Standard Operating Procedures don’t have to be boring. Find out how to engage employees and boost productivity with these unmissable SOP examples.
Gone are the days of yawn-worthy Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) – these days, great procedures are all about engagement.
With 76% of business leaders saying document process issues impact their bottom line, and that fully addressing those gaps could yield a whopping 36% increase in revenue, creating engaging SOPs is clearly worth the effort.
Unfortunately, not everyone’s received the memo, and there are still a ton of businesses out there suffering from outdated documentation and bored employees.
So, how do you leap ahead of the competition and create epic SOPs that employees truly love?
We’ll show you. Here’s what to do (and what not to do) to make your SOPs stand out from the same-old (+ some pick-and-play SOP examples).
Ready to bring your SOPs into the 21st century? Get in touch to find out how Whale can help.
3 real-life examples of SOPs gone wrong 😩
Unfortunately, there are way too many companies out there that don’t prioritize great Standard Operating Procedures.
The outcome? Frustrated, bored employees who would rather jump ship than deal with any more roadblocks.
But don’t just take our word for it.
Here are some real-life examples of what happens when SOPs don’t work.
Bad SOP examples #1: SOPs in a million and one places
Making engaging SOPs is just one hurdle to jump — because if your employees don’t know where to look for the information, you might as well not have bothered to write it at all.
One Reddit user explained how messy SOP management works (or not) in their company:
“[Around 20% of our SOPs] are tracked in a hodgepodge way, ranging from paper forms, PDF files, Excel sheets, Monday.com boards, an individual’s memory, etc… The reason for the variety, I think, is because of acquisitions over time and differences in comfort levels with technology among the team. It is certainly not a best practice to have so many different places to capture this information,” they explained.
But unfortunately for them (and 23% of workers), there’s just not enough time in the workday to make it right — which means they have to suck it up.
“It is a source of frustration for me at times (love the process and think it adds to the enterprise) but I accept it and focus efforts where things are mission-critical,” they said.
Here’s how to avoid messy SOP management:
- Make a list of all the SOPs your company already has and where they live (including those hanging around in employees’ heads).
- Prioritize each one depending on the risk of losing information (eg, if an employee leaves will they take that information with them?).
- Figure out who is the best person to write the SOP and give them a solid deadline to get it done.
Bad SOP examples #2: Outdated, lengthy SOPs
It’s not just SOP management that can bring employees down. If processes aren’t clear, the outcome can be just as damaging — as this Reddit user found out.
“I’ve had a handful of similar jobs in the past and always kinda muddled through [but this new company] has stumped me: There are 46 pages of documentation for onboarding a new starter. There are 182 AD templates for new users. Despite the lengthy docs, no ‘decisions’ are actually made in it, lots of ‘unless specified otherwise’,” he said.
But the real problem? Finding a way to tell management their processes suck.
“How can I phrase ‘I’m really sorry boss, I am trying my best but none of the processes or docs make sense or have been updated since 2012’?” asked the Reddit user.
Here’s how to avoid creating lengthy SOPs no one wants to read:
- Give employees opportunities to feedback about SOPs — and take their comments on board.
- Go through SOPs with a fine-tooth comb and ask yourself ‘Do we really need to say this?’
- Schedule time for regular SOP updates so documentation is as up-to-date and streamlined as possible.
Bad SOP examples #3: Top-down SOPs
Another Reddit user found herself in a difficult position too — five months into a role with a large multinational, unsure about her new company.
The problem? Too many unclear processes and an ‘our-way-or-the-highway’ approach to systems.
“I’m spending 8-12 hours/week frustrated about roadblocks (unclear processes, cumbersome systems, finding/chasing the right contacts, technology bugs, and, of course, time zone differences)… It’s rare that I’m asked to make recommendations or given the opportunity to do so. When I’ve voiced these concerns, I’m told variations of This is the way this company, and every large company operates. Influence what you can, and build resilience to what you can’t change,” she says.
Here’s how to bring employees into the fold to improve your SOPs:
- Ask the employees who actually do the work whether they have any recommendations to make the process more efficient.
- Be open to change — if a process isn’t working, find a better way.
- Give everyone the opportunity to input into SOPs, even if they’re not management.
Fed up of creating SOPs no one uses? Get in touch to find out how Whale can help.
The good, the great, and the awesome: The top 3 best SOP examples 🏆
Okay, now we’ve got what not to do out of the way, let’s dive into some of the best ways to approach SOPs.
Here are three SOP examples your employees will love.
1. Keep it visual
Humans are visual creatures — in fact, half of the brain is directly or indirectly devoted to processing visual information.
And when it comes to learning, according to American psychologist William Glasser, “We learn… 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we both hear and see.”
In other words, here’s what to prioritize when it comes to creating engaging SOPs:
So, next time you’re creating an SOP, remember to keep it as visually stimulating as possible.
Great SOP examples #1:
Video should be part of every SOP. Here’s how it looks in Whale:
Let’s break it down:
- Choose a training and knowledge platform that allows you to use image, video, and gifs to up your SOP engagement levels (we know one that fits the bill 😉).
- Add screenshots and video screen shares that show exactly how to run the process.
- Prioritize video, then images, then audio, then text — but for a fully inclusive process all of these elements are important.
2. Write like a human
A quick Google search of ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ immediately draws out words like ‘Efficiency’ and ‘Routine’ — not very inspiring for employees hoping to actually enjoy their day at work.
Injecting some fun into SOPs can be as simple as upping your lingo game and writing SOP content as though you’re speaking to humans (because you actually are). A conversational tone of voice, workplace in-jokes, and even employee nicknames (think: Twitter’s Tweeps) can go a long way.
Great SOP examples #2:
The Sales Order should already contain all pertinent billing information as part of the company’s Sales Order Acceptance procedure. However, as part of proper internal control, Billing will verify the information contained on the customer’s purchase order or company order form with the sales order and completed shipping documentation.
Try this SOP example:
Our superstar Billing team will ensure the customer’s ‘Purchase Order’ or ‘Company Order Form’ matches the ‘Sales Order’ and that the completed shipping docs contain all the right billing info.
Let’s break it down:
- Write like you’re speaking to humans (because you are).
- Stick to a conversational tone of voice.
- Add workplace in-jokes or team nicknames whenever appropriate.
- Don’t be afraid to abbreviate words (as long as it still makes sense).
3. Make your SOPs accessible
We hate to say it but if your SOPs aren’t easy to access, your employees probably won’t bother to use them.
The key is to create a personalized experience for each role and only give employees the SOPs they actually need.
- Choose just one place to share SOPs: Make sure employees know exactly where to look for their SOPs by keeping them in one place. All-in-one knowledge and training platforms are a great way to manage SOPs so no one ever needs to ask ‘Where does that live?’ again.
- Make sure employees have only what they need: Employees no longer need heavy handbooks that tell them everything about the company. Give employees what they need (and only what they need) so they don’t get weighed down with unnecessary details.
- Keep SOPs updated: Over time, SOPs can get a little rusty as procedures improve on the ground. Schedule regular updates to keep your procedures as efficient as possible.
Great SOP examples #3:
Here’s how a personalized and accessible SOP could look:
Let’s break it down:
- Choose an all-in-one knowledge and training platform that allows you to keep all your SOPs in one place.
- Only give your employees access to the SOPs they need to avoid overwhelm.
- Schedule regular SOP updates to keep your processes as relevant as possible.
Lead the way with visual SOP examples
Standard Operating Procedures have a bad rap for being… well, standard. But in a competitive business world, it’s time for that to change.
With the right tools and an eye for engagement, you can easily up your SOP game by creating procedures that employees actually enjoy reading (or watching, or listening to 😉).
If you show employees how it can be done, before long engaging SOPs will become the norm — and so will happy employees and a solid bottom line.
Want to scale your business with killer SOPs employees actually love?
Download our complimentary Ultimate Guide to SOP and Knowledge Management