Are Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) a nice-to-have or a must-have for continuous improvement and business success?
You be the judge.
There are two pathways for organizations to function. For comparison, let’s say “Company A” develops and utilizes SOPs in every internal process throughout the organization. Clear and consistent processes are part of Company A’s culture. Employees draft, follow and update SOPs in every workstream across the organization. Every new employee is trained on how SOPs are integrated into their role within the company. Employee engagement is high and attrition is low. The continuous improvement culture contributes to the growing company.
In contrast, “Company B” does not practice standardized processes, nor recognizes the importance of documenting their internal processes with SOPs. As a result, Company B consistently misses deadlines, has poor process control, loses market share and has high employee attrition with low morale and engagement.
The comparisons of Company A & B are over-simplified to highlight a point. Companies that develop and reinforce a culture of Continuous Improvement, with standardized process control, will benefit from their efforts. This is highlighted in the Key Performance Indicators of organization across various industries and disciplines.
So, would you prefer to be part of Company A or Company B? It’s a no-brainer, right? Well, if your organization is not quite in the ranks of Company A, its time to amend current practices and transform to a continuous improvement embracing SOPs.
There are three steps for an organization to develop an SOP process and incorporate it throughout the organization. Developing an SOP process provides an organization’s leadership full visibility to the business and the ability to identify needs and train current and future employees.
3 Steps to SOP Process Efficiency
1. Hire a Technical Writer
A Technical Writer will develop well-structured SOPs and provide a method to support the documents. This effort ensures that relevant process steps are outlined for each employee or workstream involved with the outcome.
Experienced Technical Writers possess the necessary skill-set to capture all detailed information from workstream leaders and their direct reports. The SOPs will highlight processes to ensure accuracy, quality and accountability. SOPs also serve as an excellent training aid for new staff.
The Return on Investment to an organization of hiring a skilled Technical Writer is significant. Due to the magnitude of work involved and necessary skill-set, it would be daunting for current staff to tackle and prioritize the documents. A dedicated in-house Technical Writer provides the technical skills and saves valuable time by staff, who have their own responsibilities.
There are long-term detrimental effects when documented SOPs are not organized and in a single accessible location. As a result, the foundation of day-to-day operations will steadily erode, negatively impacting an organization’s ability to execute against corporate initiatives. Often, an organization’s initiatives require smaller teams to change or improve upon the process. This effort can be difficult for organizations without an existing standardized process in place. This shortcoming is avoided when a skilled Technical Writer develops an organization’s SOPs.
2. Connect with Company Trainer
The Corporate Trainer can assist in spreading the word about process changes made to SOPs. Seen as the Subject Matter Expert (SME), the Corporate Trainer’s perspective is crucial in communicating change and adoption to new processes, documentation, and use of new technology.
The Learning and Development landscape is changing. The size of traditional Learning and Development teams is getting smaller. As a result, there is a shift in traditional thinking from developing training programs towards organizational capability development. The SOPs are directly in-line with this methodology due to its dual-purpose capability. There are very few documents, following development that allow for both day-to-day operations and aid in the development of people. Many organizations are moving towards Organizational Capability Development because of benefits to the entire organization.
3. Provide Ease of Access to Documents
Organizations with a current Learning Management System (LMS) or Configuration Management System (CMS), should use it as the central repository for SOP’s and process related documentation. The benefits of using a central location for documentation, especially if its part of a server or cloud-based system, includes the ease to update, configuration control and accessibility.
Employees will use SOP documents when they are easily accessible. The employee adoption rate increases to the degree that the documents are accessible. Ease inaccessibility, surrounded by clear and consistent communication, empowers employees to embrace the information and learn more on their own.
High levels of employee engagement, retention and morale are assets to any organization. As employees develop their personal and professional skills, they are an asset to their organization. The result is higher engagement and retention of skilled employees. Leadership teams can assist in this process by connecting process-related activities, job roles and process documentation as validation of a learned skill. Incorporating these processes in the company culture assists in the development of employees at every level of organization. For these efforts to be effective, ensure that communications are clear regarding the intent of the SOPs. The connection must be drawn to the SOPs and the standardized work of individuals within the organization.
So, what happens if your organization does not have an LMS or a CMS? Fortunately, it does not mean that you cannot achieve similar results outlined above. There are multiple internal systems that can be developed. For example, many organizations use existing software packages such as Microsoft SharePoint or the company Intranet. Additionally, don’t discount the power of Excel. A simple spreadsheet can evolve into a comprehensive requirements packages for an LMS or CMS platform. The SOP documentation storage does not have to be intricate. It just has to be functional and easily assessable.
The adoption rate by employees who have accessibility to a useful tool that has been communicated as “work in progress” is greater than by an organization that promises “bells and whistles” and yet just never delivers.
Following these three steps in developing an SOP process is an opportunity to standardize all work within an organization and streamline efficiencies. As a bonus, employee engagement and retention increases.
If your organization wants to improve efficiencies and implement SOP best practices and build a Continuous Improvement infrastructure, RTG Solutions Group can assist. Contact us here.