Learning how to write Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) can boost productivity, increase revenue, and maximize ROI – but only if you get it right.
Get it wrong and your employees will be frustrated, bored, and ready to move on — just like the 86% of employees looking for new jobs because of their company’s broken processes.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll give you the whats and whys of a great SOP, show you how to write Standard Operating Procedures that actually boost ROI.
Are you ready? Let’s go.
How to write Standard Operating Procedures in 7 simple steps
What is a SOP? 🤔
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are the instructional playbooks that show employees exactly how to get work done. They unify operations, keep standards to a set quality, minimize training time, and ensure processes lead to the same output every time.
SOPs can be used in any department at any level, and generally have the same format (more on this in a minute). So, once you know how to write a Standard Operating Procedure that shines, you can do it again and again.
How to write SOPs that boost ROI?
We suggest that before you start writing your SOPs, you consider the initial and necessary steps prior to writing.
- Identifying the processes that need to be documented. These are usually the 20% of processes that make 80% of the difference in a business.
- Identify the purpose of the SOP.
- Consider how you will be sharing the newly created SOPs and processes with your teams.
1. Involve the right people
To get your Standard Operating Procedure format right, you need to get the right people involved from day one. Remember, the more eyes you have on your SOP from the get-go, the more likely you are to smash it.
Here’s who to involve; (and they may be the same person depending on the size of your team).
- Departmental supervisors who manage the procedure outcomes.
- Employees who have worked on the procedure (or a similar one) before and know the fine details of how it should work and what would make it easier.
- Subject matter experts who can offer extra insights for a truly polished process.
So once you’ve gathered the right folks, set up a meeting and ask them to take you through the process step-by-step.
2. Choose the right tool
Boring docs that sit in Google Drive are old news — these days, you can make your SOPs truly shine with the right tool.
From automated updates to instructional videos, there are a million and one ways to make your SOPs easier (and more fun) to use.
Knowledge and training platforms are a great way to create, maintain, and share procedures across teams while keeping track of who sees what, and when.
Sounds awesome? That’s because it is.
3. Get the procedure documented
Remember life before ChatGPT when everything took time?
Now, writing killer Standard Operating Procedures takes no time at all.
When it comes to writing SOPs employees love, we suggest using a tool. To truly live the SOP dream, knowledge and training platforms are the way to go. Using a digital platform allows you to create, manage, and share SOPs at the click of a button. Plus you can make them super visual for maximum employee engagement.
Here’s how to write your SOP;
- Use Whale’s AI assist to create a SOP from scratch in seconds
- Use a template to get you started
- Hire a Whale-certified partner to help you create the best documentation
- DIY, and yes, it can be easy to create the best documentation in-house.
4. Name your SOPs (And we don't mean Norman)
5. Add a resources section
Now you have the procedure down, it’s time to add the frills.
From the what-goes-where to any extra equipment, links, or handbooks, this step is all about giving employees what they need to actually get the work done.
Here’s what to include:
- The breakdown: Your instruction breakdowns are the extra need-to-know details for employees to get the job done, and can include just about anything. For example, if you’re onboarding a new hire, your SOP step might say, ‘Send policies to the new hire’, while your breakdown would define which policies (for example: Health and safety guidelines, Nondiscrimination policy, etc).
- The toolkit: Here’s where you list the equipment needed for each step, including anything from computer programs to physical tools. Let employees know where they can find it, how to access software, and give links to any existing resources (for example, a guide on how to set up and use your onboarding software).
- Health and safety: Some tasks have inherent health and safety issues. Include warnings, precautions, and links to health and safety policies here.
6. Focus on UX and useability
It’s all very well getting your SOP down on paper, but if it doesn’t look good or it’s not easy to follow, your employees probably won’t use it.
Here’s how to focus on user experience (UX) to ensure maximum SOP love:
- Keep it simple: Simplicity is king when it comes to SOPs employees actually want to use. Ask yourself, ‘Do I really need this word/sentence/step?’ If not, lose it.
- Drop the jargon: Some SOPs are so jargon-dense it’s hard to spot the instructions through the acronyms. Where possible, drop the unnecessary lingo and stick to simple wording.
- Make it visual: In a world of 24/7 TV, black-on-white Word docs no longer cut it. Use video, screenshots, memes, or gifs to bring your SOP firmly into the 21st century.
- Highlight important sections: Use fun visuals to highlight those can’t-miss sections. Think emojis, design elements, or borders.
7. Improve and update your SOP
Standard Operating Procedures are live documents you need to consistently keep an eye on.
As your business grows, your SOPs should be reviewed and become more streamlined – so make sure you’ve got a killer updating process in place to keep on top of changes and improve as you go.
- Delegate SOPs (or sections of your SOP) to subject matter experts within your teams.
- Give them regular reminders to update their section.
- Updates should include dropping anything that saps time/resources and could be simplified.
- Share updates with the employees who use the SOPs
What is the problem with bad SOPs?
The problem is, SOPs are notoriously dense, jargon-packed, and hard to follow, making it a struggle for employees to finish tasks, and leaving companies out of pocket thanks to lost productivity.
But there is another way.
With the right tools and a quality SOP writing process, you can leap ahead of the competition to boost ROI and watch your revenue skyrocket.
Your SOP Writing Checklist
When writing your SOPs remember to;
- ✅ Make it easy to understand
- ✅ Use a consistent style
- ✅ Make it visually appealing
- ✅ Answer the question who does what and how?
- ✅ Share it with the right people
Get the Ultimate SOP Checklist here.
How to write Standard Operating Procedures: The lowdown
Gone are the days of SOP paperwork pile-ups. These days, digital is the new king. Platforms and technology tools are designed to help you scale.
Use a knowledge sharing and training platform to breathe fresh life into outdated documentation, you’re guaranteed to boost productivity, improve ROI, and watch your revenue skyrocket.
From easy-to-use dashboards to those visual extras, there are a ton of ways the right tool can help uplevel your SOPs so employees can dig deeper. With the right tools, the possibilities are endless.