Cristina Scarlatelli

Keep Calm, There’s an SOP for That

For a CEO, there are few things more terrifying than hearing that an integral member of the team just quit. You might remember the Call Willory video where CEO Gary – while purchasing a yacht for his upcoming trip to Mexico – finds out his payroll manager has just quit. His immediate reaction is to think, “It’s okay, someone else can do it.” But then he’s reminded that no one else can do it, because no one else knows not only the organization’s way to process payroll, but how to process payroll at all. No Julia meant no payroll. His solution is to call Willory to help him find a replacement for Julia, but in the meantime, since no one knows how to do Julia’s job, the company is freaking out, the entire staff is wondering if they are going to get paid on time, and Gary wonders how bad it will look if he still buys that yacht.

If only the company had SOPs for Julia’s processes…

SOPs, or Standard Operating Procedures, are guides that include step-by-step instructions for an organization’s important routine procedures. SOPs can literally help businesses avoid catastrophes. Less dramatically, they help companies achieve efficiency, quality output, and consistent performance, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with industry regulations and laws.

But not all SOPs are created equally. Doing them correctly means skipping the jargon and using clear, simple, and detailed instructions that any employee can read and understand.

The following steps should be considered when creating and implementing successful SOPs.

  1. Anything that needs to be done more than twice needs to be documented.
  2. SOPs should be written by in-house staff members. One person could be asked to write, own, and manage all the SOPs for the company, but that person must know when to enlist the help of the in-house experts of the relevant areas for each SOP.
  3. Use plain, comprehensible language. If your employees can’t understand the SOPs, they will never use them. Avoid confusing, technical jargon. Try not to use any reference to the person (You, He, She, Him, Her). When referring to individuals, make sure you use titles, not names.
  4. Use an effective layout. If your company already has a solid, pre-existing format, use that. If not, consider the process first. If it’s a long process with many steps, a hierarchy system might be best. List out the main steps and then smaller sub steps underneath each. If the process is short, a simple list is probably the most effective. Also, large chunks of texts can be backed up with visual elements like diagrams, flow charts or screen shots.
  5. Provide relevant content. A basic SOP will include the scope or purpose, step-by-step instructions for the procedure, any equipment or systems needed, and a glossary of terms or reference to a separate document or guide that provides additional, detailed information on a specific step within the SOP. Additional content could include: who is responsible, who is involved, timing, inputs, outputs, tools and templates.
  6. Test them. Once written, the SOP should be tested by the people who will use it, to ensure it makes sense, then update the SOP as needed. It also doesn’t hurt to have a person who might follow the SOP take a look as well.
  7. Store them in a known shared location. There is no point in creating SOPs if no one knows where to find them. Ensure they are organized and stored in a shared location, and accessible to all appropriate staff members. Create a folder in a shared drive or in your company’s SharePoint site. Make sure the staff knows where to find the SOPs and ask them to take the time to actually read and review them.

Back to Gary…

In a perfect world for Gary, the scenario would play out much differently. In a perfect world, his company would have SOPs. Yes, he would have still received the awful news that Julia the payroll manager had quit with no notice. Yes, he would have still called Willory to help him find him a new payroll manager. But in the meantime, his company’s payroll operations wouldn’t have skipped a beat. Because although it was true that no one really knew how to do Julia’s job, there was an SOP for it. And the payroll department knew exactly where to find it. And it was so clearly written and easy to understand that they were able to follow the steps to complete the payroll correctly and on-time, just as Julia would have. And the staff would be happy. And Gary would still be able to buy his yacht. And all would be well.

In additional to helping you find temporary and direct-hire talent, we’re also able to provide insight and guidance into policies and procedures as part of our Employee Life Cycle service, which analyzes the entirety of the employee experience from application to retirement. Use the form below or info@willory.com for more information.

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