellence that you need to grow.
2. They create a safe work environment
No matter what kind of business you are in, there are going to be opportunities for people to get hurt. Your job as management or the owner is to make sure there are procedures in place so the chances of that happening are as small as possible. That’s where SOPs come in.
They help to keep your work environment as safe as possible by informing employees what they should and should not do. For example, if your business is in an industrial environment, making sure your employees always know they must never try to repair a faulty piece of equipment themselves, but should instead wait for an expert to troubleshoot and potential fix the problem. This not only keeps them safe, but it also prevents a simple and inexpensive problem from becoming a major one.
Of course, there are fewer opportunities for safety concerns in an office environment than an industrial one, but standard operating procedures are still important. An example of an SOP within an office environment is making sure that people know where to go and what to do in the case of a fire alarm.
Aside from physical safety, they can protect your employees from harassment or unfair workplace practices as well as protect your business from costly lawsuits. Having these procedures in place is vital for the safety of your employees and your business.
3. They are essential to employee evaluation
Without standard operating procedures, you are going to find it impossible to evaluate your employees properly. You simply don’t have anything tangible to measure their previous work with.
If you are going to hire employees, promote them within your organization, and move on from those who aren’t performing well, then you have to define exactly what their jobs entail as well as what quality of work is expected. Standard operating procedures are a big part of that as they give your employees guidelines and set quality standards. Properly performing employee evaluations, or asking your managers to do so without such guidelines, invites personal bias to count more than actual job success.
It’s important to keep in mind however that different departments often function in different ways. For example, it’s much easier to evaluate a sales team member’s accomplishments than it is a customer service representative’s accomplishments. Sales personnel have many easily identifiable key performance indicators or KPIs. Office staff often do not. Therefore, by measuring how well an office employee followed their department’s SOPs can be a great barometer for how well that employee handled their position.
In reality, your entire employee evaluation process should have its own standard operating procedures as well. They can include what happens when employees do not meet expectations and how to train employees so that they are able to do their job well.
The bottom line is that any business entity that wants to improve and grow must spend time creating, evaluating, and fine-tuning their internal standard operating procedures. Three of the most important reasons for doing so include making sure that your customer experience is consistent no matter if you provide a product or service.
You also can create a much safer work environment and have a staff that is prepared for emergencies. Finally, defined procedures in place throughout all aspects and areas of your business ensures that you have a basis by which to evaluate employee performance and make changes, as well as provide temporary employees with the tools that they need to do their jobs.
While these three reasons should be enough to convince anyone of why they should have clear and defined best practices within each area of their business, there are plenty of additional reasons as well. If you don’t have your SOPs defined, there’s no better time to start doing so than right now.