The SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) is a descriptive document that provides, in detail, the practices and recommendations for the execution of processes in a company. Therefore, it aims to inform professionals about the guidelines for action, so that there is a standardization of the organization’s activities and procedures .
Briefly, we can say, therefore, that the SOP determines what, how, by whom and when each activity must be carried out , minimizing the chances of deviations and failures, guaranteeing a standard of quality.
Importance and objectives of SOP
The production chain of an organization consists of numerous processes that are often related and the quality with which these activities are performed directly influences the results achieved .
Imagine, for example, an industry made up of several processes. In this scenario, if a single part of the process is performed outside the standard, this deviation affects the entire production quality. This also applies to administrative, financial and even people management activities .
Thus, creating a descriptive document helps managers to anticipate any problems and emergencies , creating a pattern of behavior so that each part of management is done in the best possible way. \
Benefits of standard operating procedure
You might be wondering what the benefits of standardizing processes using SOP are. Below, we list some of the advantages that the document guarantees to companies.
1-Guides new employees
SOP can be a good tool for training new employees and for ensuring that they deliver consistency and quality from the very first tasks, being able to be part of onboarding and reducing adaptation time. In addition, standardization also helps substitutes and professionals who are covering vacations.
With the guidelines presented in the document, it will be easier for these employees to carry out their duties safely , aware of all the important precautions for the organization.
2-Improves quality and optimizes processes
The standardization of processes is also an excellent measure to guarantee the quality of activities and optimize employees’ time . That’s because the SOP describes, in detail, how each activity should be done, minimizing variations and providing step-by-step instructions for tasks to be performed in a more agile and simplified way.
This type of organization also enhances the productivity of employees , as they can perform their roles more confidently and efficiently.
With a detailed quality standard, the chances of procedural errors are considerably reduced , avoiding the need for changes and ensuring more success for the activities.
In addition, the company manages to reduce costs with constant training , since employees, regardless of their hierarchical level, will have the support document at hand to answer their questions.
Where to apply SOP?
The SOP must be applied, mainly, in critical processes that directly impact the company’s results , such as production lines, administration and people management. Other activities may or may not be standardized depending on business needs.
But it is important to understand that each application will need a specific document, therefore, it will present variations in its production. The main types are:
- fundamental SOP or model, which defines the guidelines for the elaboration of SOPs;
- Security SOP, which determines security procedures and emergency actions;
- methodical SOP, which describes complete systems or methods of investigation;
- Production SOP, which determines the practices within each stage of production;
- Quality SOP, which provides guidelines for quality analysis and control;
- archiving SOP, which determines protocols for organizing and archiving documents;
- service SOP, which describes guidelines for handling complaints and problems;
- Administrative SOP, which clarifies essential management tasks;
- Human resources SOP , which determines methods and protocols for managing people.
How to develop a Standard Operating Procedure?
The SOP is a document, therefore, it must be carefully prepared and must be within the structure and format adopted by the company. To do so, it needs formal validation, such as a seal or signature from the person responsible.
There is no official parameter for preparing the document, however, you can follow some basic steps and adapt them to the reality of your business . Now, we’ll list some important steps to get you started writing your procedure.
Step 1: define the name and purpose of the SOP
The best way to start writing the procedure is with the objective or expected end result in mind . At this stage, you still do not need to describe the activities that must be carried out, but what the document is intended for.
In addition, define the name of the SOP, informing the process or activity to be developed directly and explicitly. Imagine, for example, that you have a restaurant and you are creating a procedure for closing the establishment at the end of the day. In this case, the name needs to describe exactly your human language. The objective, that is, “restaurant closing”.
When defining an human language. The objective, it is important to ask yourself if the company really needs a SOP for it or if there are already other documents with the same purpose. Often, you will only need to review and improve a protocol that you have already created.
Step 2: Choose the format
After defining the human language. The objective, it is important to establish the formatting of the document. If your company already uses other standard operating procedures and already has the documents finalized, the tip is to replicate the format for new processes .
In this sense, there are three widely used models that you can apply:
- Simple step format: Describes short and easy procedures and contains safety guidelines. Furthermore, it is made up of a numbered list and has short sentences and bullets;
- hierarchical step format: describes the various steps involved in the procedures. Therefore, it is composed of a numbered list with main steps, followed by a set of small and specific steps;
- flowchart: visually maps procedures and possible outcomes. It is ideal when the results of processes are not predictable.
Step 3: Select reference documents and define the application location
A good way to help employees is to recommend some reference documents that can help with the activities. Here, it is possible to list instruction manuals, old SOPs, standards and codes that speak to the new procedures and serve as support.
Also, don’t forget to make the description of the application site clear. This rule is especially important in large companies, which have several sectors, departments and branches.
Step 4: Describe Tasks and Persons Responsible
In this step, you should list the tasks and those responsible for each of them. For this, it is worth asking the assistance of the area manager . That’s because he knows most of the operations in depth and will know how to better define the agents for each activity.
Step 5: define the step-by-step procedures
With the tasks and those responsible defined, the time has come to describe the step by step that must be followed for each process.
But for the SOP to really fulfill its human language. The objective, it is essential that this step is performed describing every detail , even if they seem obvious to you. When writing, imagine that the protocol is being made so that a layman can follow it.
Step 6: Provide corrective actions
Finally, it is important that you point out actions that should be taken if it is not possible to fulfill any of the planned steps or even if the process fails. For this, it is important to identify what can go wrong in the processes and how each error can be corrected so as to have less impact on the business.
How can SOP be useful in managing people?
As we have seen, the SOP is an important document for several areas and sectors within the company, so the tool can indeed be used in HR. In this context, it is possible to provide important steps and actions in processes, such as:
- recruitment and selection ;
- integration of new employees;
- training and development ;
- organizational climate surveys;
- collection and analysis of data on employees;
- performance evaluations;
- maintenance of infrastructure and work environment.
The SOP is an important document for optimizing processes , ensuring good quality control and maintaining the productivity of the company as a whole. Thus, its application in HR makes the sector act in a more structured way, ensuring more efficiency in activities and improving people management.
When preparing the SOP, it is important for the company to carry out a self-analysis and identify its main processes and activities. Understand that copying or replicating the standard operating procedure of other organizations is a mistake, as internal realities can be very different.