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It’s a general rule in most industries that standardization breeds success.
It’s probably because standard practices lead to more consistency. For most companies, this means writing standard operating procedures (SOP), which is usually easier said than done. Without being able to write procedures in a clear and efficient way, standardizing processes can be difficult. With SOP writing being a somewhat underrated and challenging part of a company’s success, we wanted to share some useful tips for writing standard operating procedures.
Standard operating procedures can sometimes get long and complicated. But when that happens, it’s important not to lose sight of the object and the end product. Each step should help to move closer to the end product, so it needs to make sense in that context. If it helps, create a diagram or flow chart beforehand that will help make sure that each step keeps the final objective in mind.
Never forget the first word in standard operating procedures. The word standard implies that everything should be clear and definitive. There shouldn’t be any room for ambiguity or any option to deviate from what needs to be done. In other words, there should be no gray area. At every step, it should be clear what employees need to do.
Whenever possible, standard operating procedures should be pithy and concise. Of course, when details are needed, you don’t want to leave employees without a clear idea of what to do. But if SOPs can be more concise, they should become easier to read and understand, which will make work operations go smoother.
Practicality is important with standard operating procedures. These shouldn’t sound like general instructions. Everything in SOPs will eventually be put into practice. When writing each step of the process, it’s important to remember that someone will have to follow what’s being written at some point. Therefore, they have to be sensible and practical.
Keeping the audience in mind is another key to remember when writing standard operating procedures. Knowing this, it doesn’t hurt to consult with team members while writing them. Get their perspective on the type of language that will make sense to them. If they’re confused or don’t agree with how things are phrased, the standard operating procedures aren’t going to be effective, so get feedback from team members whenever possible.
Before you put a bow on your standard operating procedures, make sure you put them to the test. Pretend you have no previous knowledge of what’s being done and go through the SOPs to check if they make sense. If there are problem areas or something that isn’t clear, it’s best to detect it sooner rather than later.
Of course, even if your SOPs pass the test, they should still be reviewed periodically. There could be some elements of standard operating procedures that aren’t as effective over time and other parts that can be improved. After all, it’s natural for things to change over time. Therefore, standard operating procedures should be reviewed regularly so that they can be updated.
One mistake that’s often made when writing standard operating procedures is not including safety guidelines. Not only do employees need to know how to perform their jobs but they also need instructions on how to do their jobs safely. In addition to including safety elements in SOPs, we recommend the software solutions offered by EHS Insight. This system is a proven method of managing all elements of workplace safety on a single platform in a way that streamlines all safety-related tasks. In other words, nothing important gets forgotten or overlooked. If you want to do everything you can to create a safe workplace for your employees, let's have a conversation about how our software can help make that happen.
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